Paramore – Back for More
photography / ANDREW KUYKENDALL
story / HEATHER SEIDLER
stylist / ELIZABETH BARROIS
hair + makeup / BRIAN O’CONNOR
Shot @ MDCI HOUSE
The rebooted Paramore is back, bigger and better than ever. Their newly released, self titled album, their fourth, debuted strong at #1 on the Billboard charts, and Paramore 2.0 is vindicated and back on top. Since the departure of founding members Josh and Zac Farro three years ago, the band has reinvented itself. The trio of Hayley Williams, Jeremy Davis and Taylor York has proved triumphant after some fractured circumstances.
“Obviously I don’t want to talk sass about the old band, but the place that we’re in now, as three individual people, is a very healthy unit,” Williams says. “It’s really bizarre, we grew up together, but now we have a second chance to do what we’ve always wanted to do. There’s a lot of excitement in what we’re doing right now, and I just feel blessed. I feel really psyched and grateful.”
Since their first release, Paramore has grown from emo mall-punkers to stadium-filling, mega-pop-rockers. After the split, the bitter Farro brothers publicly insinuated that Paramore was just a manufactured product of major label puppetry—but Hayley and crew proved otherwise by releasing the new, 17-track album that veers from their trademark punk-rock sound into an ambitiously personal and brightly tender record that fuses multiple musical stylings.
The Nashville-based band moved to Los Angeles to begin work on the album and that decision shaped the direction the album took. “I think LA played a huge part in rounding out the sound of the album and giving us a fresh perspective,” Williams says. “I know for me personally, I had to get out of Nashville because I really felt suffocated there, which is crazy because I grew up there and was impossibly in love with my hometown. My whole family is there, along with all my close friends from high school, but all the craziness that we were going through as a band–all the rumors and things flying around–I felt I couldn’t really walk down my own street without people looking at me. I just needed to get away. LA was a nice vacation from our reality at home and forced all three of us to grow up. We really felt like we were adults for the first time ever.”
With the help of M83’s producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen, Paramore became increasingly confident in themselves and the direction of their sound. “We were big fans of his and the minute we met him, it was like we had known him forever. We just sat down together and talked about all the bands we loved and the music we wanted to create and the reasons why we want to create it. He told us he didn’t want to be involved with any band unless he could be 100% emotionally invested. We felt that he was going to stretch us and he wanted to get his hands dirty—and he did! It was one of the best decisions we made, it was sort of like having an extra member for the band. It felt perfect,” Williams says.
After down-sizing and linking up with a new producer, the band felt an excitement and commitment they had never experienced. “Each one of us is so happy to be where we are – we worked our asses off for this album and I think we played even harder. It was an amazing time for everyone involved in the record. Everything was fun and exciting every morning, and I don’t think we would have gotten that if it was the five of us.”
There was an adjustment period before writing the album when Williams experienced a dry spell of creative congestion, after having gone through all the changes in the band and their environment. “We kind of had to let things happen, we had to let things go,” Williams explains. “We figured out what the right things were for our album and it turned out they couldn’t have been more wrong. So we really had to follow our inspirations and let our influences speak to us without being blinded. There were moments when I felt like I’d never write a song again, but then I’d hit a prolific period. It was quite interesting because each time we’d have these explosions of inspiration, we had to break down walls and it was an amazing time of accelerated discovery and realizing what we were capable of. Every time we think too much, we got all blocked up. Every time we just let a song happen, it took us to a place we never thought we could go as a band.”
After riding the emo wave under different variations of Paramore since 2005, the 24-year-old Williams had thoughts of walking away before this latest album came to fruition. But she knew Paramore wasn’t destined for a premature end and, luckily, Paramore plowed onwards. “There was a time both in our professional lives and individual lives where we could have just thrown in the towel and gotten day jobs anywhere. We could’ve said, ‘You know what, it was awesome being in Paramore and it was fun to play music all over the world, but that time is over and now it’s time to find another purpose.’ We could have just done that, because pretty early on in the process it felt like that was the right choice–to call it because someone else called it for us. But now I’m sitting here talking to someone about our new album. I feel like so much blood, sweat, and tears went into every song–it was emotional, it was exciting and it was sort of like this golden moment, a flash in my life I know I’ll never forget. It feels like the end of a crazy war movie and we’re walking out with our hand in the air. I’m truly in awe of the things we’ve gone through the last few years,. Even if we just released the record and it did nothing at all, even if no one wanted to talk to us about the record and you and I weren’t doing this interview right now, it is a victory for us.”
After the Farro brothers’ split from the band, cracking the fault-line of the outfit, it seems like the band has a brand new, more workable relationship with each other and their enthusiasm is manifested on the album. Even though the split still seems a bit raw (Williams hasn’t spoken to the Farro brothers since they aired their disapproving dirty laundry across the blogosphere), it’s now just water under the proverbial pop-rock bridge. Williams holds no grudges. Things have moved on.
“One thing for sure is that I learned it’s okay to be wrong, it’s okay to say that something hurts and be really honest about it,” Willliams admits. “I always talked about the importance of honesty in songwriting, and I think I’m actually a stronger person when I write songs than I actually am in my personal life. I really tried over the last year to just be okay with something that hurts and be honest about it. If something’s wrong, be honest about it and take all of that feeling and use it to make you a better person. I was going through a lot, even in the first album. When I wrote ‘Brand New Eyes’ I was so hurt and really angry, so my way of letting it out was through song. I didn’t want to write that album two times, so I took to focusing on the source of the problem to fix it. The way we wrote this album is different. In my personal life, I’ve forgiven and let go of resentments. I’m taking a step each day to be a better person. Trying to practice forgiveness and grace and open mindedness–just patience even. If you’re struggling with it, it means you’re trying.”
More on Paramore in the #7 Issue of LADYGUNN Magazine. For more outtakes click here.
*special thanks Adeline Tan for doing the transcriptions! 🙂