Four years ago, when Paramore lost founding members Zac and Josh Farro in a bitter public split, singer Hayley Williams was sure the band was over. “I thought, ‘Well, maybe it’s like the end of Stand by Me,’” says Williams, 25. “Not everything lasts forever. I’ll find something else that I’m good at.” Instead, the group went on to make last year’s Paramore as a trio – and scored one of this year’s biggest rock hits with the sharp, hooky single “Ain’t It Fun.” “I absolutely feel vindicated,” Williams says. “For all the people who believed in us, we’re saying, ‘You haven’t gotten tattoos of our lyrics for nothing. We’re going to keep going.’”
Your bassist, Jeremy Davis, recently gave himself a hernia on your summer tour with Fall Out Boy. Are you concerned that you might actually be rocking too hard?
I’m starting to accept that 25 is not 16. Seven or eight years ago, we would go to Taco Bell, grab a bean burrito and run onstage. Now, getting ready for a show takes two hours – Jeremy and Taylor [York, Paramore's guitarist] have to wrap their ankles, and I have to do stretches so I don’t hurt my neck from headbanging. I’m loving it, but I definitely might collapse at one of these shows.
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It’s been more than a year since Paramore released their self-titled fourth album, a long-playing, sonically ambitious effort that was as much a reboot (their first LP as a three-piece) as it was a risk: There weren’t many major-label rock bands releasing four-sided, 17-track, hour-plus records (complete with “interludes,” strings and choirs) in 2013.
Yet, Paramore has become a slow-burning success, the band’s first album to produce two platinum-selling singles, “Still Into You” and “Ain’t It Fun,” the latter of which has become a crossover smash, a staple on Billboard‘s Rock Songs chart, the Adult Top 40 and the all-encompassing Hot 100. Six months after it was released as a single, “Fun” is not only Paramore’s set-closing standard, it may very well be the song of the summer. And its success has reinvigorated a band that, less than four years ago, was on the brink of collapse.
In fact, a decade into their career, Paramore appear to be operating at both their commercial and critical peaks.In between dates on their co-headlining trek with Fall Out Boy (the apropriately named “Monumentour”) Hayley Williams spoke to Rolling Stone about defying the odds, barfing out the band’s biggest hit and why she hates questions about her hair.
Over the past decade, this band has experienced success, but nothing on par with what’s happened this year. Is this the best time to be in Paramore?
For sure. On every level. We keep learning what it means to be a band, both professionally and as friends in a band. It’s a constant learning process. We made a record that we were so proud of, and its success is so far beyond anything that we expected when we were writing it. So that’s incredibly satisfying, obviously, but on a personal level, I feel like our friendships are just constantly deepening, and becoming really important and vital.
“Ain’t It Fun” has become an anthem. When you first wrote it, did you have any idea it would become this massive?
We took so long making this album that we couldn’t help but be disconnected with what was going on with music at the time. It was about how we felt in the moment, what was inspiring us and what made us excited to be in a band again, and it’s so weird that those same songs are the ones that gave us the most success. Some of them are the poppiest things we’ve ever written…”Ain’t It Fun” was like word vomit; it just came out, and now everybody’s singing it, it’s on the radio, it’s really cool. I don’t know if you get that twice in your career. This is the first time we’ve experienced it, and I’m just really thankful.
So have you had a chance to actually enjoy any of this?
We all have. This year has been surprisingly calm, especially considering the song has been going wild. We did one tour at the beginning of the year, we did a cruise and now we’re on Monumentour. That’s kind of all we’ve done. We spent a lot of time at home, and it was really nice; real life is so different from the life you spend in a bus. Now I much prefer sitting on the back porch, being with family. I can tell, now more than ever, how much older I’ve gotten since we first started.
Paramore has never been bigger, yet, in a lot of ways, all of the success seems very organic. Has it been a struggle to do things on your terms?
We know when things don’t feel right. We’re all very close-knit on the road, and we are able to be honest with each other when something doesn’t feel true to the cause. Doing things like that fashion video that involved our crew guys, that keeps us enjoying every little moment, so it doesn’t become this big factory. That’s the stuff that’s important. Just like back in 2005, when we were writing back [to fans] on MySpace, if it feels real to us, then that’s how we gauge every step that we make.
Have you personally turned down offers that didn’t feel right?
In the beginning, I turned down tons of stuff; as soon as I turned 18, FHM magazine came to me. There’s been countless ridiculous things since then, and probably some cool opportunities that we just didn’t feel right about at the time. We sort of let ourselves bloom as people at the same time that we’ve let our band expand its territory. I think some of that has been in us, to know what feels right, a sense of what Paramore really is, but some of it, you grow into it. I’m not so sensitive about going out and doing certain things by myself these days, and the guys aren’t so sensitive about it either. And there’s something like the Teen Choice Awards, where we would have been like, “Oh, we don’t want to do a teen show” when we were actual teenagers and it probably would have made more sense. [Laughs]
In the past, you’ve been wary of being the focal point of the band. Is that still an issue?
You know, it depends. [Sometimes] we do TV spots, interviews, and we spend tons of time talking and you think that it feels very evenly spread out, you think that it feels deep and the questions are nice, and then it gets edited and then it’s just you, and it’s just asking about your hair. That’s the stuff that I get uncomfortable with.
There was a recent Nightline interview that certainly made mention of your hair…
Oh, well, that’s kind of what I’m referring to.
At the same time, you did “Stay the Night” with Zedd, and it went platinum. So what’s next, another Paramore album, or more solo stuff from you?
We want to make another record. Taylor’s writing all the time, and Jeremy writes quite a lot, too. I’m in that phase where I spend a lot of time journaling, and it’s usually a month or two of that before I start liking what I’m writing. It happens every album. So I think an album will happen as soon as we start writing things together that we’re like, “Yes, this feels awesome.” We’ve never finished a song we don’t like, so we have started songs, then been like, “You know what? Nah.” So we’re just waiting for that one to click, and then it will be really on. But the wheels are already turning.
As far as the little solo appearance things, I always judge based on how I feel about something in my gut. If a song like “Stay the Night” comes to me, it’s undeniable, but it has to feel right.
You’ve been fronting this band for a decade now. Has the job gotten easier or more difficult?
I’m still surprised when I feel uncomfortable with it after 10 years. It’s funny when I feel left out, or in the cold, and everyone’s focusing on me. Onstage, it’s so much about the music that I feel comfortable. But being the frontwoman is not an easy job, it’s something I’m really proud to be getting better at; performing really well, singing really well and speaking to the crowd – that’s the part I’m most nervous about, like “What do I say that makes me sound cool?” – but also trying to keep it the same way that it felt when we were in clubs. I want to connect, and so do Taylor and Jeremy. That’s our mission every night.
Hayley Williams realised how important music was to her when she first heard Björk’s Human Behavior. Hayley Williams was jerked out of her “boyband phase” when she first heard Björk.
The Paramore singer has listed the music which has meant the most to her during her lifetime. Although she now fronts a rock band, pop was more her bag when she was growing up. However, hearing the Icelandic singer’s track Human Behaviour changed everything for Hayley.
“The first time I heard this song really changed everything for me; I wanted to be able to sing everything – every single note – she could sing,” Hayley told British Company magazine. “This song jolted me out of my boyband phase, and her voice still inspires me.”
Another track which had a profound effect on the 25-year-old star was The Temptations’ I Can’t Get Next To You.
“I grew up in Meridian, Mississippi – and one of the original Temptations grew up in a town not too far from me. I always thought if he could get out then surely I could, too. Ever since I was a little girl, this has been my favourite song of theirs,” she said.
The Cure have always been one of Hayley’s favourite bands and she cites performing on the same bill as them at a UK music festival in 2012 as one of her career highlights. On a more personal note, They Might Be Giants song Birdhouse In Your Soul will always have a special place in the star’s heart as it’s a track that means a lot to her and her boyfriend Chad Gilbert.
“We have a lot of songs! But on our first road trip back from me meeting his family in Kentucky, we were blasting They Might Be Giants… and I’m pretty sure we fell in love to this song,” she said.
On July 18, Merriweather Post Pavilion will be lit up by a diminutive pop-punk pixie with day-glo reddish orange hair and a serious amount of stage presence. Hayley Williams, lead vocalist for Paramore, will rule the stage with bandmates Jeremy Davis and Taylor York. They’re calling it the “Monumentour,” and it features co-headliners Fall Out Boy and openers New Politics.
Since starting out in Tennessee in 2004, Paramore has stormed up the charts in the US and around the world gaining new fans at every turn. Their latest album, released last year and self-titled, “Paramore,” debuted at the top of the charts, and their latest single, “Ain’t It Fun,” has been their biggest hit ever. In preparation for the “Monumentour,” Williams spoke with On Tap about the band’s past and future, and the strange connection their first big hit has to DC’s 9:30 Club.
On Tap: Were you surprised that your latest single, “Ain’t It Fun,” turned out to be your biggest hit so far?
Hayley Williams: This one, by far, has just shocked all of us. It’s a song we took a huge risk on, and we’re so excited by it. I grew up listening to a lot of R&B and pop and soul, so it was cool to be able to write a song that infuses that energy into what we do as a band. There was so much fun and passion, and I hope you can hear that and people connect to that energy. The message is somewhat sarcastic but hopefully inspiring enough for younger people who might be entering the world on their own. I know it helped me get through a transitional phase in my life. We give Jeremy [Paramore’s bassist] all the credit, since it’s the first Paramore hit with slap bass.
OT: What led to you explore different sounds on this album?
HW: We broadened our horizons and discovered that we don’t have to meet anyone’s expectations. We have to be good and we want to be better than we were last time around, but Paramore is Jeremy, Taylor, and Hayley and wherever we are at that given moment. Next year, we could put out an album that is all pop songs, or all heavy, or funk like “Ain’t It Fun.” Before, we put ourselves in a box and tried to limit ourselves to whatever expectations we thought people were having.
OT: When fans come to your shows, what do you hope they take away?
HW: It’s about being an escape or a source of strength or making an impact. If we’re not getting on stage and connecting with people, looking at them in the eyes and making them feel known, we’re missing the point of why we’re in a band. We want to be entertainers and play to the best of our abilities, but sometimes it’s more important what’s in between the songs. Sometimes I talk too much, but it’s important to know who an artist is. When fans come to a show, we don’t know what you’re leaving behind or going home to – it could be the best thing or the worst thing – so we want them to know that they are seen, and heard, and important to us. They made a huge difference to our lives, so we want them to know they are important to us too.
OT: Do you have any interesting memories of previous shows in DC?
HW: It’s crazy that you ask. The first time we were on a really cool tour, we were doing a charity tour, and we started out at 9:30 Club. I was so pumped for this tour and it was the first night. We were still a tiny band at that point. After the show I was hanging out in the alleyway behind the club with friends, and I just started coughing, this crazy whooping cough thing, and I couldn’t stop. We had to cancel all the remaining dates on the tour and we just stayed in a hotel in DC for a couple days to see if I could get better before we went home. While we were holed up there, Josh [then-guitarist Josh Farro] started writing the music to our song “Misery Business.” That’s how “Misery Business” came about, which was our first successful single, which got us to the point where we are today!
See Paramore Friday, July 18 with co-headliners Fall Out Boy, and openers New Politics.
Paramore’s adamantium-plated self-titled album came out more than a year ago, but only recently did the “Beat It” meets “Like a Prayer” gospel-funk of “Ain’t It Fun” crack the top 10 of Billboard‘s Hot 100, making it the Nashville band’s biggest hit to date. Hayley Williams & co. played a full-throated, crowd-pleasing rendition of that song this morning in New York on Good Morning America (above). That led (below) into their previous biggest hit, “Misery Business” from 2007′s Riot! — joined exuberantly by splits-doing fan Christian Brown, who previously came up onstage with the group at Madison Square Garden — and Paramore‘s power-pop gem “Still Into You,” which we’re still into. “Hey p-more family, @GMA folks have reported that this was one of their best crowds ever,” Williams tweeted. “In the rain, no less!”
The co-headline spot at Reading & Leeds seems a great fit for Paramore; rock, but not too rock.
It’s been cool to grow at that festival. I think the fans who have come to see us from when we started out are really excited to be able to come and support us at the Main Stage, especially in a headlining slot. I feel really at home at Reading & Leeds. I mean, obviously super-nervous, because every time you’re at the top of a billing, that’s a lot of pressure.
Do you think you’ll get to hang out with co-headliners Queens of the Stone Age?
I’m not really sure they’d want to hang out with us because we’re all massive fans. We’d breathe heavily all over them.
What’s been your most life-changing festival experience?
I ended up getting a tattoo to commemorate this one day we had at a festival – it was Cleveland Warped Tour 2007. We were about to go on but it had been stormy all day. It was a crazy storm, things were falling over, and everyone was running and trying to get away. But all the people that came to see us play weren’t moving, they just wanted to watch us. They were screaming “We won’t go! We won’t go!” That day just meant a whole lot to me. That’s what I love about festivals – you never really know what’s going to happen. I like that spontaneity. I got the tattoo at the same festival two years later. It’s behind my left ear. It’s a cloud with a lightning bolt, and it says ‘WARPED!’
In March you did your own cruise festival, which must have been ace.
It really was. I didn’t know what to expect. I was like, ‘Does that mean we’re old, that we’re, like, headlining a cruise now?’
Did you feel the temptation to crack out any cruise-ship show tunes?
I really wanted to walk out to Come Sail Away. I really wanted to ham it up with the whole theme. But no, we didn’t do any show-tunes, much as I would have loved that. Taylor (York, guitarist) wore Hawaiian button-up T-shirts the whole time. But I think we did a really good job of not making it cheesy, while also making fun of how ridiculous the whole thing was. And those two shows that we played were two of my favourite shows of the last four, five years – especially the second one, where we played more deep cuts.”
Will you bring out any rare tracks for the fans at your Reading & Leeds slot?
I feel like, for the most part, whenever we play festivals, we just want to play a lot of fast songs. But now we’ve made it up to headlining, I think there is a responsibility to represent all sides of who you are. It’s going to be so nice to do our tour with Fall Out Boy right before Reading & Leeds, because we’ll feel practised, and we can go into it with a set that, hopefully, all our fans will like. Hopefully even people who have never heard of us, or don’t want to give us a chance, will hear us and think, “Wow, they really know what they’re doing”, or “they put a lot of work into that”. And that’s all I want! I love to win people over. If you’re not there to see us, I at least want you to be able to walk away and say, “Hey, that wasn’t too bad.” Or, “I loved it.” Any of those I would be into.•
Still reeling from Paramore’s sudden lineup change back in 2010? Here’s something that will cheer you up. Also, walk it off.
On May 26, former Paramore drummer Zac Farro released a new music video for his project, HalfNoise. Directed by Aaron Joseph, “Mountain” cuts between closeups of Farro, scenes where he’s performing in front of a white wall as sweeping imagery is projected over him, and aerial shots of what looks to be the mountainous landscape of New Zealand.
“In August of 2013, I went back to New Zealand and spent 7 months writing and recording the new HalfNoise album,” Farro shares in the YouTube video’s description. “I wanted to experience life somewhere other than Nashville, Tenn and wanted to know how my writing would change being in such an amazing and beautiful place.
“I knew the trip would be exciting, but didn’t know it would be as life changing for me as it was,” he continues. “I wouldn’t have been able to write the album I did had I not spent that time there.” In concluding, Farro also reveals the title of said full-length LP: Volcano Crowe.
But, do you know what’s even more exciting than that? Ummm, how about the fact that Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams has totally co-signed HalfNoise’s new track?
Yes. Congrats Zac, this is so rad!
Paramore clock up the 10th anniversary of their first gig today.
In a tweet Hayley Williams from Paramore marked the occasion with ‘OK, if memory serves correctly . Our first show was 10 years ago today. We opened for @copelandband at The End in Nashville. #doubledigits.
Paramore are Franklin, Tennessee locals. In 2010, Hayley recalled the gig for Elle Magazine, ‘We were the local band opening for Copeland, who were one of our favorite bands at the time’.
Copeland formed in 2000 and lasted until 2010. Of their four albums before splitting their biggest chart success was the last album ‘You Are My Sunshine in 2007. It reached no 48 on the US chart.
On April 1, 2014 announced they had reformed and were working on a 5th album to be called ‘Ixora’ and released in October.
Paramore had quite a different story. Their biggest success, ‘Riot!’ in 2007 sold over 1.6 million in America despite only reaching no 15 on the chart. Their biggest chart success was 2013′s ‘Paramore’. That album debuted at no. 1 in America but is yet to sell 500,000.