Hayley and Zac sat down with The Fader to explain the approach behind the “Told You So” music video. You can read the meaning of the music video below.
The best thing about this month is that on the 12th there’ll be a new Paramore album. Called After Laughter, the band’s fifth LP heralds both the return of founding drummer Zac Farro and a new summer season to be spent emoting to glorious pop-punk. (Or maybe they’re actually doing something sunny-funk now?)
In fact, Zac wrote and directed today’s video for “Told You So.” With help from Aaron Joseph, he based it on the band’s car rides after recording sessions in L.A. “Zac noticed that my anxiety and overall state was just a lot more peaceful on those drives,” lead singer Hayley Williams told The FADER, “and mentioned to me that it made him happy to see me rest for a moment. It means a lot that they conceptualized a video around a passing moment we had as friends.”
She said they used Zac’s actual car for filming, and shot the rest at guitarist Taylor York’s house with a bunch of friends. “There’s darkness and suspense and then there’s a sense of unity in the full band shots in the car,” she said, “where we all wear red and dance together to the music.”
“‘Told You So’ is such a visual song to me,” Zac said. “The rhythms and lyrics caught my attention from day one. So I knew the music video needed to be equally as striking and rhythmic.”
With ten days till “After Laughter” is released, Paramore has revealed that tomorrow on Beats1 at 12:30pm(EST) they will share the song “Told You So”. Beats1 is broadcasted via Apple Music Radio. Rumour has it that the song is, “v cool”. If you haven’t already, links to preorder the album and stream the first single “Hard Times” are available here.
Paramore are on the cover of the May issue of DIY Magazine, which is out today. The magazine includes an interview based article of the band and also lots of new photos taken by Pooneh Ghana. You can read the full article below and see the new HQ photos in our gallery.
The magazine can be read online here, you pick it up for free from all of DIY’s regular stockists in the UK or order yourself a physical copy at DIY’s shop, if you subscribe to the magazine today you get a free Paramore poster with the newest issue!
TIME FOR MOVING ON: PARAMORE
There have always been arrows flying at Paramore, but over the past two years, the band found themselves faced with their worst period of uncertainty. Now they’ve reached the other side.
Over the last fifteen years, Paramore have come up against their fair share of hurdles. That much is no secret; with each of their past four albums, the group have been forced to face new challenges, and stare into new unknowns. It was with their previous, self-titled full-length, though, that it was all set to change: they had finally cast off their demons and stepped into a new light. Or had they?
Back in 2013 when the band released their fourth album, the pieces felt as though they’d finally fallen into place. With ‘Paramore’, they threw out the creative rulebook and offered up a seventeen-track record brimming with ambition and energy. Packing in more musical styles than you can shake a stick at, the trio found themselves deviating from the punk-pop sound they’d mastered previously, choosing instead to stack the album with pop hooks, funky rhythms and a gospel choir for good measure. It was bold, it was brave and above all, it gave the group a new lease of life.
It wasn’t set to last. As the band drew their ‘Paramore’ chapter to a close with a final run of intimate US shows and a second Parahoy! cruise scheduled for early 2016, things soon went very quiet. By the end of 2015, a message from the band broke the news that bassist Jeremy Davis had departed in what they called a “painful” split, the reasons for which still remain a private matter. It was then the remaining two members – Hayley Williams and Taylor York – were faced with another big decision to make. They chose to, once again, pick themselves up and continue.
Almost eighteen months later, the three current members of Paramore – Williams and York are re-joined by original drummer Zac Farro – are sat together in the corner of a lofty Nashville photo studio. It’s a Friday afternoon and the trio are in the middle of planning a trip to see Radiohead in Atlanta this weekend. It’s also just a little over a month until their fifth album ‘After Laughter’ will be released and, as of the time of writing, only a handful of people in the world have any idea what’s coming.
“It’s weird,” ponders Hayley, on how it feels to be five albums deep and over ten years into their career. “I still feel like we’re really green, especially with this record. It felt like there were so many new things to try and so many new feelings about life – you’re finally all the way over the hump of being able to deny that you’re an adult now. Yeah, this was a crazy record to make.”
Unsurprisingly, the sense of anticipation surrounding the band’s next move has been palpable. In March 2016, the then-duo of Hayley and Taylor set sail on their second Parahoy! but fans remained uncertain of what would come next. And while their performances on board – their first after Jeremy’s departure – were fraught with emotion and honesty, with wounds still open, the four-day cruise would go on to be much more significant than they’d anticipated.
“I’ve never really wanted to cry on a cruise…” Hayley laughs, looking back at the rather emotional experience. “That wasn’t a selling point for certain!” It did, however, provide some much-needed catharsis for the then-two members. “Taylor and I talked about that right after it happened. It was really tough, and a lot had changed. All of a sudden, I felt very naked up there.
“[Parahoy!’s] supposed to be this fun thing; it’s meant to be a place where we all leave the world behind and we do our own thing, connect over music, play games and none of it matters, because who even knows how to find us? It’s this really beautiful community and feeling, yet I was really sad. There was this – I dunno – cloud that felt like it wouldn’t get off our backs for a moment there.
“Then we did this meet and greet that was about three hours long,” she explains. “People were coming up and looking us very deeply in the eyes and genuinely telling us things like, ‘Oh man, we’re so proud of you guys’ or ‘We’re so happy we get to be a part of this music’. These really incredibly genuine sentiments. There are always these really nice reminders with Paramore that it’s not just about us. I think that’s why we’ve been able to survive all of this shit: because it’s not really about us. When you’re looking into people’s eyes and you know they’re going through something probably worse than you, it just gives you a fresh perspective. We came home from that with a little bit of extra energy to get going with writing again. It was a good thing.”
By the time June rolled around, the band – who had invited Farro back into the fold by this point – were gearing up to head into the studio. “I mean, I never feel prepared, but I was scared,” confirms Taylor, on how they were feeling in the lead up. “I did feel like we had all the pieces, but it’s always a bit terrifying.” After the ambition of their previous full-length, the bar was set high, and that sentiment wasn’t lost on them. “Music is one of the only mediums of art where you do something and that is what you exist with for years.” An artist can create a piece and move on, a director finishes a film then continues with their next project. “For us,” Taylor continues, “we make a record and we live it. There’s a lot of pressure from both outside and within, because you want it to be great, you want to believe in it. That was where the fear came in; it was about making something that we all loved and that – even if it didn’t work out – we could all still stand behind it and be proud.”
The first step in making their fifth record was to build themselves a support network. Alongside Zac, who originally left the band in 2010 and has most recently been working on his own project HalfNoise, the group recruited ‘Self-Titled’ producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen to co-produce with Taylor. “When me and Hayley went into the studio,” adds Taylor, “we were a duo, so it was about putting people around us that we had history with and confidence in.” Rebuilding their bridges, they tried to create something that felt much more like a band. They were able to move forward, and more importantly, be themselves.
That’s an element that has ultimately shaped ‘After Laughter’ itself. While their previous record saw them giving anything a go, this time around they knew the path they needed to tread. Building upon the high octane energy of the likes of ‘Ain’t It Fun’ and ‘Still Into You’, it takes the bubbly vibrancy of those tracks and cranks it up to eleven.
“We intentionally didn’t look back at all,” Taylor is quick to assure. They now finally felt liberated enough to pursue the sounds they’d played with last time, but in a bigger way. “I really wanted this album to be different, but I didn’t really know what that would be like. I knew I didn’t want a ton of high lead guitars and I was getting kinda sick of head banging – our necks just always hurt!” While ‘Ain’t It Fun’ represented one of the most distinctly different sounds they explored last time around, now it was about calling upon the attitude and the mentality that had allowed for that song to be birthed in the first place. “We definitely just wanted to be honest with where we’re at,” he adds, “and be excited to listen to [the music] ourselves.”
Honesty was also the key component within Hayley’s lyrics. While Paramore have never been a band to shy away from pain or hardship in years before, this set of songs shout the message loud and clear. Unabashed and open, raw to the last, with titles like ‘Hard Times’, ‘Forgiveness’ and ‘Fake Happy’, the album shows that it’s clear the pain they’ve felt over the past two years hasn’t dimmed. Now, they’re unafraid to show it. “You can say it, it’s alright!” laughs Hayley, at the suggestion that these lyrics are much more forthright in their, well, sadness. “Honestly, we don’t even have the energy…” she admits, trailing off a little.
After almost a decade of dealing with issues – whether they be the departures of band members, the band’s portrayal in the media or simply the mechanics of the industry – it’s no shock to learn that Paramore are often exhausted. “We went through enough shit, man,” she goes on. “It’s not a selling point; life can be so hard. It’s funny to think that there’s anybody in the world that would look at us and think that our lives aren’t really hard just because we played Wembley or something. That’s cool but we still go home at the end of the tour.
“We’ve been playing shows for years and have been around so many people and parts of the world, and you just reach a certain point where you’re like, ‘I’m done.’ We don’t ever wanna be rude or unprofessional, but we’re just people,” she continues, tapping into one of the album’s main sentiments. “If we’re all faking it or being phoney, when do we ever get to connect? I don’t want to live in that mindset anymore, where I have to perform, not on stage but, as a human. It’s just tiring!”
Sometimes, you have to be pushed to the edge to discover your fighting instinct. For Paramore, it took the loss of another band member to hit that brink. Now, they’ve reached the other side and for that, they’re stronger. Not only is this record their most cohesive and bold, it’s also undoubtedly their most definitive, their most creative. It’s an album that makes perfect sense and now, as a unit, they’re finally at their most comfortable. “This is the least we’ve ever tried to prove to people that we’re doing good, but everybody’s saying that to us [regardless],” confirms Zac, before Taylor continues his sentiment. “We’ve always been trying to let people know – because there have been so many changes – ‘This is us now!’ ‘No, this is us now!’
“But one of the things that’s strange to me is that this doesn’t feel strange,” he goes on, looking to his two bandmates. “When I first started playing in Paramore in 2007, if you had told me at a certain point it would be Zac and Hayley and I… To try and get there in my head, there’s just no way!” Over the last ten years, a lot of things have changed, “but it feels like we’ve been in this form of our band for a long time,” he continues, “and it feels so comfortable. We’re still just as broken, but it’s just bizarre how good it feels right now. In the past when things felt good, we would hold onto them so tightly, and we wanted everyone to see and we forced them to see it, but this time, like they’ve been saying,” he gestures to his bandmates, “it’s cool to not feel like we have to be presentable when we’re broken, just to be ourselves and let people draw whatever conclusion they want.”
At the time of writing, knowledge of their fifth album is still scarce. Hayley herself has only given one short update on the band’s progress this year, which came back in early January, when a sense of anxiousness had begun to creep in. It was a message that reflected on the band’s past – and how it could’ve come to define them – and the challenge that was presented in following up ‘Self-Titled’. Now, with the gift of hindsight, the journey – and the struggles – finally seem worth it.
“It’s refreshing now,” she begins, “that I can hear what we made out of some of our own issues that we were going through, and how we came together to create something bigger.” Despite being ready to walk away from the band, they seem a happier unit than ever before. “We’ve all wanted to quit at different times, or go away and disappear – there have always been arrows flying at Paramore – but I had never actually felt that until this time. Now that we’re sitting here, and we have the songs we have, it doesn’t mean that my life’s perfect by any means, or that I’m even over some of the stuff we talk about on the record, but it’s so great to know that we didn’t give up.”
“For us, to be in the spot that we’re at, it’s just so rad for the three of us to want to be together and love being together genuinely,” continues Taylor. “To be proud of what we did. I would like to hope that one day we can make a record without having to go through something like that, but that’s just been our reality so far. Every time we actually get through it, it’s just that much sweeter. Life doesn’t stop,” he concludes, “but I think we got over a big hurdle and it’s great to be on the other side of that.”
Nylon Magazine’s Marissa R. Moss interviewed Paramore in Nashville last month. The interview was held only a day after the titles of Paramore’s upcoming album were leaked online. The interview can be found in the May issue of the magazine and you can read it from the scan in our gallery, or below (click to enlarge). The band talks about new music, Zac’s return and other things.
The interview includes a new photo taken by Lindsey Byrnes. The photo was taken in February already and the band shared a photo from the photoshoot in their instagram account.
The Guardian’s Sam Wolfson interviewed Paramore in their hometown at the beginning of this month. The band talks about the upcoming new album and the recording process, new sound, Jeremy leaving the band and other things too. You can read the interview below or here.
The interview also includes new photos of the band taken by Lindsey Byrnes. Go to our gallery to see the full HQ photos.
Paramore: ‘I’ve wanted to quit this band so many times’
Southern hospitality is no joke. Arriving in Nashville, it’s as though I’ve stepped into the animated portion of a previously live-action existence. Everyone I meet whirs with a rootin’-tootin’-how-ya-dootin’ folksiness that makes me feel both cared for and slightly car sick. In the taxi from the airport I say: “The weather is nice,” and the cab driver says, “Well thank you, we aim to please,” as if the locals had conferred and agreed to make it clear skies and 24 degrees. On my first night at a honky-tonk bar, a wasted hockey fan throws both hands on my shoulders and leans right in so my nose brushes against his. I feel certain he’s going to punch me in the face until he whispers: “Listen, I can tell you’re not from around here so I just gotta say, you have to try the fried bologna sandwich, you won’t have tasted nothing like it.”
Hayley Williams, Paramore’s lead singer and only continuous member, moved here when she was 13 after her mum and stepfather divorced. During the band’s early pop-punk phases she was known for her ever-changing hair colour and Hot Topic get-ups but today she bounds into the bouji brunch place she’s chosen with platinum blond hair and a fitted leather jacket. She could easily be mistaken for one of the modern country stars that flock to the city each year to record in its famed studios.
Paramore formed when Williams was 15. She’s now 28 and, basically, those intervening years have never been smooth sailing. Oddly, for a mainstream-focused rock band with a wholesome Christian background whose musical output is relatively uncontroversial, the band seem constantly embroiled in some huge internal fracas; it would be impossible to recount Paramore’s various bust-ups and reconfigured lineups in the Guide’s tiny pages.
Their eponymous fourth album, released in 2013, was an unprecedented success: it went to No 1 in the US and UK, secured them a co-headline slot at the Reading and Leeds festivals, and won them a Grammy for the single Ain’t It Fun. They had become one of the biggest bands in the world, yet it was hard to get past a bitter open letter that Williams’s guitarist ex-boyfriend Josh Farro and his younger brother, drummer Zac, had released on his blog in 2010. Both left the band citing Williams and the label’s controlling behaviour. One of the most stinging accusations was that her dad “would constantly threaten to ‘pull the plug’ on the whole band if we complained about anything, suggesting that we were hired guns … riding on the coattails of ‘Hayley’s dream’”.
The remaining members – Williams, bassist Jeremy Davis and guitarist Taylor York – were struggling but told the Guardian at the time that the new lineup “was the best thing that could have possibly happened” and that they were now happy and settled as a band. It seemed as if their sagas were finally coming to an end and a new era as a triumphant triumvirate had begun.
But things didn’t work out that way. Two years ago, Davis quit the band and is currently suing them in federal court for a greater share of royalties and touring revenue. He claims that Williams agreed that the three of them would share authorship for all 17 songs on the last record. When it came down to it, Williams and York were credited as songwriters on every track with Davis only getting a credit on Interlude: Holiday, a 70-second banjo ditty.
Taylor York has stuck by the band and, seven years after quitting, Zac Farro is now back in the fold. Both follow Williams into the restaurant, and as we sit around eating omelettes and comparing caffeine addictions, you wouldn’t ever know there had been any animosity among them.
At one point, Farro’s youngest brother, Jonathan, FaceTimes him to say he’s having another baby. Farro can’t believe it. He’s screaming. He passes the phone to me. “Mazel tov,” I say. He passes the phone to Williams. “APRIL FOOLS!” screams Jonathan and everyone falls about laughing. That’s the vibe here: people who are so comfortable with each other that their siblings can punk them with fake news.
But how? How can you be so chummy with people you publicly insulted after a huge bust up? The Farros’ open letter accused Williams’s father of bullying members of the band and slammed Williams for writing ungodly lyrics. Was that all a lie? Or does Zac Farro think it was all true at the time but that things have changed?
He brushes that all away by insinuating he had less to do with the letter than it might have seemed. Farro was only 20 at the time and somewhat blames his older brother for the way things went down. “I’m a very loyal person to my family and I love them to death,” he says. “I stuck with Josh in a lot of things that I didn’t necessarily have as much of a say in as he did … some would say I lived in his shadow a bit and around that time [the open letter] came out I was realising that. How we were approaching leaving the band came across very differently.”
The other two members nod supportively, suggesting that it was Josh rather than his little brother who had the biggest problem (they also hasten to add that Josh has been very supportive of Zac rejoining). And Farro says it also feels as if the furore happened in another lifetime. “It’s like that podcast Serial. You know the first one with Adnan [Syed]?” he asks. “It opens up and it’s like: try to remember what you did when you were a teenager, try to remember what happened at 10:30 in the morning on a Thursday. It’s impossible. Within a week, you forget what happens.”
So maybe the bad blood with Farro is a distant memory, but the absence of former bassist Davis still looms large. However, because of the ongoing legal proceedings, the band say they can’t discuss why he left, or the royalties dispute, in interviews.
“What I will say is that it’s such bullshit that we’re in a lawsuit,” sighs Williams. “I wasn’t OK for a while; maybe I’m still not.”
Taylor York says that he didn’t even feel Davis’s leaving because he was so used to the pain of Paramore. “I was just numb,” he says. “It was just another drama and another example of being in a band and it being really difficult, and feeling bad about that. We have the coolest job ever but why does it have to be so hard?”
Obviously, I say, it doesn’t have to be so hard. If being in Paramore is so stressful, why not just pack it in for good?
“Oh yeah,” says Williams, assuredly. “Two years ago I asked Taylor if we could start a new band. I was so sick of this crap. I said we should just try something new, give it a new name.”
York nods: “I’ve wanted to quit this band so many times. Going through all this conflict and drama over the years … I was just like: ‘Man, I feel like we can keep going, but this is not worth it if we don’t want to be here.’”
So, if the only two remaining members wanted the band to end, why didn’t it? No one can give me a straight answer as to why Paramore ended up deciding to make another record.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” says Williams when I say there must be something, before making an attempt to explain. “We, for some reason, kept showing up and kept writing and, little by little, the songs got better and we got a little more inspired to do it.”
The songs they wrote together didn’t sound anything like the earlier emo iterations of the band. There are some you could see as an evolution of the poppier stuff on the previous album but, if anything, they owe more to the 80s rock of Paul Simon and Dire Straits. It’s not cheap 80s pastiche, though; the tracks are rich, smart pop that any megastar would kill for. In particular, first single Hard Times, with its Lionel Richie drums, heavily layered vocals and Daft Punk-style breakdown, you could easily imagine being their biggest hit to date.
Still, even with their old friend back and a fertile creative period, I’m frustrated by the band’s lack of explanation around what actually keeps going wrong. Even the song titles on the new record After Laughter: Forgiveness, Fake Happy, and Rose-Coloured Boy, with its refrain of “just let me cry a little bit a longer”, point to a band whose every day is a struggle.
I push them on what infected their relationships. Their reticence to spill is partly, I think, the fact that they are all from this city, which, in public at least, seems like a place where if you don’t have anything nice to say you shouldn’t say it at all. Sometimes, that southern kindness can be a barrier to discussions about what’s really going on, something they admit has been an issue in the past.
“We grew up in a very conservative environment,” explains York, “where you always give people space because you don’t want conflict. So, if something pissed you off, you don’t talk about it.” But the biggest change in their lives is the most obvious one: age. The first 10 or 12 times Paramore had a bust-up, they were teenagers. When someone was unhappy they sulked or, worse, took to their personal social media channels to let their feelings be known. That open angst played a big role in the band’s success with their teenage fanbase but was also a sign that they didn’t have the wherewithal to handle things going wrong.
“If there is something intangible that none of us can place that’s different about this record, I sense that there’s a lot of acceptance of things not being … shiny,” says Williams. “We’ve all lost that teenage thing of trying to hold on so tight to someone, not realising you’re choking them. [When] you become an adult, you hold each other loosely, so everyone can show up as themselves. We’ve spent more time hanging out and laughing doing this record and equally crying together over things that happened that we never dealt with.”
That’s definitely a process they’re still living through, even in this interview: by this point, the brunch place has filled with bachelorette parties and we’ve moved to a more insular private room. It starts to feel like that bit in Mean Girls where everyone talks about their feelings.
Sometimes, the trio will revert back to empty platitudes about how good everything is. At one point, Farro says: “I used to be, like, ‘Wow, the future looks so far away’, now I’m, like, ‘I hope I can keep up because it’s right around the corner.’” But at other times, a kind of darkness boils over. I ask whether they think about what they’ll do when they’re, say, in their 50s, considering the band is all that they’ve known. That seems to throw them.
“If I envision my future, it’s really dark,” says York. “I just can’t even go there in my head. I know it sounds weird but I think I get enough anxiety and fear about tomorrow or this afternoon.”
Three hours after we first meet, it’s kind of tense in the room. They are really lovely and kind and say “thank you” for the interview, but it is apparent that for the band to work in the long run they can’t just pretend to be OK; they have to say what they actually feel.
“In the past, we’ve made it our mission to shove down people’s throats what we want them to see. You know: ‘It’s us three now, we’re doing so good!’” says Williams. “And I think we don’t really have that agenda any more. Oddly, I think we’re actually in a better place as a band than we’ve ever been. I think in the past this would have pissed us off. Not you, but this drudging through it; but I think now it’s, like, cool. It almost makes it less of a big deal because we’re not resisting it so much.”
Suddenly, they have to run off. They jump into Williams’s car and drive four hours to Atlanta where they’ve managed to snag Radiohead tickets. They’re not taking meetings or anything while they’re there. Just mates going to see a band. Williams emails the next day, telling me about their road-trip playlist and how hyped they were. “No Surprises was so rad to hear live,” she writes “because I remember listening to it, sitting on the back of Josh’s car with Zac and Taylor and a few other friends while we watched fireworks on the fourth of July in 2003.”
That’s when I understand why they are still plugging away with Paramore. Because the people still in the band, the ones willing to sit through interviews and work through problems, are the ones whose friendship withstood everything it was put through.
Paramore’s new album After Laughter is out on 12 May; their new single, Hard Times, is out now.