Brendon Urie on Ten Years of Panic! at the Disco: "Nothing Makes Me Want to Stop"
Photo by Alex R. Kirzhner
For a generation of listeners who grew up with the sounds of the American rock scene in the 2000s, the name Panic! at the Disco is all too familiar.
Forming in 2004, this Las Vegas band released its debut album, A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, just a year later. And within another year's time, the group's popularity among teens had rocketed its record to platinum status as its burlesque-themed music videos continued to color the charts on MTV's Total Request Live.
Nearly a decade later and Panic! at the Disco is still going strong, following the success of a fourth studio album, 2013's Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! On its current tour, which kicked off in Seattle earlier this year, the band has sold out bigger venues than ever before, including the Fillmore Miami Beach.
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"We've seen familiar faces that have been there since the beginning, newer fans and some older fans as well," notes lead vocalist Brendon Urie.
"What's kind of strange is that we've gotten a lot of younger fans, which is always nice. It's an exciting age to be getting into music and to have that passion, because nothing has really jaded you yet, nobody has really changed your mind about how you feel about music. There's something pure about it."
However, as the group approaches its tenth anniversary, the moment remains bittersweet, even amid the joys of a hit record and fresh, young followers. After all, Panic! at the Disco has spent the last decade dealing with its fair share of drama. And now, with two of its original founding members gone and one currently taking time off, it's difficult to predict what exactly awaits this outfit.
But Urie isn't ambivalent in the least about Panic! at the Disco's future. While lineup changes and variations in style are not always the healthiest variables for a band, the frontman insists that complications have only contributed to the group's continued growth.
At the present moment, the lineup consists of Urie, Dallon Weekes on bass, touring guitarist Kenneth Harris, and drummer Dan Pawlovich, who is temporarily filling in for Spencer Smith. "The dynamic is always going to be different anytime you play with someone else," Urie admits. "But I enjoy it.
"I love this band so much. I love what I do and it feels so natural," he says, reflecting on being the only original band member on the current tour. "There's nothing about what's happened in the past that makes me want to stop doing what I do."
Of course, the most recent proof of Panic! at the Disco's enduring appeal is Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!, which has witnessed a wealth of success since its October release, garnering positive feedback from both fans and critics who praised its modern-pop flair.
A notable aspect of the group's evolving sound is the use of synthesizers, which is nothing new for Urie and his outfit, but this latest album incorporates a heavier dose of electronic dance styles than any other previous works.
"I wanted to make a record that was kind of a party record, kind of upbeat," the frontman explains. "This time around, I had a bigger vision of what I wanted to do with the album and the band in general. I knew where I wanted to take it. I knew how I wanted to conduct things.
"For the most part with this record, I wanted to celebrate how I felt. I was stoked to be able to step up and take charge of this band and tell people exactly how I feel," Urie adds. "As an artist, I like to have a piece of that control, because if I have a vision for something and ask for too much help, then, for me, that kind of compromises the art that I am trying to create."
Following the 2009 departure of Ryan Ross, the band's original songwriter, Urie has written most of Panic! at the Disco's material, especially on the last two releases. "After we did our first album, I would come to the band with ideas and a lot of them got shot down. Some of those ideas I used on the last record," the frontman says.
"There's a lot of confessions on this record and something about it just felt so good during the entire process. Some of it is challenging in that regard, to be that straightforward, but I think that challenge ended up being a greater reward."
This move toward becoming the band's leader has marked a turning point in Urie's career as a musician. "Something that really changed for me, and not in a negative way, but more of a positive thing, was that I really started to not give a fuck," he confesses.
"I focus less on what makes me mad and focus more on what I want to do and what I want to accomplish, how I want to accomplish it, and with whom I want to accomplish it. That's really been amazing so far. It kind of changed my mentality and changed my mood a lot. I feel healthier."
Panic! at the Disco. With The Colourist and Junior Prom. Saturday, February 8. Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are sold out via livenation.com. All ages. Call 305-673-7300 or visit fillmoremb.com.
Follow Alex Silva on Twitter @Silvasgoldd.
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