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:: Spotlight :: Panic At The Disco interview

By: Michele Menalis

Hoping to eclipse the success of their multi-million dollar debut album, ‘A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out’, Panic At The Disco, who hail from Las Vegas, roll out their eagerly anticipated follow-up, ‘Pretty. Odd’. This time, the quartet, with a penchant for electronic rock ‘n roll and stage theatrics, the likes of which could be straight out a Cirque De Soleil performance, appear to have taken their sound to the next level. All is well in the Panic at the Disco camp. Just don’t call then Emo!

Sitting in their hotel suite on Hollywood’s famed Sunset Strip, lead guitarist and songwriter Ryan Ross, is looking slim and dapper in his skinny tie and shirt combo. He wants to throw out this misconception off the bat. “I’m not going to say what I want to be called, but I think calling us Emo is a little bit off. When they list all the bands we’re supposedly influenced by, sorry, but I’ve never listened to them.”

The band has made some musical changes and Ross explains the impetus behind it. “I was listening to The Beatles. It was just like, ‘My God. How many kinds of songs did they write?’ They didn’t try to put themselves in some kind of specific place. They just did whatever they wanted.”

Although Ross is a mere 21 years of age, he has a sure-footed opinion about the state of rock ‘n roll today. “There’s a lot of indie bands that cited the Beatles as their biggest influence but then they don’t want to be catchy. They don’t want to write pop melodies. That’s the strange thing because it’s like, “…wait a second, those guys wrote some of the catchiest songs of all time.”

“Pretty. Odd.” is full of hooks and George Harrison-style solos. While it has a firm hand entrenched in its retro ‘60’s sound, the album is also mired in a contemporary vein. It’s certainly a delicate balance for a young rock and roll band in today’s climate. Ross states his claim on walking that musical tightrope. ”We wanted it to be unplaceable as far as when this album was recorded. We didn’t want to date it by making it sound like a modern rock album.” Their melodies and lyrics are reminiscent of Lennon and McCartney, and a touch of Kinks’ Ray Davies, and Badfinger, as evidenced in “Nine In The Afternoon,” the first single released from the album.

Despite the inevitable pressure of following up a successful album, lead singer, Brendon Urie, fresh from a video shoot and also clad in the same skinny tie and shirt ensemble, enters the room. He explains: “After we stopped worrying and realised we just needed to focus on what is important we realised that we were happy with where we’re at. The most important things are the songs we’ve written as opposed to being stressed out about whether or not it’s going to do okay. So, we kind of stepped back a little bit.” Ross concurs: “We put a lot of pressure to out-do ourselves. I feel like we did make a better album. I don’t feel any pressure at all.”

When discussing the pros and cons of fame, Ross says, “We had to get used to it. It was uncomfortable at first. I guess you like the attention because you’re putting a lot of time into what you’re doing. You want people to care about it and it’s one of those things that comes along with it. You just try not to let yourself think you’re greater than you are or let yourself think you’re as great as some people tell you, you are.” He pauses, then cites the Beatles to make another point. “It’s kind of funny. Like in ‘A Hard Days Night,’ there’s that scene where the lady comes up to him (John Lennon) and she’s like, ‘Hey you’re that guy from that band,” he goes ‘No, I’m not. I don’t even look like him. You look like him more than I do,” I feel like that sometimes, you know?”

Urie smiles cautiously and talks about their fans – the good, the bad, and the ugly. “I think if there’s any weird fan interaction it’s because I make it weird,” he says, laughing. Tongue firmly in cheek, he continues, “I think I might make people feel awkward, you know, cause I’m bumbly and awkward and kinda’ klutzy. If I’m reaching for the pen to sign something (for a fan) I’ll drop it.”

Ross laughs. “We had a Halloween show a few years ago. Somebody dressed up like me and they were standing in front of me for the whole show. It was this girl and she goes, ‘Ryan!’” And I looked at her and I was just like, this is so Twilight Zone!”

Although he may be the idol of thousands of young girls Ross gets a tad uncomfortable when talking about situations when fans get a little freaky. “I’ve had some things left on the doorstep at my house before I moved. People find your address or your phone number and they’ll call you. One time they took a bunch of rocks from my front yard and spelled ‘We Heart Ryan’ or something like that. That’s nice but that’s probably weird that you did that while I was sleeping.”

The fans are less frenetic in their approach with Urie. “I’ve been fortunate. I’m pretty much under the radar. People are pretty polite. I haven’t had many bad experiences. Any time I go out, if I do happen to get recognised, people are like, ‘Hi, I really like your band, can I get a picture?’ and it’s pretty much as simple as that,” he says. “It’s flattering and we never expected to get close to where we’re at but we’ don’t put much thought into it. We just do our thing.”

The band is looking forward to touring Australia. Says Ross, “Australia was probably our favourite trip. It’s a beautiful country. The people are nice and we were able to experience a little bit of the culture which we don’t normally get to do.”

For now, Panic At The Disco are riding the wave of success. They have managed to keep their feet on the ground and don’t want to be treated as ’the next big deal.’ Urie sums it up, “We’re glad that people like us. We got very lucky. We were very fortunate to fall into our dream job but it’s not going to change us as people.”

The single 'Nine In The Afternoon’ is out now through Warner Music.
The album ‘Pretty. Odd’ is also out now.