Panic! at the Disco is back. Yeah, the band may be only a pair now since guitarist Ryan Ross and bassist Jon Walker left in 2009, but their new album, Vices & Virtues, is their best yet. Singer Brendon Urie and drummer Spencer Smith left behind the 70's feel on their sophomore album, Pretty. Odd., and returned to their electronic roots from their debut (A Fever You Can't Sweat Out) for Vices, though the new album is a fresh sound on its own.
Now with a new tour that makes its way to the Valley Friday, June 17 at the Marquee Theatre, the band seems stronger than ever -- confident in their sound and ready to excite old fans as well as attract some new ones. They'll be bringing along Fun, with former The Format singer Nate Ruess, and you can read Ruess' favorite spots in the Valley in the June 16 issue of Phoenix New Times.
Urie may have sprained his ankle within a couple weeks of the tour's launch, but he's doing better and recently talked to Up on the Sun about the album and show. You can also check out Fun and Panic! at the Disco's new song, "C'mon," after the jump.
New Times: How's your foot doing?
Brendon Urie: My foot is doing a lot better. There's a part in the show where I like to run back and get in the middle of the crowd to be face-to-face with the fans. I sprinted and ran down the stairs and rolled my ankle. It was the size of a pool ball. Now I can move my ankle. That was something I'm just bummed happened so early in the tour. The tour just started, so I didn't want to cancel.
NT: How is it to be back on the road again?
BU: It's so nice after being in the studio for so long. This is what we live for.
NT: What inspired your new album?
BU: A lot of things, but every one of them were personal things for us, things we had been going through the past couple years and relationships and the band splitting up. The title for it didn't come until later, and we looked at all the lyrics. This album is just different. It was just Spencer and I being honest about what we were going through, and that was a cathartic, therapeutic thing to go through. It's a growing piece of art to express ourselves.
NT: Since Ryan had such a big hand in songwriting previously, was writing for the album challenging at all? BU: With songwriting, it wasn't really. We had all been involved in the music, and that was something that was always weirdly conveyed in the media, that Ryan was the songwriter. He did write the majority of the lyrics [previously], but lyrically [this album] was really freeing for us. I had a lot of things to talk about. I was glad to be able to convey it in different ways. It was challenging at some points -- we didn't want to copy anything we'd done in the past, but things were inevitably going to sound similar. "(The Ballad of) Mona Lisa," I wrote right after we put out the first record.
NT: This album sounds more like A Fever You Can't Sweat Out compared to the vintage rock sound of Pretty. Odd. Was that a conscious decision? BU: It wasn't a conscious decision to get back to our roots, but we just went about it with no limitations. With Pretty. Odd., we set up a lot of rules for ourselves and said we wanted to sound like a '70s band. This time around, Spencer and I were on the same page where we came back to where there were no rules.
NT: After you wrote "The Ballad of Mona Lisa" way back then, what happened with the song? BU: I had showed the band a couple times, and it just never went anywhere. Not everyone's going to see eye-to-eye, but I always liked the idea and always came back to it. We showed [producer] Butch [Walker], and he liked it.
NT: The video has a lot of similar imagery to "I Write Sins, Not Tragedies." Was that on purpose? BU: That was a conscious decision. We wanted to do an homage as closure to lay it all to rest. We want to put things in here that the fans would be able to see from previous videos. For us, it was just all about closure. We never really felt like there was closure.
NT: Do you feel like you've achieved closure now? BU: Especially now on the road, it's all moving ahead. We're able to write on the road now, which we hadn't been able to in the past.
NT: What's your relationship with Ryan and Jon like now? BU: We still keep in contact. We're still on friendly terms, and it's nice to be able to say that.
NT: Is it hard to have the band be just a twosome now? BU: It's interesting considering calling us a twosome, because on tour it feels like a four piece. Spencer and I had talked before touring again. We wanted to find musicians to play with and had to make sure we got along. For us, the whole band mentality is a very different mentality if you're not close with the people in the band.
NT: Now that you have Ian Crawford from The Cab and Dallon Weekes from The Brobecks touring with you, how close are they to becoming official members of Panic! at the Disco? BU: I mean, yeah, we're all in the band. We all do meet-and-greets together. Nothing's official now, but we hope they stick around.
NT: How has the new songwriting with everyone been? BU: Nothing's set in stone. A lot of the stuff is written on acoustic guitar, so it's not a good indication of where it could go sonically, but we've been messing around.
NT: How did your collaboration with Fun on "C'mon" come about? BU: We were actually just huge fans, and we had talked to some people in our management, and they mentioned the guys in Fun were fans of us as well, so we spent an afternoon with [guitarist] Jack [Antonoff] and [singer] Nate [Ruess], and it was awesome. It just clicked, and we all got along. It was kind of a perfect fit, and they were just so talented. We just kind of came in and arranged it with them. We have done a few shows now with it. I was a fan of The Format in high school. I'd be blasting "The First Single" on the way to school. Nate is such a talented dude. He's got a voice, and the new stuff is phenomenal.
NT: Why would you encourage people to come see the show? BU: We're touring with some of our favorite bands. Foxy Shazam and Fun are just so much fun to watch live. You can listen to a record and get to know them from their music, but it's a whole other thing to watch them live.
NT: What's your set list like? BU: We're playing about five or six songs from Vices, but we love playing the old stuff still. It has an energy we've kept consistent in the past. There's a couple songs we're playing from Pretty. Odd. We like playing high-energy, upbeat stuff. Pretty. Odd. has some more ballad-y stuff -- that's an opportunity for the crowd to settle down.
NT: What are your plans after the tour? BU: We just want to play more shows. In August and September, we have festivals in Australia and Europe.
NT: How does this tour compare to your last big one? BU: This time around, we wanted to add some stage props and some banter. What we'd been doing before we came back to the States, we started playing these songs we thought would be fun to play, like a George Michael "Careless Whisper" jam. We kind of realized that after touring a while that a live show is a living, breathing thing, and it's nice to feed off the crowd and the fans. This tour especially, come check it out. It's amazing, not just even for us. It's just a different vibe going from arenas to theaters. Our show play best in theaters where we can transform some of the area into our own little world. It's just a blast being able to dress up the venue. Anybody that comes out to the show, thank you.