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A Brief History of… Panic! At The Disco

Starting life as a Blink-182 covers band, Panic! At The Disco were formed in 2004 by Ryan Ross and Spencer Smith. Brent Wilson joined soon afterwards and brought Brendon Urie in as a temporary guitar player. After hearing him sing backup vocals, the rest of the band made Brendon lead vocalist and Panic! took shape.

The band posted demos of ‘Time To Dance, Nails for Breakfast, Tacks for Snacks’ and ‘Camisado’ online. Taking a chance, they sent the link to Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz who drove to Las Vegas from Los Angeles to meet the band. He signed Panic! At the Disco to his Fuelled By Ramen imprint, Decaydance records after hearing them play a handful of songs in their rehearsal space. At the time, Ryan Ross was in College, while the other three were in High School, which delayed work on the bands debut.

The band started recording their debut album in June of 2005. Finishing the process some six weeks later, they played their first-ever live show to over 200 people. ‘A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out’ came out in September but it wasn’t until the single ‘I Write Sins Not Tragedies’ was released in April 2006 that the album and the band really took off. By the autumn of 2006, the band had switched Bassist Brent Wilson for Jon Walker, been bottled at the Reading Festival and started their own US Arena Tour with ribbon dancers, contortionists and a circus ringleader.

In March 2007 the band started working on their second album. New tracks were recorded and performed live over the summer but by August the band had grown disinterested with them and scrapped the album. Re-writing the entire thing on an acoustic guitar, the band started recording second album ‘Pretty.Odd’ in October before unveiling a new logo in January 2008, sans Exclamation Point, starting the biggest punctuation mark based controversy in musical history.

‘Nine In The Afternoon’, the first song written for ‘Pretty.Odd’, was released in January, with the album following in March. It marked a stylistic departure for Panic, swapping theatrical dance for a more mellow and considered approach to songwriting. It saw the band headline the 45-date Honda Civic Tour across America and Canada, a DVD of which was released in December, before the band headlined Glastonbury’s Other Stage in the UK.

In early 2009 it was announced that chief songwriter and founding member Ryan Ross would be leaving Panic, alongside Jon Walker. The split was largely down to creative differences between the two camps, with Brendon wanting a return to the direction of their debut and Ryan wanting to follow the path laid out by ‘Pretty.Odd’. Touring plans with Blink-182 and work on a third album was still going ahead though.

Panic! at the Disco returned their exclamation mark in July a few weeks before releasing ‘New Perspective’ from the movie ‘Jennifer’s Body’. It was the first material recorded since the split. For live shows, Panic! Recruited Ian Crawford and Dallon Weekes, who would go on to become a full time member of the band.

‘The Ballad Of Mona Lisa’ was released in February 2011 with the band’s third album ‘Vices and Virtues’ following a month later. The band had spent most of 2010 working on it and had collaborated with Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo on the track ‘Freckles’, which remains unreleased.

The album saw Brendon take over responsibility for the lyrics, something that he hadn’t had much involvement with before. ‘Sarah Smiles was written about his girlfriend, who he later married, while ‘The Calendar’ was written about the departure of Ryan Ross. The album as a whole has a loose theme of the seven deadly sins, which inspired the title.

The band supported 'Vices And Virtues' with an appearance on Conan before touring with the likes of Fun. Patrick Stump, Foxy Shazam and Funeral Party. Panic! worked with Fun. on the song ‘C’mon’ and during a UK headline tour, announced plans for a fourth album.

Announcing the Las Vegas inspired ‘Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die!’ In July 2013 with the release of ‘Miss Jackson’, Panic! At The Disco were back and changing things up again. Hip-hop infused and with a strong leaning towards electronica, the band’s fourth album saw them garner a whole new generation of fans, helped in part by supporting Fall Out Boy on their Save Rock and Roll tour.

The lyrics for ‘Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die!’ are hyper-personal with ‘This Is Gospel’ written about Spencer Smith’s drug addiction, which eventually caused him to leave the band to support his recovery, and ‘The End Of All Things’ which are Brendon’s wedding vows, written a few days before he got married. “I didn’t want to hold anything back,” said Brendon on the Panic! Website. “No one was telling me what I could and couldn’t say. This was my diary and the pages were filled with confessions. About everything. About my story. What I had gone through and what I was going through. I kept writing and never really stopped.” 

A few weeks after Spencer Smith left the band, leaving Brendon as the sole original member, Panic! At The Disco surprise released the track, ‘Hallelujah’. Work on a fifth album is underway and there’s a handful of festival appearances in the pipeline.

Posted: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

From the high school kids who wrote one of the most influential albums of the naughties without playing to a show to the soul-infused pomp of recent single ‘Hallelujah’, Panic! At The Disco have grown up before our eyes. From lineup changes, stylistic departures and punctuation led outrage, their history is as fluid as the music they make. Let’s dive in. Ali Shutler