Panic Fantastic: An Interview with Brendon Urie

Listening to the hard rock riffs and soaring synths in Panic! At The Disco's latest studio offering, “Death Of A Bachelor”, it's hard not to draw comparisons between it and the outfit's impossibly ambitious, Vaudeville-meets-pop-punk opening statement, “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out”. After all, “Death of A Bachelor” marks not only the band's 12th year in the industry, but also, the first time that vocalist Brendon Urie completely worked on a record all on his own.

Founded by Urie and his childhood friends Ryan Ross, Spencer Smith, and Brent Wilson in 2004, Panic! At The Disco — which took its name from a verse in the Name Taken song Panic — started out small, practicing in whatever rehearsal space the members could find, before eventually signing on to Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz's label Decaydance Records under Fueled By Ramen. The rest, as they say, is history.


Now a one-man rock outfit (or is it rock army?) after several lineup changes — Wilson was fired in 2006, Ross and guitarist Jon Walker left due to creative and musical differences in 2009, and Smith in 2013 — the Las Vegas based Panic! At The Disco (often stylized as P!ATD) has gone on to delve into more mature themes in its songs, including, among other things, the nature of fame as well as the crafting of one’s legacy.

“Fame is fickle. It comes with a lot of excess baggage and misunderstandings,” Brendon, who, together with the rest of the band, once performed for US President Barack Obama and iconic singer Billy Joel, says to me in an interview. “Success, however, can be measured by accomplishments and how happy one is with how well they've performed each task.”

And perform well, Panic! At The Disco did. Especially when one considers the fact that the band did nab its first number one album with the release of “Death Of A Bachelor,” with the album selling a total of 190,000 copies in its first week on the market. Not bad for a band that started out covering Blink 182.

Considering the success the band has had amid its many shakeups — Panic! At The Disco often performs in arenas in front of packed crowds numbering in the tens of thousands during their festival and touring gigs — I ask Brendon: how the hell does a band achieve all of that?

Panic! At The Disco performs for the Manila crowd during their setIn at the 2016 In The Mix Music Festival in the Mall of Asia Arena.    Photo by MIKE REBUYAS

Panic! At The Disco performs for the Manila crowd during their setIn at the 2016 In The Mix Music Festival in the Mall of Asia Arena.

Photo by MIKE REBUYAS

“Focus on writing something that is great and unique to you. If you spend too much time trying to get noticed, the message of your songs may get lost along the way” Brendon, who counts crooner Frank Sinatra (“I would’ve loved to harmonize with him in the studio!”) and legendary rockstar Freddie Mercury among his many influences, says, noting that it all just boils down to being honest, creatively and musically, and not listening to the haters, of which there will be many.

“Reading hateful comments is entertaining sometimes. Other times it's just annoying. You just have to pick your battles I guess,” Brendon says.

Channeling the band’s crazy antics and after coughing up whatever confidence I could muster, I ask Brendon a question that’s been brewing in my head ever since I first listened to I Write Sins Not Tragedies a few years ago: For a musical act named Panic! At The Disco, have you ever really panicked at one point — at a disco?

“Of course!”  Brendon says, before adding: “I would think something was terribly wrong with me if no anxiety ever kicked in after everything I've been through with this band.”

Set to perform alongside pop-rock acts The 1975, Third Eye Blind, James Bay, Twin Pines, and Elle King for the In The Mix Music Festival on August 18 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, Brendon has a few choice words for his fans: he’s excited to meet you.

“Even after having visited the Philippines before, I'm never quite sure what to expect to see when I arrive. I'm very excited to play new songs and meet fans!” Brendon says.

From singing songs about closing goddamn doors, Panic! At The Disco has gone on to become quite a pop culture phenomenon with nary a sign of stopping. After all, to paraphrase the lyrics of one of the band’s newest songs, they’re taking back the crown / they’re all dressed up and naked / they see what’s theirs and take it.

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This article first appeared in GISTPH.COM