It says a lot that there has never been two Panic! At the Disco albums with the same line-up. Since coming out of their parents’ garage as teenagers in 2004, the band has radically and drastically changed. Only vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Brendon Urie remains behind the moniker, with the project’s fifth LP, Death of a Bachelor, being written, performed and recorded entirely on his own. Although Urie was originally writing in an open-ended manner – meaning that they had the potential to be put together for a solo album – he ultimately knew where these songs belonged.
“I never fully questioned it,” he says. “For me, Panic! At the Disco has always been cart blanche. I can do whatever I want. There are no rules. Being in this band has been the most exciting part of my life. I never want to leave. Members of this band have come and gone, just because they wanted to do something different. For me, though, Panic! was always so unique and so different that I didn’t need to explore any other avenue. I never needed to make an excuse to break off and do something else.”
Panic!’s previous LP, Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!, was the band’s first as a trio – Urie, founding drummer Spencer Smith and bassist Dallon Weekes; who was originally brought in as a touring replacement for former bassist Jon Walker. Both have left the fold of the band in different ways – Smith, for instance, was sidelined after the album’s release on account of his drug addiction and subsequent rehab; and did not play with the band for two years. With his departure in April, Death of a Bachelor is the first P!ATD album to not feature him. “Spencer and I are still great friends,” says Urie. “People come, people go and people change. I don’t want to seem like I’m speaking on behalf of anyone, but it’s just been a matter of other people losing interest in what this band is.”
Weekes, on the other hand, is a slightly more curious case. Although he is no longer in the creative fold, he decided to stay on as a touring member of the group. “Dallon has been playing with us for a long time, and I’m so grateful for that,” says Urie. “Sometimes, you try working creatively with people, and it doesn’t always work out the way you think it will. In this case, it ended up just being better to have someone to tour with. It’s an oversight sometimes, but you have to have people that you connect with and get along with. Touring can be long and it can be intense – you need people that will see you through that. Dallon has been that for me.”
Death of a Bachelor continues to explore the outer reaches of what P!ATD can sound like, implementing Queen-size harmonies, king-size choruses and fizzy-pop production. There’s even a sample of “Rock Lobster” in the mix (says Urie: “I wanted to write a party anthem – it was the perfect fit!”). With Urie serving as master and commander, he notes his comfort with building up songs and jamming them out entirely on his own. “Before I ever had a band – or ever even thought about it – that’s kind of what I did,” he explains. “I had a little karaoke machine and I would play everything myself. I had to go over to friend’s houses and use their four-track recorder so I could finish the song – a karaoke machine doesn’t have many tracks, as you can imagine. That’s how I taught myself how to play and how I taught myself to record. I was always alone, and I had a lot of passion for music. I wanted to showcase that – running to the piano, running to the drums, doing different bits of backing vocals. With this album, it began with me just writing songs. I didn’t know if I was working toward an album or not, but I knew I had to get these songs out of my head, through my system. I was ready to go wherever they ended up – I was so content with knowing that.”
The completion of recording Death at a Bachelor timed out, interestingly enough, to match up with the ten year anniversary of Panic!’s debut album, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. Having sold over one million copies and housed some of the band’s most beloved songs – many of which are still played to this day – the accomplishments of the LP grow even more impressive contextually when one recalls the average age of the band being 17. “We didn’t even know what kind of band we wanted to be,” reflects Urie. “There’s no precognition on Fever. There were no preconceived notions about who we were. We just sort of figured it out as we went. That was exciting – that album started me off on my journey, it helped this band find a voice and not only did people like it, they responded to it. I remember when those early shows were getting bigger and bigger. I’d look out and see people singing every word to our songs. Even after ten years, people are still finding their own voice through that record – it’s almost spiritual to me.”
Panic! At The Disco’s fifth studio album Death of a Bachelor is out on January 15 via Fuelled By Ramen Records.