Photo by Alex R. Kirzhner
Brendon Urie is only 26, but the lead singer of pop-punk band Panic! at the Disco has lived many lives in those years. Turns out that 2013 was a banner year: Urie got married, released his fourth studio album with his band that contained many of his personal stories, had some beef with Fiona Apple, performed for Billy Joel, and worked through some addiction issues with a bandmate. Phew. That could make anyone go crazy, but Brendon has taken it all in stride, and it seems as if 2014 is going to be just as busy.
Before the band's sold out show at the Skyway Theatre on Tuesday night, Gimme Noise caught up with Brendon to talk about how much flack he gets from social media commentors and the tales that went into the new album, Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!
Gimme Noise: You have a new album that came out about two months ago. How have been people been receiving it at shows since it's had a little time to sit?
Brendon Urie: It's been great so far; I was kind of surprised, especially because when you're at shows you're playing new songs. It's been nice, though; we've been playing old songs for a while.
What do you think has been the best feedback you've got about the new songs?
It's always good to get the positive stuff, but I honestly will go online and read some of the comments on my YouTube account
. There's no middle ground. Most of it is, "I really love this band!" and the other stuff is, "I really HATE this band. Their music sucks." It's always interesting to me when people feel that strongly about my music.
Does it bother you to hear that kind of stuff?
I'm not bothered by it. You have to build a thick skin in this business, and I just have to remind myself that I wrote something someone felt strongly enough about that they felt compelled to comment on it. It affected them in some way -- be it good or bad.
I listened to the new album, and you have a lot of personal stuff on here. Why do you feel now was the time to talk about these struggles? Was it scary to be this vulnerable and write from such an open place?
Yeah, this is the second time that I really stepped up for an album. In the past, I had asked old members to write lyrics; they would all get a say or input, but it wasn't fully me out there. I would perform the words, but they weren't my words -- it wasn't my story to tell. This time, it was a lot more confessional and honest. I like doing that, getting real.
Initially did it feel too personal for you to want to release to the public?
When I was writing, I was thinking, "Should I be writing this?" But then when I showed people, they said, "This is gospel." A lot of the songs were about my friend and his addiction from my point of view and what was going on. I was a little nervous to show anybody, but when I eventually did, it helped push things forward. I want to be honest, and with honesty, it can't ever set you back. I like being able to be personal.
To touch on the addiction you mentioned, your bandmate Spencer [Smith] recently left the tour to go through rehab. Why did you guys feel as if it was something you wanted to address publicly?
It goes again with being honest, and it was really on Spencer to be open about it, too. I didn't want to be the one telling anyone, "Hey, this is what's going on." We already had a personal deal -- a notion that he needed to deal with and take care of himself. We were concerned about his health and work. He was open to letting the fans know about everything.
I feel he's been doing a lot better. He's getting the help he needs and deserves. Things are going well. We didn't want to cancel the shows for the fans. Everything has been working out as well as it could for him.
Being a musician -- it's probably the worst profession for someone with an addiction.
Oh, yeah. Everybody's drinking; it's very accessible, and it's one of those jobs where you can get away with drinking every night. You think, "A song's better when you're high. It's easier to deal with a heckling crowd when you're drunk." It's accessible, and it's a lot easier to get in the way of what you're doing. He definitely made the right decision.
It's not easy to talk about. How did the fans respond to Spencer opening up about rehab?
I have had some good talks with some of our fans; there's been some one-on-one talks and some letters. To be honest, I get choked up when I get certain letters. "I'm going through the same thing with my aunt," or something along those lines. It really touches me that someone appreciates our music, and that it can help them through a tough time. We were doing it to help one of our good friends, and now in some way, it's helping out other people. The support has been amazing.
Speaking of friends, you just finished a tour with Fall Out Boy. How did it feel to come full circle with guys that you began your career with?
It was awesome. We toured with them years ago during the Blink 182 tour. They took a little break, so we didn't know if we were ever gonna play with them again. They used the same producer, Butch Walker, on their last album that we used. I was excited about that, because we've worked with Butch and he's amazing. It was like a reunion touring with them again. We were able to get nostalgic without getting sentimental about the past. There were pranks, but it was more just a bunch of friends having a good time.
Did it feel weird to be in different parts of your lives but still making music?
Yeah, the friendship has definitely matured, but it's also progressed. Fall Out Boy is a band that's changed so much -- their sound, the way they conduct themselves. We've all grown up. I have a tremendous amount of respect for them as a band and on a personal level. That makes it that much more fun.
I saw a picture of you and Billy Joel recently. Can you tell me about that?
Oh, my god. A crowning moment. That was the first time I lost my head; it was phenomenal. I performed for the Kennedy Center Honors
, and I sang Billy Joel's song -- that was enough. I'm like, "Oh, great! I get to perform his song for him and
the president?" That was a good day, and it was a huge moment. Then we had dinner, and afterwards his people were like, "Hey, he really wants to meet you." I was like, "Get out of here!" He came over and introduced himself, and I was totally flustered. He was really calm and complimented me. It was so the coolest thing.
Is he the only person you are starstruck by?
Definitely more so than anyone else. Having performed his song for him and then meeting him, it had built up some of that anxiety. I've met some people in the past where it's been kind of similar. The second tour we ever did in 2006, we ended up touring with The Academy Is..., and Jimmy Page came over. That was so crazy. I love Led Zeppelin and Jimmy. He's such an artist; that was huge to meet him. Dave Grohl is another person; he's one of the nicest guys I've ever met.
You know you're probably that person to someone, right?
[laughs] That's very cool, and sure, they may be flustered, but I'm definitely not Dave Grohl or Jimmy Page. I'm just me.
Panic! At the Disco will perform at the Skyway Theatre on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 with The Colourist and X Ambassadors.
AA, $28.25-$38.25, 6 pm doors, 7 pm show
This show is sold out.