Interview: Ryan Ross of Panic! at the Disco

Panic! at the Disco

How exactly did the band come about and what made you want to start one in the first place?

Well I have known Spencer, our drummer for most of my life, and I met Brent in high school, he transferred schools in his junior year, and met Brendon in their senior year. We had him come to a band practice to try out for guitar, I actually started out as the singer, and in one of those early practices we had him sing for some reason and found out he had a much better voice than I did.

Is there any significance behind the band name?

The name comes from a Name Taken song called “Panic” we were going back and forth between that or “burn down the disco” which is a line from The Smiths song “Panic,” it’s a weird coincidence that both songs were titled panic, so we decided to go with that as sort of a middle ground.

The new album A Fever You Can Sweat Out Just came out a couple of days ago. What is it like to finally have a full-length album out?

It’s such a huge accomplishment for me and I know it is for the rest of the guys as well. We put so much time and work into the writing and recording of it that once it was completed it felt great. Even before the record came out, just knowing that we made something as this band that was actually going to come out was amazing.

The album is one of the best albums of the year to me and I just wondered who are some of your big influences when writing music.

First of all thank you, good to hear that you like it. In the way of melody and structure we all listen to bands like Third Eye Blind and Counting Crows a ton. I think Stephen Jenkins is just an amazing song writer.On the first half of the record we were a little less focused on certain bands and more on just the idea of writing songs that people could dance to,and having parts that you
might hear in a Paul Oakenfold song or something like that in a club. The second half of the record came about in one sense because we were getting bored writing only with keyboards guitars and drum machines. I started listening to a lot of motion picture soundtracks and really got into Jon Brion’s work. He’s done scores for movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Punch Drunk Love, and Magnolia.

So, when you went in to record this album, did you already have most of the songs written or did you go in to the studio ready to write all new material?

We had about half of the songs completed when we went in to record and we had parts of the rest written. A lot of the instrumentation in the songs on the second half came together in the studio, but the song shells were already

What song is planned to be the first single and can we hope to maybe see a music video?

We aren’t completely sure yet but it’s looking like we’ll be doing a video for “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” sometime in December.

I read somewhere that you had met up with Pete from Fall Out Boy and that was kind of how you guys got signed. What’s the story about that?

I heard Pete Wentz had just started a label and was looking for bands so I sent a link to our Purevolume page in his journal just asking if he would listen to the stuff. I figured it was a long shot that he’d ever hear it and I really wasn’t expecting him to contact me about it. A few days later he sent me an email saying he wanted to hear more, and at the time Fall Out Boy was
recording their second record in LA. Pete drove down for the weekend and just sat in on a band practice. After that we started talking to John at FBR as well and signed sometime around December.

Also, a lot of people have been comparing you too Fall Out Boy, how do you guys feel about that being said? 

It does and doesn’t bother me, Brendon and Patrick both have similar voices, and I think that comes from the fact that they know how to sing correctly, something that many singers these days don’t know how to do. Brendon was taking voice lessons for about a year before we got signed, and his vocal coach taught him techniques that helped him open up his voice, to use vibrato etc. As far as musical similarities, everyone is entitled to their opinon, but for the people who have heard our entire record and still think that we sound like Fall Out Boy with keyboards … well, I just find them to be musically inept.

How has your relationship with Fueled By Ramen been like so far?

We love our label, everyone over there is really on top of things, if we ever need anything or don’t like the way something is being done we can always call John or Pete and get it taken care of. They have been interested in understanding our vision for the band since the beginning and I think that is something labels don?t necessarily take time to do, having Pete at the label has made that a lot easier, he understands the importance of things like that since he is in a band.

I see that you guys are from Las Vegas, what is the music scene like out there? And did you find it hard to get noticed or stick out from everything else?

The music scene at home is a mess. There aren’t really any places for local bands to play, and the kids there just don’t get behind too many bands. There isn’t a real sense of community there, it’s more like, when a new band starts the thing to do is to talk shit on them rather than support them, the same goes for local bands amongst themselves. No one really wants to help each other, save a few exceptions. I’m not really sure why it’s like that there but it’s a shame. Some of it may come from it being such a competition to even get shows and the resentment towards bands that make it out of Vegas, and it’s just going to stay like that until the attitude changes there. We decided to go outside of the local scene because it was such a stagnating thing, the internet has become such a great tool for bands in so many ways, I mean we had almost five thousand friends on myspace before we had even played a show. We have most of our fans because of the internet and especially websites like purevolume that allow bands to put their music out there for free.

Is it true that you still use recorded synth parts at shows or have you found a full-time synth player?

Yes, we sample our keyboard parts which, really, most of them are humanly impossible to play anyways. When we were recording we did all of the sequencing and drum machine parts on a computer, but eventually when we find players and can afford it, we want to have everything on our records played by musicians live.

You have been lucky to jump on some great tours this year, what has the experience been like so far?

I don’t think we could have gotten luckier to go out on the Take Cover tour, all the bands kind of took us in, we learned a ton being out with those guys, I consider the people we met on that tour to be some of my closest friends. The Nintendo tour we are out on now has been such a different experience than Take Cover. We’ve been playing to 10 times the amount of kids every night, it’s kind of overwhelming at times, but in a good way. The sizes of the stages got a lot bigger on this tour and so did the distance between us and the kids, that’s something that we are trying to adjust to still, it feels a lot less intimate than the shows on the last tour, and that was something I really enjoyed about it, being real close to the kids.

Do you miss being away from home while out on tour, or has it been nice to finally get out and see the states?

I do once in a while but we’ve been so busy I don’t really dwell on it too much. This is what I’ve wanted to do since I started playing music, I could’t be happier.

Have any crazy tour stories that you would like to share with us?

We aren’t that big into partying but I guess one thing that happened on the Take Cover was during our last show, the guys from the other bands came out during the last song of our set and taped us up, covered us in shaving cream unplugged my amps and took away all of Spencer’s drums — haha — it was great, we finished the song somehow I think with three new singers, bass and a snare drum.

What has been your favorite city to tour in so far?

Honestly I can’t pick one there were really good ones for us on the last tour and really good ones on this tour as well. I know we liked the northwest, I really enjoyed Seatle I thought it was a really attractive and interesting city, honestly I think I’d like to move there someday.

I can’t even imagine what its like to be as young as you guys are and have such a huge fan base already, how has that changed your life and how are you dealing with it?

It has definitely been a big change, it’s great but at the same time it’s taking some getting used to. Don’t get me wrong I’m flattered that anyone would want to listen to my band and want to know about us I’m just not used to it yet.

If there was one thing about the music industry or music scene you could change, what would it be and why?

There is just such a lack of creativity and really a lack of demand for it. Kids will have their top 5 favorite bands and they all are just copies of copies. It’s going to come to a point when people open their eyes and ears and finally see through all of the uninspired lyrics and songwriting. If I could do anything to change the scene it would be to wake everyone up.

What are your top 5 albums of all time?

In no order:

  • Third Eye Blind – Blue
  • The Refused – The Shape of Punk To Come
  • The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind soundtrack
  • Brian Wilson – Smile
  • Queen – A Night at the Opera

If I was to go and search around in your tour van, what would I find?

Way too many books and movies, and xbox, a tv, a lot of trash, dirty socks..

That’s about all the questions I have for you guys. Is there anything else you would like to say to all the fans and readers out there in land?

I just want to thank you for doing this interview, and thank everyone who has already bought the record and or who has come to see us at a show.

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