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.
BBC Radio One interviewed Hayley via phone earlier this week. You can listen the interview below.
Paramore did their first on-camera interview with Beats 1’s Zane Lowe at Taylor’s house in Nashville earlier this year. You can watch the first part of the interview below. The band talks about new music, deciding to stay together and Zac’s return. The second part of the interview will be out on May 11th and in that one the band will discuss the new album track by track.
New photos from the interview available in our gallery.
Paramore talked to the New York Times about their new album and sound. You can read the whole interview below or here.
The interview also features brand new photos of the band taken by Eric Ryan Anderson. Go to our gallery to see them in high quality.
Paramore Bounces Back With Old Faces and a New Sound
NASHVILLE — Hayley Williams needed a break from “Paramore hair.”
For more than a decade, while she established herself as one of the most dynamic mainstream rock singers of her generation, Ms. Williams was recognizable for her dramatic razor-cut bangs and bobs in bursts of violent color, typically the loudest synthetic shades of red, orange and pink. “I had a haircut that could have murdered you,” she said of the look that helped make her an icon of the mall-punk Warped Tour set.
Yet as her band, Paramore, worked to transcend its restrictive genre dogmas across four increasingly ambitious albums, taking the angsty pop punk of the Myspace moment to the Grammys and the Billboard charts largely on the strength of Ms. Williams’s voice, the singer, now 28, began to feel beholden to a visual shtick.
Last year, staring down a deep depression amid more personnel changes in a band plagued by them — and questioning herself under the hefty burdens of adulthood — Ms. Williams opted for “a blank slate,” she said, her currently white-blond locks further minimized under a beanie.
“You can run on the fumes of being a teenager for as long as you want, but eventually life hits you really hard,” Ms. Williams, a mighty presence who barely cracks five feet, explained last month, speaking for the first time about the tumultuous period since Paramore last released an album, in 2013. “I didn’t even know if we were going to make another record,” she said. “There was a moment when I didn’t even want it to happen. Then it was like, I want it to happen, but I don’t know how we’re going to do it.”
Paramore, somehow, pulled it off again. On May 12, the band will release “After Laughter,” its fifth LP, introducing another lineup — each Paramore album has featured a different combination of members around Ms. Williams — and, more notably, a new sound. Instead of the meaty, distorted power chords and hyperactive riffs of its adolescence, Paramore has dipped into cleaner, more rhythmic and synth-kissed textures of the ’70s and ’80s, owing to recent obsessions with Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, Cyndi Lauper and Blondie.
But while the group has long functioned in its own bizarre hybrid milieu — “too rock for pop and too pop for rock,” said the guitarist and Ms. Williams’s chief songwriting partner, Taylor York — Paramore returns to a Top 40 landscape even less hospitable to guitars than the one it left on an idiosyncratic high note. (“Ain’t It Fun,” which won a Grammy for best rock song, was also the band’s highest-charting crossover single.)
In pop, a throwback ’80s sound has since been tried with varying degrees of faithfulness and success by the likes of Taylor Swift, Carly Rae Jepsen and Jason Derulo, but has not, of late, been credibly executed by a band. Paramore, though, may be suited to this moment: Ms. Williams, cartoon hair or not, remains the focus, and her nimble melodies and sneakily huge pop hooks are as crisp and magnetic as ever, unbeholden to genre walls.
As a frontwoman, Ms. Williams’s shadow of influence has only grown during her break from music, with the most vibrant rock, especially in offshoots of punk, coming increasingly from female-led bands who aren’t afraid of a chorus.
Bethany Cosentino, the lead singer of Best Coast, called Ms. Williams an industry mentor, despite being her elder by two years. “She’s the most humble person I’ve ever known,” Ms. Cosentino said. “She’s a major superstar, but on any given day in Nashville you’ll see her in the back at a show. She’s still true to her punk roots.”
Ms. Williams demurred at suggestions that for a new generation of female musicians, she represents what Gwen Stefani of No Doubt and Shirley Manson of Garbage were for her, insisting that she is the one inspired by much younger acts like Cherry Glazerr, Tacocat and Bleached.
But she also recalled her determination when Paramore started in a male-dominated scene. “If we were booked on a bill with all dudes that were twice as old as us I wanted to be better than any of them,” Ms. Williams said. “I didn’t care if they had a penis or not. I had to be great at my job.”
Musically, her band “can do whatever we want and then when Hayley gets on it, that’s what makes it Paramore,” Mr. York, 27, said, adding that his recent guitar tones and phrasings had also been inspired by Afrobeat and other international sounds. “We’ve gotten to a point with our new music where we don’t really want to headbang anymore.”
In addition to a fresh direction, “After Laughter” is a partial reunion for the group, which, during recording, welcomed back the drummer and founding member Zac Farro. Formed in 2004 as a teenage garage band in Franklin, Tenn., Paramore fractured nearly seven years ago when Mr. Farro and his older brother, Josh, then the main songwriter, quit in a fit of acrimony, having dubbed the band “a manufactured product of a major label” that “became all about Hayley.” (Paramore’s 2011 damage-control interview with MTV is an excruciating document of an awkward period.)
Mr. Farro’s homecoming developed gradually after a personal rekindling with Mr. York, his childhood best friend, that became a necessity because the pair kept running into each other socially.
“Every teenage year that I lived was in this band, on tour,” said Mr. Farro, 26, a lovable goof whose mellow presence balances that of his more high-strung bandmates. “I needed a reset button.”
Carlos de la Garza, who worked as an audio engineer on “After Laughter” and its self-titled predecessor, called Mr. York and Mr. Farro, who spent his time away traveling New Zealand and making his own music, “true kindred spirits.”
What resulted from that refreshed partnership were many jubilant, even danceable, instrumental tracks that Ms. Williams then flipped on their head. “There was a little bit of a dark side creeping in to Hayley’s psyche,” Mr. de la Garza said. “Something was eating at her, and she was able to use a lot of that as fuel for lyrics.”
Despite the joyful, collaborative energy that stemmed from the reconciliation with Mr. Farro, Ms. Williams agreed that “there was a dark cloud” over the writing and recording process, stemming from relationship issues both personal and professional.
In the last two years, “A lot of life happened,” said Ms. Williams, who married a fellow musician, Chad Gilbert of New Found Glory, last February. Just before that, Paramore announced that it had parted with its longtime bassist, Jeremy Davis, who in a lawsuit invoked claims that have long dogged the band, and especially Ms. Williams.
While Mr. Davis contends in court papers that he was a creative partner, entitled to additional profits from songwriting royalties, merchandise and live shows, pre-emptive filings on behalf of Ms. Williams noted that she is the only member officially signed to Atlantic Records, leaving the rest of Paramore to be paid as at-will employees. (Lawyers for the singer noted that “because she wanted to foster a feeling of camaraderie within the band, at her direction, the band members’ salaries included a portion of Williams’ earnings.”)
Derek Crownover, a lawyer for Mr. Davis, said in a statement: “Jeremy Davis did not leave the band,” adding that the bassist “did not initiate the lawsuit either.” While the case is ongoing, Mr. Crownover expressed hope for an amicable settlement soon.
“Again?” Ms. Williams asked herself as she pondered the group’s fate. “I prayed until my knees bled, pretty much,” she said, acknowledging that Paramore has at times felt more like a soap opera than a band.
“We were down another member — same old story almost from Day 1,” she continued. “It made me question everything — am I doing something wrong? You read things that people say about you and eventually you just think, ‘Oh, I must be some kind of diva bitch.’ I know that’s not me, but it caused a lot of self-doubt.”
Ms. Williams, never one for love songs, channeled her disquiet into an album preoccupied with betrayal, disappointment and regret. “Hard Times,” the opening song and first single, begins with lines like,
All that I want
is a hole in the ground
You can tell me when it’s all right
for me to come out.
Elsewhere, she sings, “I can’t think of getting old/it only makes me want to die,” while other album highlights are titled “Forgiveness” (sample lyric: “I just can’t do it yet”), “Fake Happy” and “Grudges.”
“I couldn’t imagine putting something on an album that says ‘life’s great, everything’s cool, party with me,’” Ms. Williams said. And it’s true that despite long-running accusations of major-label meddling in Paramore’s career, the band has written its own often-bitter songs across three straight platinum albums without fiddling from the pop machine.
Though its members said their record label has previously tried to pair them with hitmakers of the moment, “We’ve somehow earned our freedom,” said Mr. York, Paramore’s softest spoken member. “I can’t imagine getting up there and playing a Max Martin song,” he said. “At that point we might as well just stop.”
Now, as Paramore moves from re-establishing its foundation in private to the public glare of an obsessive, impatient fan base, its members are openly anxious about how it will be portrayed and received. One recent night, the trio attended a hockey game for its hometown Nashville Predators, something they hadn’t done as a group since childhood. Exceedingly gracious to all who recognized them, there remained a nervous but endearing energy among the band, not unlike recently reconciled exes around skeptical old friends.
Yet in quiet moments, as Mr. York, Mr. Farro and Ms. Williams picked food out of each other’s teeth and retreated to the safety of inside jokes, they couldn’t help but seem downright content. “This is what you go through hard times for, so you can have these moments where you’re proud of yourself, proud of your choices and your friends,” Ms. Williams said.
“I have a public diary of my life,” she added, “and I feel useful because of it.”
Paramore announced their 5th studio album today! The album will be released on May 12th and it’s called ‘After Laughter’. You can pre-order the album here, merch bundles are also available.
The tracklist and the album art can be seen below.
1. Hard Times
2. Rose-Colored Boy
3. Told You So
5. Fake Happy
9. Caught In The Middle
10. Idle Worship
11. No Friend
12. Tell Me How
The first single from the album was already released today. It’s called ‘Hard Times’ and you can watch a music video for it below.
The band also announced new European tour dates for this summer and there’s also at least one date in the US later this year. Pre-sale tickets will be available Wednesday, April 26th and the general on-sale begins Friday, April 28th.
Jun 15 Olympia Dublin, Ireland
Jun 16 Waterfront Belfast, United Kingdom
Jun 18 o2 apollo Manchester, United Kingdom
Jun 19 Royal Albert Hall London, United Kingdom
Jun 21 Colston Hall Bristol, United Kingdom
Jun 22 Usher Hall Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Jun 24 Palladium Köln, Germany
Jun 25 013 Tilburg, Netherlands
Jun 27 GRAND REX Paris, France
Jun 29 Arena Open Air Wien, Austria
Jun 30 Volt Festival Sopron, Hungary
Jul 02 Admiralspalast Berlin, Germany
Jul 03 Stadtpark Hamburg, Germany
Jul 05 Rock For People Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic
Jul 07 Cirkus Stockholm, Sweden
Jul 09 Ruisrock Turku, Finland
Jul 12 Vega Copenhagen, Denmark
Jul 14 Slottsfjell Tonsberg, Norway
Sep 15 Riot Fest, Chicago, IL
According to several radio stations, they will have “new Paramore” to play around 8:30am. The song is speculated to be entitled “Hardtimes” by these stations. Although numerous stations have tweeted about this, there is no official statement from the band. However, the band did update their profile pictures with the completed final image that they have been teasing us with for the past couple days.
Links to radio streams:
Alt 103.3: available on iheartradio(US) or the Alt 103.3 website
The Woody Show / (Alt 98.7): available on the iheartradio(US) or the Alt 98.7 website
Non-US listeners: x