Ultimate Guitar Josh Interview
Much like the new vampire phenomenon Twilight, the musicians in Paramore have connected with a massive audience – and it only seems to be growing after a Grammy nomination and Guitar Hero/Rock Band appearances. It’s been a whirlwind past few years for the Tennessee-based quartet (and possibly soon-to-be quintet), and things have gotten even sweeter after being selected to be a featured artist on the Twilight soundtrack with the singles “Decode” and “I Caught Myself“. While singer Hayley Williams’ commanding stage presence, astounding range, and heartfelt lyrics might have caught the attention of fans at first, it is guitarist Josh Farro who often took the reins when it came to writing the music on 2007’s Riot! Farro considers himself a fairly straightforward guitarist and uses few effects, but it’s very possible that we’ll see a more experimental side to him when Riot’s follow-up hits shelves next year.
In the meantime, fans can get their Paramore fix with either the new CD/DVD The Final Riot! or checking out what the band has created most recently on the new Twilight soundtrack. The lead single “Decode” does relay a darker, more intense musical side to Paramore, and Farro told Ultimate-Guitar that there will be more surprises to come in the music he’s writing for the upcoming album. When we asked if the new album would sound anything like Arcade Fire – a comparison made recently by drummer Zac Farro – let’s just say that the guitarist quickly set the record straight.
UG: Congratulations on all of your success this year! Thanks for talking with me today.
Josh: Dude, no problem! I’m stoked. They told me Ultimate-Guitar.com, and then I totally forgot that I go to that site all the time, especially when I was learning how to play. That’s crazy. I’m kind of in shock right now!
Very cool! I’d love to talk about some of the influences you had listed on your website because they seem to be all over the place genre-wise. You listed Death Cab For Cutie, James Taylor, John Mayer and plenty others. Did any of those names have a fairly big influence in guiding your sound early on?
That’s a good question. I just kind of was playing whatever I liked. You did name a lot of the artists and bands that I love, and they’re quite different. That’s the funny thing. I can’t really hear any of my influences in the music that I write, but everyone else can! Some people will be like, “That sounds like Jimmy Eat World and this song sounds like Failure.” I’m like, “No, it doesn’t. If anything it sounds like Avril Lavigne or something!” I’m making fun of myself, I guess! I just wrote what I felt sounded good and what I loved. I don’t know. I never had a specific genre or sound that I kind of went for. It was whatever kind of came out.
The new single featured in Twilight, “Decode,” is amazing and conveys a different side of the band. Did you write that specifically for the film?
The music had been mostly written. Then we found out that Twilight was looking for bands for the soundtrack. Hayley is really into the books, but I hadn’t heard anything about it. She said there was this movie coming out and told me all about it. I was like, “Okay, let’s write a song.” So we already had that music, and she kind of based her lyrics around that. We thought it fit really well because the movie is about vampires and it’s a really dark song. It just all kind of came together from there.
It sounds like you used some subtle effects on “Decode.” What exactly are we hearing?
There’s not too much. I’m pretty simple when it comes to effects. I like clean and dirty. On the clean, I’ve got delay on that. On the lead parts, I use delay pretty much throughout the whole song. I use a DigiTech whammy for the octaves during the solo. It just kind of makes the solo really pop.
So it’s safe to assume that you’re not someone who constantly is looking to obtain more gear.
No. I wish I was, but I like things pretty simple. I like to experiment, especially on this next record. But as far as right now, I don’t know. I guess it’s because I’ve never really been good at it! I’ve never really looked into too many pedals. Our sound is pretty simple and it’s worked so far. I don’t want to change it.
You mentioned that you’ve been experimenting a bit with the new record. Do you take things in any new directions that might surprise your fans?
We’ve only just started writing the music really. The music we have right now, the heavier songs are quite heavier. The more mellow songs are a lot more experimental and dynamic. On the slower songs, there are definitely a lot of different kinds of effects. Taylor, the other guitar player in the band, he uses a lot of reverb and delay and all that different stuff. It’s cool. It’s a lot more ambient-sounding. So it’s a little different for us, but I think it works.
I understand that on the last album Riot! you laid down all of the guitar tracks. Is that true?
Yes, I did.
Did that amount to a fairly heavy load for yourself in the studio?
Yeah. I mean, I thought it was going to be really tough. It got harder at certain points, but since I write all of the guitar parts, I knew how I wanted them to sound. I kind of would have rather done it myself anyway. So it worked out perfectly. I had a lot of fun. This next record will be great, especially having Taylor playing on it. It’s going to be hard because I’m the kind of guy that is really hands-on. I’m kind of a perfectionist when it comes to the music I write. I trust Taylor. If I can trust anybody, it’s Taylor.
Has Taylor become an official member of Paramore now? In many bios it still lists him as a touring/studio member.
Well, he’s not yet a member – but he will be soon! We’re just kind of waiting for the 3rd record, which is not too far.
Have you made your way into the studio at all to lay down some demos? If so, has the producer introduced you to any new equipment?
The songs I’ve written are really just on my computer. I just use whatever effects I have in like GarageBand. It’s really funny that I use GarageBand to write my demos! But they have a bunch of different effects in there, and I just fool around with those. I try them out and see which ones I like. There are a bunch of different options.
Are you still a part of the Fueled By Ramen label?
Yeah, it will be on Fueled By Ramen and Atlantic. It’s kind of both because we started with Fueled By Ramen and went up to Atlantic. We’re still working a lot with them, though. Fueled By Ramen is a great label.
There was a quote from Zac stating that the new album would sound a lot like Mew, Thrice, and Arcade Fire. Those comparisons took me back a little, particularly when he mentioned Arcade Fire, a band with a distinctly different sound. Are there perhaps one or two songs on the new album that draw from that style?
(Laughing) See, a lot people have asked me that in interviews! They told me they saw that quote, and I think that’s kind of Zac’s desire for the new record. He’s really wanting it to sound like that. I can see how certain songs may have certain elements that sound like those bands, but I can’t really hear any influences like that. I just hear Paramore. There are little elements of that, but for the most part it’s not too much of a drastic change from our original sound.
The CD/DVD release The Final Riot! just hit shelves this November, and it includes quite a bit of behind-the-scenes footage from your lengthy tour. Did you basically have cameras following you around wherever you went?
Yeah. Our good friend came out, and he’s really good with a camera. He came out, and yeah, there was a camera on all the time. It was really fun! There’s a bunch of crazy stuff and he did a great job putting it together. It was a blast. One of the best tours we’ve ever done. It’s basically just what it’s like to tour with Paramore, a day in the life. We’re all pretty proud of it.
Back in February there was a rumor that Paramore almost disbanded, with personal conflicts at the center of it all. Were those issues as serious as some of the magazines made them out to be?
Yeah. There were, like there are with every band. I think it was our first real falling out as a band. We weren’t agreeing on anything, and we were just having a really hard time. There were some personal issues back home that some of us were dealing with. It was really tough, and we wanted to nip it in the bud before it got too bad. We were like, “Let’s just go home and fix these problems before they get worse.” Most bands kind of ignore it, try to go on, and pretend like it’s not even there. We were like, “Dude, we don’t want to be those bands.” Like Metallica went through all that stuff, and now they’ve made up and it’s great. There are some bands that don’t even talk to each other. They just show up onstage, play the set, and then go their separate ways. We don’t want to be like that. It wasn’t getting that way, but we saw it potentially in the future.
Do those conflicts exist during the songwriting process, where you butt heads creatively?
Not really. Hayley and I write all the music. There are a few people that kind of help out, like Taylor and some other guys. We have a pretty clear vision of what we like and what we don’t like. We’ve kind of developed a system that works pretty well and we know how to compromise. If she comes up with something and I’m like, “Oh, I don’t know.” She’ll be like, “Okay, well I do like this part, but I won’t change this.” I’ll be like, “Okay, deal.” Hayley is really easy to work with as far as songwriting goes.
You said earlier that for “Decode” the music had already been written and just needed lyrics. Would you say that the music usually always come first?
Yeah, definitely. Ninety-five percent of the time, that’s how it works. I write music all the time. It’s kind of never-ending! I’ll just have random ideas. It’s kind of frustrating because sometimes I can’t finish songs. I just have a bunch of 30-second clips. I’m like, “Hayley, which ones do you like?” She’s the kind of person that it kind of overwhelms her. So it would be nice if I could give her just one song.
Going back to your list of influences, you mentioned James Taylor pretty high up on the list. Now I have this vision of you sitting with your acoustic as you write. Would you say that the bulk of your material is written on an acoustic?
You are right on! That’s me. That’s how I learned to play guitar, on a really old, crappy acoustic that I had. I would just put in a CD – say, Incubus’ Morning View – and I would go through every song. I’d push rewind until I had the entire song down. That’s just kind of how I learned, so that’s my style now. I’m used to it. I’ve written a couple songs on piano, but for the most part the acoustic guitar is my thing.
Would you like to do an entire acoustic tour at some point?
Yeah, that would be cool. I’m definitely a fan of the electric, and everybody loves it loud. I think it would be cool to strip it down once in awhile. We’ve talked about doing a tour like that. Of course, who knows if we’ll ever get around to it? I think it would be so much fun. Just really intimate.
Is the Fender Telecaster Deluxe still your electric of choice?
Yes, it is. They just made me a custom one. It’s basically the Telecaster Deluxe body style, and I got an F-Hole in it. It has a different style neck than they usually put on the Fender Deluxes. Are you familiar with the Les Paul Gold Top?
I got it painted after that because that’s my favorite Les Paul. It actually turned out looking really cool.
Would you want to ever get an actual Les Paul Gold Top?
I would. I don’t have one yet. I have an Epiphone, but that’s not even near the same thing. My eyes are always looking at guitars out. Someone we work with had like a 50’s Gold Top with all the paint cracked. It was the coolest-looking thing! “Hey, my birthday is coming up!”
Do you prefer the sound of the Fender to the Gibson, though?
I’m pretty flexible. On Riot! I used a lot of the Tele for my lead parts because it has a lead vibe. It just cuts through a lot more than a Les Paul. A Les Paul is more of a low end for the rhythm. It’s that chunky, full sound that’s good for the rhythm guitars. I used to play a Les Paul all the time, but then I did Riot! and I experimented with a Tele. It’s really hard to keep Les Pauls in tune. It’s really, really hard, so that’s difficult live.
Can we expect the band to be in the studio up until summer of 2009?
That’s a good question. We’re hoping to get out by Spring 2009. So maybe early summer as far as touring. We don’t want to disappear for too long, but at the same time we really want to spend a lot of time on the record to make sure it’s something we’re all proud of. We have to compete with our last record, which is fairly difficult because it did really well.