Paramore – Ain’t It Fun?
by Shana Bergmann
Paramore is a spunky, in-your-face rock band from Franklin, Tennessee. Formed in 2004, the band currently consists of lead vocalist Hayley Williams, bassist Jeremy Davis, and guitarist Taylor York.
The group released its debut album All We Know Is Falling in 2005. Its follow-up Riot! in 2007 went Platinum in the US and Ireland and Gold in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK. That album also spawned three big singles, “That’s What You Get,” “Misery Business” and “Crushcrushcrush.” Brand New Eyes, Paramore’s third disk, was released in 2009 and featured their smash hit “The Only Exception.”
Everything was going swell for the band until 2010, when artistic differences rendered the original five-piece group two people short. Zac Farro (drums) and Josh Farro (lead guitar) had announced that they were leaving the band.
After a long while with no word from the band following the departure of the brothers Farro, Paramore came back harder and stronger than ever in late of 2013. Fans were pleased when they saw the band had taken a more mature turn, and Hayley made no excuses or felt any guilt this time around with their self-titled fourth album. Critics and fans immediately picked up on the group’s renewed energy and the album’s bold, experimental vibe. This new sense of purpose was rewarded by two of the band’s biggest songs yet, “Still Into You” and “Ain’t It Fun.”
Now, Hayley Williams, Taylor York, and Jeremy Davis are gearing up for the “Monumentour”, accompanied by Fall Out Boy; whose fan base and hard-rock style is seemingly interchangeable with those of Paramore. The tour will run for two and a half months, and cover the U.S.
We recently took part in a conference call with Paramore’s lead singer Hayley Williams. Williams spoke of what to expect on tour, what it took to put it together, and what to expect in the near future.
I wanted to congratulate you on “Ain’t It Fun” being your biggest hit ever, and I was wondering if that, after all this time, you were surprised that song would be the one to make it big.
Thank you. Yeah, it should always be a surprise, I think. I don’t think you should ever just assume that a single is going to be your big hit or be a success. But this one, by far, has just shocked all of us. It’s been so much fun. We give Jeremy all the credit, though. It’s our first Paramore song with flat bass on it. We were just thinking that has something to do with it. But you really have to give credit to the fact that this was a song we really took a huge risk on. We really were just excited by it and it was so much fun and there was so much passion, and I think – I hope – you can hear that. That, and the message, hopefully, is sarcastic, but also inspiring enough for younger people who might be getting into the world for the first time on their own. I know it really helped me through a transitional phase in my life, so maybe it can also connect with people in that way, too.
I’m sure you’re looking forward to performing it on the tour…
Oh yeah. It is, by far, at this moment, my favorite song to perform. I mean, not only just because it’s the one that people definitely know if they don’t already know all of the songs. It’s the kind of song that I’ve always wanted to sing in Paramore. I grew up listening to a lot of R&B and pop and soul. It was kind of cool that we were able to write a song that infuses a little bit of that energy into what we do as a band.
What can we expect on the tour, and what will the set list will be like?
We just wrote up the set list the other day while we were doing a show in the Bahamas, and I’m really pumped about it. Us and Fall Out Boy are both playing the same amount of time. It’s kind of crazy when you get into a place where you’re having to fit so many songs into a certain amount of minutes and you’re thinking: First of all, how are we going to play all of the singles? How are we going to play all of the songs that please our old-school fans? I’m really pumped with what we came up with, though. I feel like it’s going to be really explosive. I think it’s going to be really exciting for whatever Paramore fans that might be at the show. I feel like we’re hopefully going to make all of them happy. I’m really excited, that’s a hard thing to do. I agonize over set lists every tour.
What was the process that you three went through to find what was next musically?
It was definitely a lengthy process for us. Once we were down two band members, we had to go through an emotional process, that included some grief, and anger, and bewilderment; all of those crazy emotions that we had to ride up and down for a while. We were, at the same time, realizing that we did still want to make music. It didn’t change the way that we felt about Paramore. That alone, before we even got to actually writing music, that took time. It took us a really valiant effort to really get to know one another again as people. So Jeremy, Taylor, and I would hang out – usually at Jeremy’s house, because he lives out in the country and we would just kind of watch tons of movies, or cook a meal, or whatever. It was important for that stuff to happen before we got into the studio. Then, once we did all of that – lived life together as friends, did a few tours together – it was time to make the record. That also, took a really long time. It took baby steps. I remember going over to Taylor’s house, [in] which he has a little studio. A few times where there was just no electricity. There were a few times where we left feeling really discouraged. It just wasn’t there. Then, it happened.
Once the first song came out, that was the spark that we needed. They kept rolling out. It was so important for us to keep encouraging one another and feel that fire again that we felt ten years ago when we started playing music. The whole process of making music, and making an album, and recording it, was really just a discovery process. We didn’t set out to make a specific style of an album. We didn’t have a concept in mind. It was just, “Let’s just be whatever we’re going to be” Whatever the song comes out like. If you love it then who says it can’t make the record and who says it doesn’t fit? We made the rules this time around and it was such a great, liberating thing for us to feel. I would say it definitely was the longest amount of time that we’ve ever spent doing anything as a band. We really had to become Paramore all over again. At this point now, looking back, I don’t think it could have happened any other way.
Do you feel like you redefined what the band is, musically? Do you feel like its a different band in any way?
Yeah, I actually feel like we redefined ourselves in a sense that there isn’t as narrow of a path. We broadened our horizons a little bit; We’ve broken through whatever feeling was there before. We discovered that we don’t have to meet anyone’s expectations. We always have to be good, and we always need to be better than we were the last time around, but Paramore is Jeremy, Taylor, and Hayley. It’s whatever we are in that given moment. Next year if we put out an album, or make an album that is all pop songs, or all heavy songs, or funk, like “Ain’t It Fun”; I just don’t think there are any rules anymore. Before this album, we always put ourselves in a box. We always had to live up to whatever expectations we felt mattered. It’s just been really liberating. I could never make an album under the same restraints that we might have put on ourselves before we made Paramore.
It seems like you’re gearing up to carry the torch for pop-rock female icons like Cyndi Lauper, Joan Jett. Do you feel a connection to those female icons? Who is an inspiration to you? What do those people mean to you?
Yeah. First of all, I feel super honored that you even said that and put me in the same sentence with those women, because they’re wonderful. When I was younger and we were getting ready to release Riot, I dyed my hair red and yellow and thought, “I haven’t seen anyone do this before. Here I am.” What’s weird is that I totally knew who Cyndi Lauper was, but then, years later, I’m looking at photos and someone put a photo of me from the “Misery Business” video next to some photo of her where she had literally the same exact hair. I feel such a connection with Cyndi Lauper and I’ve never even met her. I heard that she invited me to a show that she’s going to be playing on and my heart stopped.
Joan Jett, as well. I’ve had the chance to meet Joan Jett – we did Warped Tour in 2006 – and I kissed her on the cheek. I love her so much. I think she’s just so tough and that she really paved the way for someone like me to go on Warped Tour, and be fierce, and be proud of that. I just love the fact that anyone could possibly think of me as growing up into an artist like one of them. I think they’re wonderful, and there is a reason that people still say their names today. I just hope that I can be as colorful as Cyndi in my lifetime.
Do you try to impart anything to young women? Specifically when you’re writing songs, or just as your stage presence. Do you think about those things?
I have never really thought of myself as any specific gender when I’m on stage. There are definitely days where I feel 100% comfortable being a woman, and I love that. But then when I’m on stage I don’t always feel like I’m good for a girl, or one of the only girls. You know what I mean? I don’t think about gender at all. I don’t feel like people should; especially younger girls who are wanting to be in a band. Its not about you being a good girl-fronted band. I just think you should try to be a good band. There is power in being a female. I think we have an amazing insight, and an amazing point-of-view to speak from. But I think the best compliments I get are just about me being a great singer or me being a great performer, aside from whether or not I’m a girl.
As for tour life, are there any three items that you take along with you on tour that you simply can not live without?
Let’s see. Summer tours, like the one we’re gearing up for, I have to take lots of sunscreen because I am the palest person on the face of the planet. That’s one thing, but that’s kind of a daily thing. Anyways, I bring that in my bag. I bring candles. Usually, if I can bring some kind of candle from home, the smell of it in our dressing room kind of reminds me of that feeling and it helps me to relax. I also don’t like bright lights, so anytime I can turn down the lights and just put candles on, that’s nice. Besides that, my vitamins. I always bring a blender so we can make smoothies and green juices and stuff.
Along the lines of the last question, what are some things you do on the road to stay sane and energetic?
The best thing is just having friends around. The fact that the band and I grew up together, and we get along, is a huge help. We’ve definitely been a band that, in the past, didn’t all hang out, and even weirder, we were a bigger band. We were a five piece band and I was a lot lonelier. So, the fact that now things are a lot more peaceful, we’re able just to be friends with each other. The days off are crucial. A lot of times, on days off, I just like to go to movies. Or we’ll all go out to a family dinner with band and crew. It’s all about engaging and making sure I’m connected with the people around me.
What is it like being able to gear up for such a big opportunity, especially with a band like Fall Out Boy?
The whole tour is really, for me, a long time coming, because our bands really did grow from the same scene. We share a lot of the same fans, and we still exist separately with two individual fan bases, but what falls in between us is going to be so perfect. We’ll be able to celebrate where we come from, where we’re going, and it’s amazing. The Honda Civic tour was such a big milestone for our band. We hit so many cities, and it was really exciting. We’re a band that never likes to go backwards. We like to do theatre tours, and we like to do underplays and things like that just to reconnect with people, but when we did the Self Title tour last fall we were like, “Yeah.” It was the first tour that we had really done since Honda Civic [tour]. Now, to be able to top that feels incredible. I can’t wait to see how much celebration there will be between Paramore fans and Fall Out Boy fans, to have watched our bands come from nothing. That, to me, is the most exciting part.
Since you both have come through the industry together, and have kind of moved alongside each other, do you think there is going to be some competition? Your set times will be nearly identical, so do you think there will be anything as far as trying to steal the show from each other?
To me, any competition is friendly competition. I just feel excited for it. I don’t really think about it. For us, we just have to put on the best Paramore show ever. Every single tour we think that. Whether it be co-headlining the tour, or headlining it, or playing a festival, everything has to top the last thing that we did.
Is there any talk of another album? If not, what comes next?
Well, there is writing going on. I will say that. With Paramore, for us, you never know. We could get fives songs and say, “You know what? Those aren’t good enough.” and go back and make them better, or write a whole set of new songs. I’ll say this, though: this album that we are working right now, once we started finishing and demoing songs that we were crazy about, it just started pouring out, and rolling. We haven’t hit that sweet spot, yet, where we feel really comfortable. I know Taylor is writing every day. That’s sort of his at-home hobby anyways. He never really stops making music. We’re just having fun with it. It’s crazy to be at a point where we have two singles that have done well, and an album that everyone seems to be pretty excited about. That makes us feel awesome.