50 AMAZING THINGS THAT WILL HAPPEN IN 2016
Panic! At The Disco are ready to reign.
Panic! At The Disco’s new album ‘Death Of A Bachelor’ is a stone cold killer. Ahead of a longer catch up in the near future (of which these awesome candid photos are your first taster – Ed), we talked to Brendon Urie at the start of what’s set to be a bumper year as part of our 50 Amazing Things That Will Happen In 2016 series.
Words: Ali Shutler. Photos: Emma Swann.
“Panic! At The Disco gave us this unwritten law to create whatever – no rules – just do whatever the fuck we wanted. It made us feel free,” Brendon Urie reflected at Reading Festival last year. While he may be the only member left, ‘Death of a Bachelor’ isn’t a solo album. It’s a continuation of that freedom.
“The vision is that people take away this idea that the whole thing is different,” explains Brendon. “Panic! has never done this before. That’s been such a huge thing with every album and that’s what I’m pushing for. I’m just trying to do something new that isn’t repeated but seems familiar and is totally fresh. That’s tough to do.”
After ten years, and with album five out very, very soon, that desire to do something new becomes a little more complicated. Every record sees the band opening doors which broadens horizons but there’s also a struggle to find those new, unexplored paths. “There’s up and downs. There are times when I feel like everything’s going to be so great and then the next day I’ll hit a wall. Nothing’s good. It’s the whole five-part artistic struggle,” he reasons, referring to the seesaw of love and hate towards your own art.
Brendon is “always writing, always working.” That said, ‘Death of a Bachelor’ was “kind of a surprise.” The first song written for the album was ‘Hallelujah’, which was sent off to the label and they decided to put it out the following week. When Brendon told them he didn’t have an album, their reply was “well, write one.” It was the nudge he needed. “I found the discipline to keep writing and finish everything. I feel like I was in a different place personally but mostly musically. I could do things that I never thought I could in the past. I’m in a place now where I can produce things, and I’ve hit a stride in certain areas of creativity.”
Written mostly at Brendon’s home, the album “stemmed from one instrument, either piano or guitar, and a vocal trying to tell a story. I finished a lot of the production in my studio at my house and from there it went to my buddy Jake Sinclair’s studio. We were talking and a lot of these ideas came from just hanging out. I realised that hanging out with people you’re comfortable with but can also challenge you creatively is really conducive to the creative process.” So an inside joke would turn into a lyric, which would grow into a chorus and then a song. “It just happened that way this time. Now my favourite method for writing is just to hang out and it’ll happen.”
A sense of challenging comfort can be felt throughout ‘Death Of A Bachelor’. Because it was created and shaped in the presence of friends, nothing is held back. It’s also given the record an unquenchable sense of energy. “I love staying excited about what I’m doing and bouncing around between different genres.” Album number five sees Brendon trying his hand at producing tracks which gives him another layer to toy with. “I wanted to challenge myself, I was learning new tricks. There are no rules – I knew I wanted to make a new album and I had this vision of something.” Surrounding himself with people who he knew would understand his vision was “a huge factor in making the album. I was just hanging out and learning from my friends, these people who have been doing it longer or just have better experiences with different ways of writing.” The result is a suitably different Panic! At the Disco album.
“A lot of the writing doesn’t happen on tour because that’s when some of the fun happens: try to go out, see the world and gain new stories, just so you have stuff to write about.” Even with a wealth of experiences Brendon, eager to create a diverse record, changed the scenery at home as well. “I went to Long Beach and wrote an entire song in my friend’s studio because it has a different vibe. David Byrne from Talking Heads actually talked about it, how the architecture of sound dictates how a song will sound.” So arena rock bands writing songs during sound checks in arenas will write big power ballads but with Talking Heads, who were in a small studio room, everything was very tight and very rhythmic. “That became a factor as well. Just being cautious of where you’re at and using the architecture of your environment to the best of the song’s ability to grow as an idea.”
There are no nerves ahead of the release of ‘Death of a Bachelor’. “I’m only curious and a little anxious to see what sort of reaction it gets. Actually I’m really curious because so far it’s been great. We’ve had three songs released and we’ve had a really great reaction. Overall though, I’m just really excited to play it live.”
“I’m always thinking about how I’m going to perform live when I’m finishing an album. It doesn’t dictate how the song gets fully written but towards the end, when I’m trying to figure out production and how I’m going to arrange a song, that’s when I start thinking about the live show. How am I going to pull this off? How can I do this? I want to figure out cool moments like when we pause and there’s just a moment before we scream and a gang vocal comes back in. It’s those moments that have such power.” There’s a forward motion to Panic! At The Disco. A refusal to quit or play by the rules. It’s what makes them such an exciting band to watch grow and even with the shrink wrap still on ‘Death of a Bachelor’, Brendon Urie is ready for the next transformation. “We’ve played a couple of the new songs and I’m so excited about playing live. There’s just so much fun to be had.”