Thursday, 4 April 2013

AP article

AP recently did a great article on Paramore. Problem is, it's hard to get hold of here. I found some scans online and wrote them out for your viewing pleasure. 

"People tend to think of Hollywood as a place full of glitz and glamour, with celebrities at every turn and TMZ cameras diligently documenting their foibles. But the closest thing to a celebrity we spot when we head to a nondescript rehearsal studio in North Hollywood to meet up with Paramore is a gigantic billboard with Gwen Stefani on it, adversisting the new Windows Phone. It's ever so slightly ironic that Hayley Williams is quite literally in the shadow of the iconic No Doubt frontwoman and accomplished solo artist, as there's no question she is metaphorically in the same spot. We're 10 days removed from the release of 'Now', the first single off Paramore's upcoming self titled album - their fourth overall and first without founding members Josh and Zac Farro, on guitar and drums, respectively. The song is an exciting entry point into 'Paramore', a massive 17 song, 64 minute album that feels grandiose without being pompous, spunky without coming off as immature. Of course, the song is also earning the 24 year old Williams frequent comparisons to Stefani with her stutter step vocal delivery. But today, Williams and her bandmates - guitarist Taylor York, 23, and bassist Jeremy Davis, 28 - don't have time to worry about the bigger implications of the sound of 'Now'. First, they have to figure out how to *play* the damn thing.

Today is the first day of rehearsals for the band's upcoming tour of Southeast Asia and Australia, which means it's also the first time the core trio of Paramore have seen much of their road crew in quite some time. The band spent the bulk of 2012 writing and recording what would become 'Paramore' in Los Angeles with produce Justin Meldal Johnsen (Neon Trees, M83), largely staying off the stage, save for five shows in August of last year. But now, with the album complete and their tour itinerary quickly filling up, the band must tighten up their set and learn 'Now', as it is slated to be the opening song on tour. As grizzled crew members prepare the rehearsal space, Williams, York and Davis arrive in quick succession, the smell of fast food emanating from a bag in Davis' hand. York makes an immediate beeline for the rehearsal studio's coffee pot, pouring the first of five cups he'll consume throughout the next few hours. Dressed in black from head to toe, minus a black and white striped shirt, he is the first to talk when we ask if he - who had previously told us in AP 295 he had no idea how 'Paramore' came together - was able to take more ownership now that it's complete.
"Man, I don't feel any different," York says, making his bandmates laugh. "It's not like we're stupid and it's literally a miracle, but as far as how it came together, man, greater forces came to our aid."
Williams, clad in baggy black pants and a loose fitting tank top with her bright red hair pulled up and face devoid of makeup, agrees. "It definitely does feel way bigger than us," she admits. "There was a moment I remember when [Taylor] brought one, maybe two songs in particular to me and I was like, "Man, I'm not inspired by this," and he was like, "Me either." That was the moment we realised we couldn't make the same old Paramore record."
After one listen to 'Paramore', you'll agree: They didn't. The album seamlessly jumps from sultry electro-rock ('Fast in My Car') to new jack swing ('Ain't It Fun') to ukulele pop (the three part interlude series of 'Moving On', 'Holiday' and 'I'm Not Angry Anymore') to a song that musically could've come right out of the movie 'That Thing You Do!' ('(One Of Those) Crazy Girls'). And that doesn't even begin to address the album's epic closing track, 'Future,' that you just have to hear to believe. It's clear the trio pushed themselves out of their comfort zone during the prolonged recording sessions.

"The three of them have very high expectations," says Meldal-Johnsen in a separate interview. "The pressure they put on me to deliver new ideas, things that related to them but also pushed them - it was a give and take between us all that was at times quite intense. They're ripe with their own ideas and concepts. Every day was different. Every song required a new strategy. Nothing was tatic, nothing was left to a pattern. Everybody was learning, growing, trying and experimenting every day. There was no comfort zone."
The band met with "seven or eight" potential producers, but none felt as right as Meldal-Johnsen. 
"We vibed with him more than anyone," says York. "I imagine it's like when people get married - when you know, you know." Their connection was so strong that the producer says he had a hand in co-writing four tracks on 'Paramore': 'Fast In My Car', 'Part II', 'Anklebiters' and 'Proof'.

The most impressive thing about 'Paramore' is how it came together without the involvement of Josh Farro, the man responsible for writing nearly the entirely of Paramore's back catalogue. The true irony is while Farro likely felt creatively stifled during his tenure, the first album after he left is an incredible lesson in diversity and sonic exploration - the kind of music he would probably kill to make. But according to Meldal-Johnsen, the F-word never came up during the recording process, the band unwilling to show weakness in the face of potential disaster. "It's something I maybe expected to have seen, but I will tell you I don't even remember it coming up for discussion," he says. "It was a surprise to me even late in the process. I was like, "Wow, it's just not really phasing them. It just doesn't have any bearing." They're so comfortable in their own skin, that there was never a sense of doubt. I never really felt like I was dealing with people who were worried about anything except how to make [the album] rad."

Back in the practice space, Williams is pondering whether or not 'Paramore' could've been made had the Farro brothers not abandoned ship in 2010. "We just would've imploded either way," she says. "There was just nowehere to go, really. I think that all five of us [were] growing in our minds and expanding  figuring out things we liked and didn't like, but we weren't really open and honest about it. It just wouldn't have worked. And I don't think we would've made the same record. I do wish we could've made this album years ago, but it wouldn't have been the right time for it. I think that it happened exactly when it should've happened and with the right people."

Much has been written (and gossiped) about the Farros' acrimonious departure following the completion of 2010's Honda Civic Tour, and the band have done their best to try and move on - in fact, a recurring theme on 'Paramore' is the future, and how to get there. But even with all their forward motion, many of Williams' lyrics on 'Paramore' display anger and disdain and could easily be aimed at the Farros, essentially opening the door back up to more questions regarding the split. "There are really ugly moments on 'Brand New Eyes', and I didn't want that on this record," the singer says. "Having said that, there was no way for me, even if I didn't write about myself, to write lyrics and stories that I was somehow a part of without [those feelings toward the Farros] being there somehow, someway. I just tried really hard to not make it ugly. We've been there, done that, and it didn't make me feel any better. Maybe it did at the time, but looking back, it didn't help at all."

"We're gonna talk about Josh and Zac. We're gonna talk about me dating Josh. We're gonna talk about all that stuff for the rest of our lives," she continues. "That's the story of who we are, and I think [the problem with] a lot of bands is they really try to hide [things] way too much. We've been guilty of that in the past. It's just a new day, and I think being open and being positive is the least we can do to try and serve some purpose."

While Williams and Davis - who both still live in Franklin, Tennessee - state they haven't spoken to either Farro since the last date of the Honda Civic Tour, York's story is a bit different. It turns out that recently, the guitarist - who lives in Nashville, roughly a mile away from Zac - re-opened the lines of communication with the band's former drummer, who is currently creating music under the moniker HalfNoise. "Me and Zac are rediscovering our friendship," he says. "It's really exciting for me. We're both adults at this point. I love that HalfNoise EP, and I tell him that. He'll ask me [about Paramore] and I'll ask him [about HalfNoise], and we don't really get into details or talk about logistics. I think we're both like, "all right man, that was that. We can separate this."

Given that Josh also lives in Nashville and plays in a band with Zac (Novel American), it stands to reason York will cross paths with him soon. So what's stopping him from reconnecting with the guitarist? "Well," York says, before a pregnant pause. "That's a little bit personal."

At 23, Taylor York is the youngest member of Paramore. He's only been an official member of the band since mid-2009, having spent the two years prior to that as a touring guitarist. He actually started his musical journey as a drummer, switching to guitar only out of necessity after meeting Zac Farro. His biggest instrumental influence is not Eddie Van Halen or Slash, but metiwhoutYou's Michael Weiss. Given his quiet nature (and relative unwillingness to participate in social media), he's probably the member of Paramore you know the least about. He seems okay with that. After all, the less you know, the less you can judge.

"I've learned if I want to seek out people's opinions on me, it's really easy," he says. "But I think I've learned about my own boundaries and where I let myself go. I've let that affect me way too much in the past. I think I knew there was probably gonna be things that would not make me feel good."

Before the band practice begins, York decides to grab a bite to eat and we relocate to an outdoor table at a nearby Panda Express. As he picks at his plate of chow mein and black pepper chicken, the guitarist explains his songwriting process - something he's still not sure about himself. "I still scratch my head all the time about inspiration, where it really comes from and why it happens. This whole record for me was..." He pauses. "I worked really hard, but at the end of it, I had no idea how it happened. I am really thankful. I had no game plan or vision; I just started writing. Eventually, after five or six songs that didn't work, we got one that did."

That might come across as false modesty, given the ambitious nature of 'Paramore'. But York isn't trying to fish for compliments. He legitimately thought he was going to ruin Paramore's legacy.

"I was terrified. I was ill-equipped. I had never written that much before," York says. "Easily, just writing this record, I've written a hundred times more than I ever have in my life. [At the start of the writing process,] in my head, part of carrying the torch [was], "We gotta keep this thing alive. This isn't necessarily do this, but there's a reason Paramore have done well. I don't wanna come in here and erase that." I thought that was what I was supposed to do. Maybe some people do think that's what we're supposed to do, but we just didn't believe it anymore. We still love that music - we still have three whole records of it. Anyone wants to listen, there are three records of it. But we had to evolve." 

Unlike Williams (who was able to spend time with her boyfriend Chad Gilbert of New Found Glory) and Davis (who rented a house in California for he and his newlywed wife to live in during the recording process), York was left to fend for himself. He ended up splitting an apartment with one of the band's guitar techs, engrossing himself in work and not much else. "I had a great time recording the record, but I was just miserable out here," the guitarist says. "I feel that [with] most people I meet [in Los Angeles], there is a facade. I have a hard time finding genuine people out here. I don't really have any hobbies outside of music. It's my hobby, my passion and my job. So it was really weird when I was like, "Man, I don't do anything else." It's something I'm still working on. It was really hard for me."

York is still a Nashville boy at heart; he recently constructed a home studio for him and his friends to experiment in, though he finds himself inscreasingly unable to take advantage of it, due to his Paramore obligations. He's also becoming a bit of an Anglophile, citing Alt-J, Everything Everything and Dutch Uncles as recent favourites. When asked what Paramore would sound like if it were strictly his band, he answers with a laugh, "I definitely don't think as many people would like our band. I don't like to be snobby about music, but I've always liked snobby music. I read Pitchfork. I eat Coachella up. I think it's funny that the scene of music I'm in is very, very different than what I consume. 

When we inquire whether he thinks Pitchfork would like the new Paramore album, he again laughs. "I've accepted the fact that words affect you as much as you let them. I do think they affect me. I think I'm constantly learning to not let them affect me as much."

In December 2010, Josh Farro made numerous negative remarks toward York, Williams and Davis in a joint statement with his brother Zac regarding why they left Paramore, including citing multiple Bible verses meant to discredit his now-former bandmates. York remembers reading that statement as if it were yesterday, watching his entire Christian belief system being called into question by someone he considered a friend. "That whole thing really sucked," he admits, before taking a long pause to gather his thoughts. "I think that's one of the things about being in a band that you just have to figure out as you go along. Just realising that the media or bandmates or whatever can spin you however [they] want to. You just have to realise that you know who you are. In the end, it doesn't really matter what people think. I hope people don't think I'm a bad person, but if they do, I can't really control that."

As York continues to rebuild his friendship with Zac ("He's been my best friend since I was, like, 12... He's still one of my dearest friends. I love him a lot."), he doesn't hold as much hope for Josh. "It was really hurtful," he says of Josh's remarks, "but you know what: We're all on a journey, and he's on his own journey with it, trying to figure it out. [Reconnecting with him] is nothing I'm really pursuing right now."

York's phone begins to vibrate. It's his manager letting him know he needs to report back to the practice space. As we climb into his tan Toyota Corolla rental and drive back, he comes to a conclusion about himself: "I'm just like any other 23-year old. If someone says something sucky about me, it does suck," he says chuckling. "I'm not this super human who can shut that off. Yeah, it sucks, but whatever. They don't know me."

"We're gonna do some illegal stuff - I hope you're excited about it!" Jeremy Davis is behind the wheel of his monstrous black Jeep, complete with near monster truck sized tires, trying to navigate his way into a nearby Taco Bell parking lot that doesn't seem designed for a vehicle of his size. An illegal U-turn, solid curbcheck and very detailed drive-thru order later, he parks in front of the fast food joint, letting his engine idle and the A/C blast as he talks about how his recent marriage to British TV presenter Kathryn Camsey has changed him.

"Being in this relationship that is this long-distance - I mean, across borders - when you're gone, you miss each other so much, so whenever you see each other, it's like seeing each other for the first time," he says excitedly. "Like, "Let's go on dates!"" at least with our life, it's really pretty handy."

Davis has a naturally friendly, goofy nature (assisted by his charming Southern drawl) that bellies the fact he's pushing 30 - though his very well groomed, full beard kind of gives it away. He's the kind of person who looks forward to going on tour, so he can meet thousands of fans, as well as going off tour, so he can get back to Tennessee and get dirty. "I'm pretty much a hillbilly - anything that involves too much mud and a creek to jump in..." he trails off, laughing. "I'm kind of a gun collector. I'm not even gonna go there [into my collection]. Let's just say I take it a bit overboard. I love target practice, shooting skeet, clay pigeons, so much fun. It's really nice to get home from tour and just head out into the country and shoot watermelons." Davis is aware of the current gun control debate in America, but tries not to get involved. Instead, he recalls his first experience with firearms. "I got my first gun for Christmas at nine or ten years old - it was a 20 gauge shotgun," he remembers. "Where I came from, you're taught a respect and fear of guns that makes you really sensitive to everything." 

That sensitivity is part of who Davis is as an adult; he still cringes when the topic of the Farros splitting is brought up. "No matter what everyone thinks they know about what happened, the reality is all we ever wanted was for them to be happy, and they told us they weren't happy doing this," he says. "We had a conversation with 'em that was like, "I am sorry you feel that way. I know things haven't been that great, but all we want is for you to be happy." As far as we were aware, they made a decision that was going to make them happy, and we were okay with it, because what else are you going to say to a friend who says they're not happy with you anymore?"

"To get stuff later on, negative stuff that was not said to us [directly], was pretty intense and doesn't feel right," he continues. "Whatever [Josh] was trying to get - whether it was attention or get people to hate us or whatever his intentions were, in that blog or any of the stuff that was said afterward, it has nothing to do with our music, or us as a band, past or present. It was just lies... I haven't seen them since literally our last show [on the Honda Civic Tour]. I never even got to say bye to them. Sometimes, that really sucks. I wish I would've gotten to say bye to Zac. But after our last show, they didn't hang out. They just dipped out; they left. We knew they were leaving, but you'd think they would hug 'bye' or something."

It's clear Davis still takes this divorce quite personally, but when asked if he wants to try and mend those fences, he doesn't hesitate with his reply: "I am enjoying my life now without a lot of people I had in my life before." There's a hint of melancholy in his voice, as if part of him wished for a second chance to fix things before they became irreparable. But he's trying not to hold a grudge. 

"I just wanted them to be happy," he resigns. "I am fine with being over here and saying, [waving and mock yelling] "I hope you're happy!"

If you ever find yourself in the position of being given a ride by Hayley Williams, one of the first things you might notice (besides the messy interior of her black Kia Soul) is the Tennessee license plate inside a Los Angeles auto dealer's license plate holder. "I love it when people see I have Tennesse plates," says Williams, en route to a local Target to puck up the most important tour staple imaginable - clean socks. "It's like, "Yeah, I'm not from here." I spend a lot of my time out here and I really like it, but I'm not part of any scene whatsoever. Los Angeles has not - and I don't think will ever - become that home for me."

Williams has split her time between L.A. and her Franklin, Tennessee, home throughout the past few years, trying to juggle her professional responsibilities along with her growing desire for all things domestic. "I've really grown to love that side of me that really enjoys cooking a meal or redecorating my house for a holiday," she says. "There are so many people who think domestication is such a complacent lifestyle - to be domesticated is to be a slave to society's ideal version of a woman or whatever. It's really hard work. People who are cut out to do that, it takes a special person because it is work."

Williams has developed a reputation for being remarkably straightforward in her lyrics - so much so that it's assumed by many that any love song she writes must be about Chad Gilbert, and any angry song that she writes has to be directed toward the Farros. But the singer says this isn't the case.

"I'm not a black or white person at all," she says. "I usually tend to see things somewhere in between, no matter what it is. I wish sometimes people knew me the way my friends know me, because then I wouldn't have to explain myself all the time. But at the same time, I gotta have a private life, so I put out the parts of me I'm okay with sharing, and I have to know in my mind when I'm doing that. I'm leaving it up to interpretation by some stranger I've never met."

It's no accident 'Paramore' begins with 'Fast In My Car'. The song is a message to those who have judged Williams and her bandmates: Either you're with them, or turn the record off. "What defines our past - us being a five piece band, all the crap we went through, the fighting, the struggles - really started to define who we were as Paramore. It was like a big soap opera. 'Fast in My Car' is more about me, Taylor and Jeremy literally getting in a car and leaving - we're ready to take on whatever it is that's coming. You just wanna leave all that stuff in the past. All that crap, and the people who have tried to spit accusations. The stuff that really just doesn't matter at all. What matters is if you like the band, [and if] you like their music or not. Otherwise, get out of her. We don't really care."

Twenty four dollars worth of foot coverings and one fan photo op later, we're back in Williams' SUV, where the conversation heads to the issue of faith, and who has the right to question it - specifically Josh Farro and his inflammatory blog post. 

"As a Christian, and somebody that believes in a faith that is so controversial as it is, to have those things be said about you in front of the world, and people already think you're twisted enough, that's not easy," she confesses. "I get mad every time I see a group of people walking down Hollywood Boulevard with signs that say Jesus Is Lord. Is that really the way you wanna go about this? That's not the way I think we should be going about this. I think that we need to live and lead by example: Love with our actions more than we teach with our words. That's what broke my heard about the whole thing. This is all such a terrible picture of what this should be."

All the turmpil throughout the past two and a half years has only drawn her closer to Davis and York; she cites them as two of her only friends and frequently refers to them as family. She even wrote one of 'Paramore''s standouts, the beautiful Fleetwood Mac-esque ballad 'Hate To See Your Heart Break' about York. "There's a helpless feeling when your friends going through life and they're sad," she says "We've all been friends for so long and it's really strange to think about all the things we've been going through things together as I do now. So I think it was a new vulnerability we were all willing to show each other. That took me by surprise."

As her car idles in the parking lot of the rehearsal studio, her bandmates, touring musicians and road crew mingle outside, joking and playing catch-up. In a few moments, Williams will join them goofing around, even going so far as to climb completely into a new wardrobe trunk and have it closed on her. It's clear that regardless of how much life she's had to live in the public eye and how much scrutiny she's been put under by the internet, she is still a kid at heart - but an adult by virtually any other standard. 

"I really feel like I, and I wouldn't just say it in any interview, but I really feel like I've grown up," she admits. "It's crazy to be looking back and be like, "Wow, I feel like a woman now. I feel like I know some things that I didn't before and I appreciate some things that I didn't appreciate before." It's crazy. Part of having the album out is sort of me finally being able to fully realise that I am growing up and the guys are growing up."

This is Paramore in 2013. They carry their fair share of battle scars, but there are better people for it. They're finally united as one: To expect them to do anything but continue to grow and mature into thoughtful, talented and creative adults would be foolish. "Paramore are a painting that is evolving in front of your eyes," Justin Meldal Johnsen eloquently states. "And everybody just has to deal with it."


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