On March 25th, Panic at the Disco released their sophomore full-length, Pretty. Odd. Two and a half years before, the band released their debut to the world, A Fever You Can't Sweat Out. Between these two calender blocks, Panic at the Disco has been on TRL, won a MTV Video Music Award, made waves on the Billboard charts, toured multiple continents, and even played Times Square on New Years Eve. Maybe it doesn't need to be said that the anticipation and buzz for Pretty.Odd. (with the help of some "puzzling" viral marketing) was sweeping.
But where to next? How will the band take their fresh tracks and roll with them, perform them and work them into the legacy they've already begun? Bassist Jon Walker talks to AbsolutePunk.net about Pretty.Odd., the scrapped album, dealing with the rumor mill, and just how much The Beatles come into play.
For the record, can you say your name and what you play in the band.
Jon: My name is Jon Walker and I play bass guitar.
First of all, I want to say congrats on the album release. Today is the big day [March 25th], it must be really exciting. That said, what are you thoughts? Are you excited or nervous?
Jon: I'm excited more than anything. Today is the first day some of our family members have heard the CD and they've been calling me and saying they like it a lot. It's fun to see all that work finally paid off.
Absolutely. And it's been a long time coming.
Jon: Yeah, it really has. I mean, we started technically writing in Feb. of 07.
What are your hopes and expectations for Pretty. Odd.?
Jon: I have tons of hopes. But as far as expectations, I just expect to have fun. We have a few tours lined-up right now. No matter how well the record does, I think we're going to have a lot of fun playing these new songs. We're really happy with the way it turned out and I don't think you can ask for much more.
I'm gonna go back to Pretty. Odd. later, but first I want to jump into something that everyone's been really curious about, and that's the scrapped album. What can you tell us about it?
Jon: Well, just to clarify, it was about seven or eight ideas. Nothing concrete was ever really recorded. We first started writing back in Feb. into this cabin in the mountains in Nevada. It was pretty much the first time we had ever hung out together not touring or had something else to do, you know, TV shows or all the stuff. Basically just us hanging out. We all felt relieved. It was more a vacation than anything. We didn't really know what we wanted to do musically. More than anything it was just us experimenting. Just trying different stuff. But then we realized the we kinda got in over our heads. We were trying to do some kind of story - you could call it a concept album - but we didn't really know what it was. And we never really saw it to the point of being able to label it. But that's when we decided we had been writing for two and half months and we don't really have anything we're that happy with, so let's go back to Vegas, go back home, and take it easy. From there we wrote "Nine In The Afternoon," and after we wrote that song, we wrote nine other songs we were really happy with. We just knew we had to basket those old ideas.
So is it safe to say that those songs will never see the light of day?
Jon: There were a few songs that were demoed - rough, incomplete demos - that will surface one time or another, haha. It's kind of inevitable. They'll get out one day. Like I said, it was more of random ideas here and there. Nothing complete. As far as us trying to revive it, we're still interested in doing some sort of story line or concept for an album, but we just didn't feel like it was right for the time.
Tell me about the line "You don't have to worry/We're still the same band" off of "We're So Starving". What are you telling us?
Jon: That was a decision all four of us agreed on. It was kind of just a good introduction to the record. It was meant to throw people off a little bit. I mean, I wasn't even in the band on the last record. So it's kind of ironic, kind of clever. But at the same time it was kind of to say, you know, we've been gone a long time, but we're excited to be back.
I read a quote earlier today that was you guys saying, basically, 'This is our band; this the music we want to be making.' And it's not any one else's. But your fans are the energy at your shows and so on. Where do you find a balance between making the music you like and pleasing your fans?
Jon: Personally for me, because obviously I am a huge fan of music - there are many bands I love - I hadn't actually started to think about that until we started writing for the second album. The first comments that we got back from anybody is that it was really different, and we didn't really know how to take it. But the second thing they said was that they really liked it. For us, it was the same thing. The last record was recorded when those guys were in high school and 17. We just felt like where we are now in our lives, we couldn't have written any different of a record. We're all in a good place, the music we've been listening to, and the lifestyle we've had - it's all evolved our musical tastes. As far as the fans go, I would just expect them to notice that and if I was a fan of a band, I'd be excited for change.
On that note, one band that we see a big influence on this album is The Beatles. Was this a conscious thing or something that was more organically grown?
Jon: We didn't really know what we wanted to do right from the get-go. We just started writing new songs back in Feb. We weren't really happy with where we were going, and I think a lot of the reason we weren't happy is because there was this idea of what we thought it was going to sound like. I think the whole mindset of writing songs for me is it doesn't really matter what it sounds like as long as we like it. Especially for "Nine In The Afternoon" and our second single - we wrote those songs consecutively in one weekend. We wrote them all as a band and we all came up with the parts together and it was just really spontaneous. It was really exciting for us. Obviously we love The Beatles. We love a lot of older bands. I think that's one thing why people might compare us so much to those types of bands. When we recorded we tracked everything live. It's a little bit looser. It's a little bit more like a band. But a far as any conscious decision, we just wanted to write the songs we wanted to write.
What are some of your own personal favorite songs on the new album?
Jon: That's so hard, haha. "Do You Know What I'm Seeing?" is definitely one of my personal favorites. Just because writing that song was very fun. We were all in Ryan's backyard one night in the middle of the summer. We came up with this idea to write a song about plotting against our deaths, and it was just a fun night. The last song on the album, "Mad A Rabbits", that was the last song we wrote as well. It's all of our favorites. We're playing it live right now because it's just a fun song. Definitely one of our favorites.
You guys have this vaudeville, sort-of circus theme from the last album. What are you going to do with it now? How is your live show going to incorporate both albums?
Jon: The thing is, we could do the whole vaudevillian, circus stuff - that whole idea is still with us and we thought that demonstration worked pretty well. Whatever we had, it was theatrical and we thought it added to the music. We still have that same intention but we're still looking for new ideas. As far as playing the playing the old songs, we've even changed those up a bit to adapt to the new songs.
We've heard rumors about a flower and weather theme for the upcoming tour. Can you tell us anything about it?
Jon: I can't tell you much. We're going to be playing some smaller places than before, so it's going to be really exciting for us because we haven't done shows like that in awhile. And I would tell you, but we're not even sure what we're doing and what we're not doing.
Pretty. Odd. is a stripped down effort compared to your last album, but Panic is a big live band. You guys are extravagant. I mean, you're from Vegas! How are you going to work in the two?
Jon: There are some songs that are just the four of us and a keyboard playing. And the singing, that's one thing, me and Ryan have been doing more singing on the record. There will be different harmonies; we'll definitely be doing those. There are some songs that have a ten-piece orchestra and there are some songs that don't have anything at all. We're not really sure. We'll be playing every song off the old album and every song off the new album so it'll be a pretty good set down as far as the flow of the concert. We're pretty happy with it.
Well this will be exciting to see. Will you be playing any covers as well?
Jon: It's kind of been our thing, where we play covers on tour, you know. I don't think we want to stop doing that, but we haven't decided what were going to do yet. Any ideas?
Hah, maybe, I'll get back to you on that.
Ah, here's a good one. What are some of the best rumors you've heard about yourselves?
Jon: Best rumor. Haha. I've heard that we don't write our own songs. That's the best rumor because that's all we do. We write all of our own songs. I've actually been asked before how it feels to be playing songs that some 45 year old guy wrote.
Do you get upset when you hear that stuff?
Jon: Yeah, I do get upset. Because we do work hard. It doesn't really bother me though because then that person isn't a fan of our band and their opinion doesn't really matter. But, it sucks. Because we do put a lot of effort and work into the music.
Absolutely. Well, what do you want people to walk away with from your band?
Jon: I think, especially for your website because we go on there and we read the comments and stuff, more than anything, there's a lot of preconceived notions about us. But the truth about our band is that we are a group of young 20 year olds that are on our second album of many more to come. We're just gonna keep making music no matter what. I feel that, after our first album, people had so many opinions about us that they automatically didn't want to listen to our second album just because of the fact... I have to go to sound check.
Well, you're in luck because that was my last question.
My girlfriend loved their first album and said that this one is terrible
i love their first album and i love this album too. they're completely different but both great albums. i'd been worried this album would blow since i'd loved the old one so much, but once i heard it, i was happy to hear that i was wrong.
i realized i don't mind when bands have good influences (such as panic w/ the beatles on this album or the killers w/ bruce springsteen on sam's town). i dont care if they borrow heavily, either. it's better than having a thousand poor imitations of fall out boy or something. however, something original (driver f... ;)) is probably the best choice.