Heels & Picks: Paramore preps for Monumentour
BY ERIN SMITH / Special to the Star-Advertiser
The morning of my phone interview with Paramore’s feisty powerhouse lead vocalist Hayley Williams last week, my voice was practically gone.
A few days earlier, I’d flown from Oahu to Maui on three hours of sleep and shot a music video for my upcoming solo album from dawn to dusk, awoke to a photo shoot the next day with The Throwdowns and then went into the studio to belt out a new song called “The Weight.” And when I don’t get enough rest, my voice is the first thing to tell me I’m too tired.
Well, the second thing. After my boyfriend telling me, “Babe, you’re too tired.”
It’s fitting, in a way, that I would have alternative rock-induced vocal strain on the day I was scheduled to speak to Williams. After more than 10 years of belting out rock songs with Paramore, Williams is no stranger to the occasional bout of vocal strain. If we had the time, I could have asked about her top 10 tips for fixing a strained voice.
Another top 10 she could aptly run through are the top 10 ways to mend a strained band. After the band formed when Williams was 15 years old, Paramore went on to sell millions of copies of their four albums, with notable hits like “Misery Business”, “The Only Exception” and more recently, “Ain’t It Fun.”
Along the road, there have been some major internal bumps for the band, culminating in the late 2010 departure of founding members (and brothers) Zack Farro and Josh Farro. The split was highly publicized and there was a fair amount of mud-slinging via blogs and other media.
Following some downtime to get used to the changes and take stock of their new direction as a trio, Paramore hit the studio with producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen and released their self-titled fourth album in April 2013. A mixed bag, stylistically, the album sought not to limit Paramore within the alternative rock genre, experimenting with funk, softer mainstream pop, doo-wop and lilting ballads.
There are still some heavy, raging songs on the album, to be sure. Lead single “Now” and “Anklebiters” have all the punk throttle of earlier Paramore songs. But the overall vibe of the album is decidedly more free, a new start for an already successful group that appears to have shaken off any writing constraints of the former lineup.
The sonic risk-taking and exploration has led to their most successful single to date — the funk-driven, bass-slapping, gospel-choir wailing “Ain’t It Fun,” an ode to finding your way on your own in a mad world.
This summer, Paramore will co-headline the Monumentour with Fall Out Boy starting June 19. Although the bands will not come to Hawaii this time around, I thought fans of the who caught Paramore’s 2011 show at Aloha Tower Marketplace would like to catch up with Williams and hear her thoughts on the upcoming tour and the success of her band’s latest album.
Over the phone, Williams is sharp, light and funny. When asked tougher questions, however, her tone is deliberate and clear. The girl can hold her own.
When I said I was in Hawaii, she replied with, “Aaaah man, I’m jealous.” (That’s what everybody says during interviews.)
Relaxing and getting work done before hitting the road, Williams touched on several topics ranging from the set list for this summer’s tour to her favorite and most used apps.
When I said that, in my estimation, she was gearing up to carry the torch for Joan Jett and Cyndi Lauper, Williams was quiet and serious with a few funny stories to throw in the mix.
My take? She is classy, funny, hardworking and a cool hang.
ON THE SUCCESS OF “AIN’T IT FUN”:
“I don’t think you can ever just assume that a single is going to be a success, but this one by far shocked all of us. We’re giving Jeremy all the credit because this is the first Paramore song to have slap bass on it. We figure that may have something to do with it.
“This is a song that we took a huge risk on, and we are really excited by it. It was so much fun for us and there’s so much passion, I hope you can hear that. People connect to that sort of energy. Hopefully the message, though sarcastic, is inspiring enough for younger people who might be getting into the world for the first time on their own. At the moment, it’s my favorite song to perform.”
ON PARAMORE’S SET LIST FOR MONUMENTOUR:
“We just started to work on the set list last weekend at a show we played in the Bahamas. Both us and Fall Out Boy are playing, for the same amount of time, and it’s crazy when you get to a place where you’re having to fit so many songs into a certain amount of minutes. And you’re thinking, ‘How are we going to play all of the singles? How are we going to play all the songs that please all of our old school fans?’
“I’m really pumped about what we came up with though, and I feel like it’s going to be very explosive and exciting for whatever kind of Paramore fan might be at the show. I think we’re going to make them all happy and that’s a hard thing to do. I agonize over set lists, every tour.”
ON A POTENTIAL COLLABORATION WITH FALL OUT BOY:
“I don’t know yet. Everything so far on the tour has been very collaborative, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens, once we’re on tour and hanging out every day.
“The Fall Out Boys are so great and just fun to hang out with. When we do a headlining tour its very business … but it’s nice on this tour that we get to share it with another band that we know is going to put on a great show.
“It seems very likely that (a collaboration) will happen, but we have to keep some surprises.”
TOP APPS TO USE ON THE ROAD:
“I am an avid Yelp user, because we’re always in a different city and we’re always looking for food. I’m always trying to find really good vegetarian food and really good vegan food.
“I’m really into photography apps because I’m very active on our Twitter and my Twitter, where I like to post a lot of photos and stuff from the road. I’ve used Afterlight for a really long time, and that’s by far my favorite. But I also use A Beautiful Mess app, which is great for adding things to your pictures and editing.
“I have a friend named Esther who designed a stamp line for the Line App, and I downloaded that package.”
ON THE FARRO BROTHERS’ DEPARTURE:
“Once we were down two members, not only did we have to go through the emotional processing and the grief, and some anger and some bewilderment, we were at the same time realizing that we did still want to make music. And that it didn’t change how we felt about Paramore. And that took time. And it took us making a really valiant effort to get to know one another again as people.
“So Jeremy, Taylor and I would hang out, usually at Jeremy’s house because he lives way out in the country, and we would just kind of watch tons of movies or cook a meal. I remember one day there was a crazy snowstorm and Jeremy’s friends built a couch sled. We just spent the whole day sliding down a hill on a couch, which was wild.
“It was important for that stuff to happen before we got into the studio.”
ON PARAMORE’S NEW SOUND:
“I actually feel like we’ve redefined ourselves in the way that it’s not as narrow of a path. We don’t have to meet anyone’s expectations.
“I mean, we always have to be good and we always have to be better than the last time around, but Paramore is Jeremy, Taylor and Hayley. It’s whatever we are at that given moment.”
ON CARRYING THE TORCH FOR FEMALE ARTISTS:
“When I was younger and we were getting ready to release ‘Riot,’ I died my hair red and yellow. And I thought, ‘I’ve not seen anyone do this before. Here I am, check me out!’
“What’s weird is I totally knew who Cyndi Lauper was. And then years later, I’m looking at some photos and someone put a photo of me in the ‘Misery Business’ video next to a photo of her where she had literally the exact same hair. I feel such a connection with Cyndi Lauper and I’ve never even met her. I heard that she invited me to a show that she’s going to be playing on her upcoming tour and my heart stopped.
“And Joan Jett as well, I’ve had the chance to meet Joan Jett, we did Warped Tour in 2006 with her. I love her so much; she’s just so tough. And really just paved the way for someone like me to go on Warped Tour and be fierce and be proud of that.
“I love the fact that anyone could possibly think of me as growing up into an artist like one of them. I think they’re wonderful and there’s a reason why their still around and that people still say their names today.”
A FINAL WORD FOR GIRLS IN BANDS:
“I think for young girls who want to be in a band, it’s not about you being a good girl in a band, you should just strive to be a good band.”
Erin Smith is a singer and guitarist who performs as a solo artist and with Maui-based Na Hoku Hanohano Award-nominated band The Throwdowns. Born in Canada, she moved to Hawaii in 2004 and now resides in Kailua. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.