A lot has changed for Las Vegas pop chameleons Panic! At The Disco since the last time they visited Australia – so much so, that vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Brendon Urie can scarcely remember how long it has been since they visited. “Oh man,” he says as he begins to rack his brain, “It’s got to have been at least four years – or close to four years or something like that. Too long, anyways!” In that time, the band has gone under a complete transformation – they’ve reinstated the exclamation mark (infuriating Last.FM scrobblers worldwide); lost two of their members in founding guitarist Ryan Ross & bassist Jon Walker and bounced back into the spotlight this year with their third studio album, Vices and Virtues. It’s quite a bit to take in – although Urie, speaking to FasterLouder from Los Angeles, seems to have handled the whole ordeal like a true professional.
“After the split,” he muses, “for the last to years we’ve been touring with Dallon [Weekes, bass] and Ian [Crawford, guitar]. We wanted to make sure that we had people that we genuinely got along with, and not just people that we’d hire for our live shows. We wanted to make it feel more like a band – and, more and more every day, it kind of does. They’re just such talented dudes, and we get along so well. It’s kind of all worked out – we’re really fortunate, that’s for sure.”
Although Weekes and Crawford have settled into the live fold of P!ATD, it’s worth mentioning that Vices and Virtues was recorded entirely by just Urie and drummer Spencer Smith, Urie’s childhood best friend and another founding member of the group back in 2004. Urie maintains that creating the album just as a two-piece was simply something that the pair had to do – a “reclamation” of the band after the schism created with Ross and Walker’s departure (both of whom went on to form the jangle-pop band The Young Veins). It was certainly a challenge for the band, particularly for Urie, when it came to writing the album’s lyrics; something he had never attempted prior to the departure of main writer Ross.
“It was something that I knew I had to pick up responsibility for,” says Brendon. “I spent basically all of my spare time writing lyrics, and figuring out different ways to convey a message. Musically, though, Spencer and I have been writing together for seven years. The only difference this time around was the necessity of having more ideas for songs. You couldn’t just come in with a thirty-second idea – you had to come in with a two-minute idea. There wasn’t four people to work through these ideas with anymore, it was just the two of us. We had to just show a little more initiative and find out exactly what it was that we wanted out of this record.”
In accordance with their previous releases, P!ATD took yet another dynamic shift in sound from the album prior. Vices and Virtues makes a return to some of the more electronic leanings of their 2005 debut A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, yet have not completely abandoned the more restrained mature pop that was found on 2008’s Pretty. Odd. In a way, Vices can be seen as bridging the proverbial gap between the two records – and it’s very much intentional on behalf of the group itself. Urie points out that there are songs – or, at least, ideas for songs – that stem from songwriting sessions for both Fever and Pretty. When queried as to the idea or song that has been around for the longest, he interestingly points towards the album’s opening track and lead single, The Ballad of Mona Lisa.
“One of us had written down this 45-second idea, maybe eight months after the first record came out,” recalls Urie. “A lot of what came from those sessions is really different to the way that we write now – but, in a way, that’s what made the record what it was. The mix of the old and newer stuff on there really reflected where we were at the time, and where we wanted to go with it.”
Urie, Smith, Crawford and Weekes will all be in Australia this week to headline the Counter-Revolution festivals across the nation – and Urie in particular is hugely enthusiastic about bringing the new P!ATD to Australia for the first time. “We were so bummed when the festival got cancelled,” he says, alluding to the original Soundwave Revolution. “But now we’ve been given this second chance, we’re all so excited to be coming back to Australia and playing for all of you guys.” He also gives a message to fans to expect a bit of classic rock to be thrown into the set. “Lately, on tour we’ve been covering Carry On Wayward Son by Kansas,” he notes. “It’s such a fun song to play, and it’s a great one for everyone to sing along to.” Lay your weary heads to rest, Panic! fans, and don’t you cry no more – they’re back, and hopefully better than ever for all attending the Counter-Revolution.