Panic! At The Disco: Brendon & The Chocolate Factory (Part 2 of 2)
The past decade has been one hell of a ride for Panic! At The Disco, and album #5, Death Of A Bachelor, certainly isn’t slowing that down. It does, however, bring the outfit to a crossroad – Brendon Urie is the last man standing, and with no-one to tell him otherwise, he’s using Panic! to let his imagination run wild. Matt Doria chats with the king of baroque pop to learn why 2016 Panic! At The Disco is the ultimate Panic! At The Disco.
“SHOW THEM ALL YOU’RE NOT THE ORDINARY TYPE”
When it comes to the live show, no band is quite able to match the capricious enormity and whimsical unpredictability of Panic! At The Disco. There are backflips, explosions, confetti and a Queen cover; it’s some crazy shit, and no wonder why the outfit sell arenas out worldwide. But even when they were starting off as the high school heroes playing daytime sets to Sunday schoolers, Panic! has bled theatricality – their first music video, “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” in 2006, saw frontman Brendon Urie as the flawlessly sassed-up ringmaster that crashed and burned a circus wedding, after all. That scorching exhibitionism found its way into the historic Nothing Rhymes With Circus tour, and bar 2008’s Pretty. Odd. run, which traded strippers for sunflowers and sambuca for soy milk, Panic! have always made sure that concertgoers walk off unable to speak of what they’d just seen.
“I look at as if I’m going to be going to a show,” Urie says bluntly, vibing on how the concert experience needs to be exactly that. “If I go to a show, I want to be impressed. Don’t just stand there and play the new stuff, because I’m going to be bored – don’t bore us, get to the chorus! Play the hits, man! Play the songs that I know, that I fell in love with; give me all the stuff that’s gonna give me a rise out of the occasion! And then also, I’m going to a live show – don’t just stand there on stage and be boring, I want to see some accolades! I want to see somebody on fire, doing backflips– y’know, I’m going to watch a show! I want to have an experience. I want to step into a venue and be transformed, and teleported into a different dimension. And that’s kind of how I take it; I take it as a fan. If I was going to a show, this is what I would want to be seeing, so that’s how I present it.”
Much in the way that Death Of A Bachelor scored Panic! their first #1 debut on the Billboard 200 (#3 on the ARIA charts, but Pretty. Odd. did come in at #1), this winter will mark the biggest tour that Urie has ever embarked on as a headliner; not much so in terms of venue size, but rather that he’s hitting the stage alongside one of his own personal faves, Weezer – “I mean, damn, I think I’ve made it!” Urie laughs, after raving about his friendship with Rivers Cuomo for a couple of minutes.
Never mind the tour’s lack of an iconic subtitle – the albums promoted are Death Of A Bachelor and The White Album, so honestly, The White Bachelor is a much better title than Summer Tour 2016 – Urie is subbing up the 41-date run to be his most unforgettable. He’s waxed eloquent in recent months of potentially shooting himself out of a cannon, setting himself on fire and, of course, transitioning into the demon he so graciously evolves into during the music video for “Emperor’s New Clothes”. He’s not the first artist to gush such extravagant reveries, and he certainly won’t be the last, but – and keep in mind, this is the man who, at 18, had a circus freak show accompany him in the Hordern Pavilion – he’s dead serious about it actually happening.
“Dude! I’ve been trying to do this for months and months,” Urie excitedly bellows. “I’ve been telling my label, ‘Listen dude, get an insurance policy taken out on me, because I want to set myself on fire, I want to shoot out of a cannon and land in front of a gun that will shoot me back onto the stage… I want accolades! Like I said, dude, I want it to be a production. Go and see a Cirque Du Soleil show: there are people doing the most insane visual acts! And I want acrobatics– I just want something crazy! I mean, it just makes a show better. I’m not taking away from the songs, the songs are still there, but you get a little extra visual bonus.”
“PRICKLES AND THORNS ON JUNIPER TREES”
Of all the skull-shatteringly mind-blowing productions that Panic! At The Disco have brought to the stage, there’s a shimmering irony to be found in the fact that it was arguably their most simplistic – dare one say, mundane? – that spat out a live DVD; …Live In Chicago hit shelves towards the end of 2008, built up on stationary shots of Urie flipping his bowl cut and Jon Walker putting his surname to shame in front of seemingly nailed down mic stands. It was a great release (did you hear that version of “But It’s Better If You Do”!?) but compare it to a Panic! gig in 2016 – smoke machines; light shows; gradual nudity – if there’s one thing Urie needs to do before he closes the (goddamn) door on Panic! At The Disco, it’s release another live album.
“It’s been a while, huh? I would love to, if I got a show good show down,” Urie offers when poked for a …Live In Sydney release date. “I’m hoping this summer brings that,” he continues; “because I’ve been talking about some ideas with Rivers, with the management, about trying to create something that’s visually amazing. I don’t want a dull moment in the show, and if I can create that, of course I will film it! I think [a live album] is very feasible, and I’m working towards that – I’m glad you brought that up, because that’s something I’m really progressing towards, and it hope it really happens.”
Whether anything actually materialises, though, is another story. Urie isn’t much the type to release something simply because his fans got down on their knees and begged – and before you hit the comments section chewing this also-devoted writer out for saying so, remember: Cricket & Clover – but in a way, that’s sort of what makes Panic! At The Disco’s releases as heavy hitting as they are. We never had any subpar B-sides to water down the Fever we couldn’t sweat out; no half-scrapped table songs made Pretty. Odd. kinda normal. And besides, to say Urie doesn’t care about his fans because we don’t see shit hit iTunes would be to imply that ducks produce lettuce – so to speak.
Taking to a hazy iPhone camera to melt hearts with his dogs, or show off a new ounce of OG Skywalker while playing zombie games on an Xbox One, Urie has found somewhat of a hobby in livestreaming his day-to-day on Periscope, answering fans’ questions about pizza, tour stories and learning German, avoiding those that mention dairy products, and singing us heavily intoxicated renditions of Halsey songs. As the chorister explains, connecting with fans on such a personal level is essential to Urie’s artistry, not only because it puts a much-needed crack in the ‘fame’ barrier, but also because, as pretentious as it may sound, it inspires him.
“It’s too easy, y’know what I mean? They gave me this app, and it’s like, of course I’m going to use it to the fullest potential,” Urie says in a throng of passion. “Like, I don’t want to sit back and just take it easy, I want to connect with my fans. I want to interact. And as crazy as it would be – and I wouldn’t have wanted to that in the past – it’s like me taking a couple of fans out to get a drink and get to know them. I want to know who exactly enjoys my music, and why they do, and what their passions are – not just music, but what they’re into. Because I believe that every interaction I have with someone – or anything – is going to be have an effect on what I create in the future, and I want them to be a part of that very much.”
“WHERE VILLAINS SPEND THE WEEKEND”
It’s sort of a happy ending to a cataclysmic storyline: the frontman of the band plagued with a storage unit of lineup troubles splits apart from the ruckus and embarks on a brightly-lit path down Solo Project Lane. Excitedly boasting in interviews of upcoming touring plans (ahem), the screen fades to black and credits roll to photoshopped polaroids of our protagonist on stadium stages. But make no mistake: Panic! At The Disco is far from over – “I have a tonne of stuff that I’ve been working on,” Urie enthuses; “I write something creative every day, even if it’s just a small idea.” One of the things he’s been working on – excitedly enough for us and all of the Australian Panic! fam – is their first trip down under since hitting Soundwave up in ’14.
“Dude, I hope soon,” Urie says anxiously on the estimated time frame. “Soundwave is dead now, which is a bummer, but… Like, one of my favourite places to tour – not just from a tourist’s perspective, but as a musician as well – is Australia. It’s honestly one of my favourite spots. Every time I’m there, it’s incredible; I eat good food, there’s gorgeous girls, good conversations, the concerts are always amazing – it’s always been good times, and I want to play some shows there. But instead of doing just festivals, I still want do club shows. I’ve gotta do Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney – I’ve gotta do them all! And I was actually talking to my booking agent last night – he came to the LA show – and I was like, ‘Dude, why don’t you send me abroad, bro!? Don’t just keep me in the States, I feel like I’m in a cage! Get me out of here!”
To wrap up, we asked Urie one thing that nobody specifically needed to know, but all of us secretly wanted to: Who would win in a fight – Urie’s bodyguard and notorious figure of intimidation, Zack Hall, or a fully grown Alaskan polar bear? “I gotta put my money on my boy Zack, dude,” he laughs, somewhat unsure, but with just enough confidence that we know Hall is in the room with him. “He’s got the biggest fight in him; he’s never been knocked out, so… I’m gonna say Zack. But I mean, an Alaskan polar bear – that’s bold! That’s a bold fight, dude, that’s some competition!”
Click to continue reading: PART 1 |