PANIC! AT THE DISCO // Wild & Wicked

Few things in life feel better than scoring that life-changing promotion you worked your entire goddamn ass off for.

For most of us, that can be relatively mundane—if you work in fast food, you’ll go from sweeping floors and flipping burgers to teaching the next batch of pizza-faced newbies how to work the ice cream machine (or you won’t, because it’s always fucking broken). In the real estate game, you might go from sorting files and crunching receipts to proving your might as the next best salesperson. And if you’re like me, you fucked up, kid will go from penning bottom-tier thinkpieces on ghost town blogs to writing for some of Australia’s most respected publications—like Hysteria! (Who? Never heard of them. – Ed.)

For longtime swoon-inducer of Panic! At The Disco (and as of 2015, the band’s only permanent member) Brendon Urie, that big-time promotion was making the leap from sold out arenas and festival mainstages to Broadway with a quarter-year stint as Charlie Price in the 2017 run of Kinky Boots. It was a perfect fit for Urie, who has imbued his act with a blinding shade of theatricality since the very first tour Panic! head off on in ’05 (sidenote: your homework for this evening is to watch their first concert DVD, Live In Denver).

Such an opportunity only gave Urie a stronger taste for the sweet, sweet, melodramatic blood that acting can extract from the wounds of a creative type. The latest Panic! album, Pray For The Wicked, is definitive proof of that. It’s flashy, fierce and all over flourished with the glittery pizazz of a Broadway musical, and even after five albums all seemingly more explosive than the last, it shows that Urie still has room to peak with his bravado. A few weeks yet to go before the record lands on our turntable, we gave Urie a quick buzz to riff on all things Wicked.

Note: This interview was conducted before Panic!’s 2018 Australian tour was confirmed, but we’re keeping the questions about it in because Urie’s answers are top notch.

How do you think Pray For The Wicked stacks up against the rest of the Panic! discography?
Oh man, you can’t ask me that! Of course I’m gonna favour the newest shit [laughs]. I would personally say it stacks higher, but honestly, I don’t know. That would mean I’d have to enquire or infer other people’s sensibilities, and that’s not something I know a whole lot about right now. I don’t know if people want more guitar or more electronics or more vocals, more hip-hop or more rock, so I’m writing stuff for me. I was making this record that I felt excited about, jumping around the studio all the time—sometimes naked—and I would just be losing my mind and having the best time of my life—I hope that translates. I hope people feel that same connection to it in terms of the excitement.

How did you want this record to push you forward as an artist or a songwriter? How did Pray For The Wicked take you out of your comfort zone?
That’s an awesome question, actually! First off, to touch on the comfort zone shit: I used Broadway as a catalyst for a lot of my writing, and Broadway put me in a totally uncomfortable place. Y’know, Broadway is so different, and the biggest difference for me was in terms of the performance: when you’re performing live—or at least when I’m performing live with Panic!—the fans are screaming louder than the PA, and  sometimes I’ll forget the lyrics because I just get lost in the moment; my ADHD pops up and I lose my place, and the kids will help me out! They’ll be more ecstatic and more just awesome about the songs when I can’t be, and Broadway is the opposite.

You’re up there alone, no-one’s helping you out, no-one’s gonna save you if you forget a lyric or if you don’t hit the note—it’s on you, dude. So that really helped me. Katie Agresta was such an amazing vocal coach, too! Cyndi Lauper gave me her name—humble brag—she gave me her vocal coach and was like, “You should learn from her.” And she taught me so much, so I’m bringing a lot of those different aspects from Broadway onto this album, in terms of the writing, in terms of my vocal ability, and in terms of the energy that I’m bringing to it. I think people are going to feel that too.

You really go above and beyond with your vocal strengths on this record. How intense was it to lay your tracks down?
Oh, man! So this is a fight I have all the time with my buddy Jake Sinclair, who I’ve produced records with for the last almost nine years—he’s trying to make me sing higher and higher and I’m like, “Dude! You’re not the one that has to sing it live! Go easy on me!” And he’s like, “C’mon, quit being a pussy.” So I’m like, “Alright, damn, I guess I’ll stop being a pussy.” And then I just own up; I’m like, “Alright, I’ll just go for it,” and once I actually record it, I feel so proud of myself! He did it to me on this record and I was like, “Dude, I can push myself in ways that I never thought possible.” I had to learn from that frustration. Because it’s like, man, if I push myself and get my hopes all the way up, and then I succeed, I feel like a million times better. In the past, I would keep my expectations the lowest I could so I was never disappointed. It’s like eating kale all the time—you’re not really happy, not really sad, just kind of content. So y’know, that was a huge lesson for me to learn, and it was fucking awesome.

Maybe I’ll just show you guys the rawest, roughest demo of me putting down the nonsense words that became the melody for a song.

I know you’d been writing pretty much non-stop since Death Of A Bachelor came out, how many songs did you end up writing for this record?
Right after Death Of A Bachelor came out and going into Broadway, I was still writing. I was writing, composing, making beats, writing lyrics, studying … From the moment we released Death Of A Bachelor, I started writing for the next record. Even on tour, I would do like a beat here, write a lyric there—every day I would do something musical, and it was the same throughout Broadway. And y’know, Broadway is a different monster, dude. You do it six days a week, eight shows a week—you’ve got two days out of the week off if you do two shows a day, and on those two-a-days, I would stay at the theatre and just work on music.

It was tough for me to leave the theatre because there were always fans outside; I didn’t really have the freedom to walk around Broadway or Times Square, so I just kind of stayed in and worked, and used that as an opportunity to research and do some meditative study. I worked on transitions for the Panic! tour and beats that I had in my head, and I just kind of messed around. Studying for a musician, luckily, is really easy—it’s just listening to music and watching movies—so I was doing a lot of that, and I would just write notes about how I felt.

And that ended up being the album, y’know? I told myself that when I got back from Broadway, I was going to take the rest of the year off. I was like, “I deserve this break! It’s been 13 years that I’ve been going out and working my ass off, and I feel like I deserve a break!” And then two days into my relaxation period, my brain was like, “Fuck you, get to work!” So I jumped in the studio and I just started working again, and it was honestly awesome. I felt so inspired, like, stuff was just waiting to jump out of me.

Would you ever consider putting out an album of demos or B-sides? I know you’ve got a boatload of Wicked scraps lying around—plus, the fanbase is still dying to hear the Cricket & Clover scraps.
[Laughs] Oh, I’m sure! You’ll probably never hear those because I also have to get the old members to sign off on that shit. But to be real, I do want to put out some B-sides! I have so many songs that didn’t make this album—there’s literally 15 songs I can think of right now that didn’t make the album, that I know I want to put out. I would probably have to finesse a couple of things, but why not, right? Maybe I’ll just show you guys the rawest, roughest demo of me putting down the nonsense words that became the melody for a song. I feel like that’s always such a cool thing, when I hear that from a band and go, “Oh my God, that’s how they came up with that!?” It just adds to my love for that band, so I would definitely consider doing that. I’m seriously considering it now, at least!

I have wet dreams about Björk, straight up.

How much did Pray For The Wicked change between those ultra-raw demos and the final product?
I’m proud to say that it’s not super different. I call my buddy Jake ‘One Take Jake’ because he used all of my first takes. He was like, “Why don’t you give me three takes, just to have,” but at the end of the process, he was like, “Hey, just so you know, all of your vocals were the first take.” I was like, “Yes! That makes me so happy! The fact that it was in that moment when we felt so inspired and excited, and you used the one where I felt like I nailed it, rather than, like the most comped or the most perfect sounding vocal.” And that made me so happy. I hope I can do more of that in the future; I want to get to the point where the live record is just the record, y’know?

One thing I like about the record is that you’ve managed to reach this level of depth and emotion with less instruments, or less layering of instruments than we’ve seen on previous Panic! records. Is that something you set out to do with this record, to refine things a bit and go with a ‘less is more’ kind of attitude?
I did. I set out with a completely different idea of what I thought the album would be. I didn’t have a full vision, but I told myself, I said, “I want to do mostly vocals.” I wanted it to be a vocal album—y’know, kind of like a Björk, Oceania, crazy all-vocal album. But then I was like, “Y’know what, that seems a little too ambitious—I don’t hear it that way in my brain and I think I’m pushing myself to do something that isn’t natural, so I’m just going to let it flow.” So then I just started throwing parties and having my friends over, and we would just write some bullshit and have a good time, and that felt a lot more fun. It felt more natural and more exciting at the end of the day, because I was happier with the product rather than, like, chasing this dragon that I could never fully slay. So I definitely had a vision for it in the beginning, and I didn’t see that through to the end. But I think that was important, to always have that in the back of my mind like, “Man, I want to do less of this and I want to do more of this.” It helps to have those little instances where you feel inspired to keep something or take something away.

I can’t ignore that Björk mention. Please tell me that’s a collaboration we could see one day!
Dude, are you kidding me!? I would fucking cream my jeans. I have wet dreams about Björk, straight up. Dude, I would do anything she wants. When I saw the Oceania documentary, where Mike Patton was doing the bass with the megaphone and playing with those different sounds—by the way, Mike Patton is a vocal God—I was blown away. So to be a part of that world … Just … Fuck yes. I would fucking love to collab with Björk.

I saw that High Hopes was used in a commercial for a hockey game a little while back, which is something we also saw happen with Victorious and Golden Days back in the Bachelor cycle. How do you feel about your songs being used as these anthems?
Dude, it’s the most flattering thing. You have to understand, like, even though I don’t seem like a sports guy, growing up, I was so far into sports. I played soccer growing up, I played three seasons of YMCA basketball and fucking won every year—humble brag, whatever. I was a sports guy, dude, I loved sports growing up! Even apart from sports with balls and all that bullshit, I loved skateboarding and all of that kind of stuff. I’m a very active dude, and that’s always going to translate into the music. So for people to use it to their advantage for something that has a similar vibe…Nothing’s more flattering than a sports community saying, “Dude, this gets us amped to win a game!” Like, man, what a compliment!

I’m curious to see what new genres get built up and invented, and what ways I can incorporate that into my own experiences.

I know you’re a fan of a good anthem, what with your love of artists like Queen and Frank Sinatra. And you can’t deny that, because you cover Bohemian Rhapsody every night in the live set! Do you think Panic! could write the next Bohemian Rhapsody, or even yet, a song bigger than that?
Oh my God. I think it would be sacrilege to say that we could [laughs]. I think it’s blasphemous to say that anyone could beat Bohemian Rhapsody, man—I think that song stands alone. That’s just one of those… Like… That’s the opus. If I can get to a point in my career where I feel I’ve written my own Bohemian Rhapsody, I will be so pleased. But I have not hit that mark yet, and I really hope I don’t hit it soon because I’m so curious and so excited to see what the hell the future brings for me if I just keep pushing myself. But man, it’s a really interesting thought process that I’m going through right now. I’m really curious about whether I ever could do something like that.

Where do you think Panic! At The Disco can go from here? Do you think you still have room to grow as an artist, or have you tried everything you want to try at this point?
No, I absolutely think we have places to go and room to grow. And what gives me confidence in that statement is the fact that kids are still inventing genres. I turn on my Spotify radio, and it directs me to shit that I’ve never fucking thought of! I think it’s already exciting nowadays, and it can only get more exciting from here. So I’m curious to see what new genres get built up and invented, and what ways I can incorporate that into my own experiences. That’s going to be the exciting thing, to incorporate even more new ideas into my own sound. I think there’s no shortage of ideas, and that’s only going to grow exponentially as time goes on.

And are you still content with working purely as a solo artist?
Yeah, I like the way it is now, honestly. With the solo part of it, I just get to dictate exactly how I see things going with less of a pushback, but I still get to tour with a band. Our favourite times were always touring as a band; you have this family that you’ve built together—a family that you chose to be a part of and you get to hang out with every day, and you get to play shows for people who are also a part of your family. Like, dude, that’s the dream! So I’m kind of in the mindset where I feel it can’t be perfected any further—but I know that it can, and so I don’t want to think too much on it because I know that it’s going to surprise me again in the future. I’m excited to see how much more this morphs into something that I have no control over.

Over on the touring side of things, the Death Of A Bachelor cycle really marked a milestone in Panic!’s signature theatricality, with those interludes and that production setup—not to mention the fucking horn section! How are you going to up the ante with Pray For The Wicked’s live cycle?
Oh, man. Oh, man! Y’know what I wish sometimes, but I also don’t wish, but I’ll say it anyway, because fuck it? I wish sometimes that I could show you guys the last six months of my life. Because all I’m doing is prepping for shit to share with everybody. The last three months of my life have just been spent building transitions for this tour coming up. I’m literally sitting at my studio right now, rolling a joint and just thinking about what else I have to bounce out before we go to the UK tomorrow. I don’t know how these people are going to feel because I’ve been sitting on this stuff for months now. It’s so scary, and I’m so happy about it [laughs]. I’m keen to see how people react to the production, because we’re doing a lot of new stuff with that. I don’t know if you know what toasters are, but… Toasters.



What’s the absolute dream in terms of the stage production? If you had the budget to do absolutely anything at all, what would you do?
There’s definitely some pipe dream shit. There’s stuff that I know we can’t do on this tour, but I’ll bide my time, y’know? I’ll bite the bullet and say, “Y’know what? Let’s just spend a little more money to give a better show,” because that’s kind of what Panic! has always been about; that’s what we’ve strived to do. When we first did our first headline tour, we were like, “We’re not going to make any money on this tour, but I don’t care! Let’s just show people what our perfect primetime show would be,” and so with every iteration we’ve done since, I’ve been trying to make an even more perfect primetime show. But I know that right now, even planning this tour, I know that I can do even crazier shit. As amazing as this tour will be—and I know it will be amazing—I have even bigger plans for the future.

That’s why Panic! is my favourite band—just when I think shit can’t get any more insane, you’re over there in the corner going full Joker with new ideas.
Exactly, man. It’s too fun! I never want to stop getting crazier and crazier with my ideas.

When can we expect to see Panic! back on Australian stages?
So we’re doing a North American tour in mid-July, which we finish in the second week of August, and then we’re just going to see what happens after that. I told our booking agent, I said, “You need to get us down to Australia and New Zealand, and I want to spend at least three days before and three days after hanging out!” We never get any time to see shit over there, so I want to actually go down and hang out. We were talking about doing it later this year, but that’s not set in stone. But I definitely want to jump down there at least a couple of times on this cycle. Usually we only get to hit it once, just because our management is always like, “It’s so far away!” But that doesn’t matter. I will sit on that flight twice, three times, five times, just to be able to play shows down there.

How do you see Pray For The Wicked translating to the stage? Was that something you thought about in the studio?
Yeah yeah yeah, definitely! That’s an awesome question, because I’m always thinking about the live show. Like for example, on the song Say Amen (Saturday Night): that song started from a Budos Band sample—a song called Aphasia—and I took it because I was like, “Man, we use this to walk out onstage, and it’s always such a hype song. Everyone got so hyped up to it at the shows, so I want to make people feel that way using their hook and then writing a different line over the top.” And that’s what became Saturday Night. I was thinking about the live show when I was recording it, and I was like, “Man, this is going to go off! I can’t wait to play this!” We did a tour of underground shows right when the album was announced, and sure enough, every nigh, that song was just… Oh my God, it was like a fucking LA riot in those venues, dude! It was crazy. It was so awesome. And I know that if we did it in Australia, it would go ten times harder! You motherfuckers party so hard [laughs].

I do miss being able to bring those arena tours to Australia—to bring you a good production of our current American show would be awesome.

You’ve always played those smaller kinds of rooms in Australia—at least since the Vices & Virtues cycle—but after that last tour sold out within a matter of hours, I’m guessing there’s a few bigger rooms on the cards for next time?
Dude, I am always down for any show that we are allotted to play. Like, if a promoter says we can play this room, I say, “Great!” Put me in a room, I would love to play in that room. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t have a preference—I do prefer the larger rooms before it allows us to do a better show in my opinion, but that just means bigger production and the way that we present the show. It doesn’t mean it’s my favourite in terms of, like, that intimate connection that you get, because my favourites for that are the little punk bars. When we play a room that’s like, 200 cap, it’s just a small room where everybody’s sweating on each other and everybody can see the whites in each other’s eyes… There’s some intimacy there that you just can’t get at a bigger show. But y’know, I’m always down to play whatever. I do miss being able to bring those arena tours to Australia—to bring you a good production of our current American show would be awesome. So I would love to play some bigger rooms, man! Put in a good word for me!

You know I will, dude! Just to wrap things up, what’s one interesting story, fun fact or piece of trivia you can give us about the making of Pray For The Wicked?
[Laughs] I want everyone to know that whenever people weren’t at my house, giving input and opinions on my shit, I was naked. I was just in my studio, butt-ass naked, recording my vocals—because it’s my studio, dude! I get to lock myself in here, no-one can come in … I’m totally free. For the last album, I was, like, half-naked, but this time … Full Monty.

It sounds like the kind of album you need to be ass-naked to really master.
Exactly. I think you can hear a lot of balls on this record [laughs].

Pray For The Wicked  is out on Friday, June 22nd via Fueled By Ramen.

Pre-orders are available now from the Warner webstore, or you can jam it on digital formats from iTunes, Google Play or Spotify.

Panic! At The Disco are also taking their Pray For The Wicked  tour to Australia this October:

Saturday October 6th – Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney
Tuesday October 9th – AEC Theatre, Adelaide
Thursday October 11th – Riverstage, Brisbane
Saturday October 13th – Hisense Arena, Melbourne
Saturday October 16th – Spark Arena, Auckland

Full details on how to score your tickets can be found at frontiertouring.com/panicatthedisco

Latest News