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Paramore adds by subtracting band members
Living well -- or at least selling well -- has been the best revenge for Paramore during the past year.
The Tennessee-based rock group took a hit in 2010 when two of its founding members, lead guitarist Josh Farro and his brother, drummer Zac Farro -- left the band acrimoniously, with a war of words ensuing in social media and via blogs. The remaining trio of singer Hayley Williams, guitarist Taylor York and bassist Jeremy Davis, meanwhile, decided to soldier on in the face of skepticism from the Farros, fans and the music industry.
And n the all's well that end's well department, the trio's self-titled fourth album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in April -- the group's first chart-topper ever. MTV ranked it at No. 7 on its Best Albums of 2013 (So Far) in July, while Alternative Press magazine named "Paramore" -- which has spawned the hits "Now," "Still Into You" and "Ain't It Fun" -- the very best album of the year in its mid-year report.
"It was definitely a relief knowing (the success) was happening," Williams, 24, says. "It was a huge relief when we were in the process and we started to gain our confidence back as writers and musicians -- and even in our friendship. And it felt like a triumph when it was all said and done and we listened back and couldn't believe it was us.
"It's been really cool to try all these new things and then have fans accept it and support it and be proud of us as well. It's been a huge blessing and really just a lot of fun."
Paramore was certainly having a good time up until the schism with the Farros, of course.
The group, formed during 2004 in Franklin, Tenn. -- though Williams has acknowledged she signed as a solo act to Fueled By Ramen and Atlantic Records but works under the Paramore name -- got some attention with its 2005 debut, "All We Know is Falling," but hit pay dirt two years later with its sophomore effort, "Riot!" That album went platinum in the U.S. thanks to hits such as "Misery Business" and "Cruchcrushcrush," while its follow-up, 2009's "Brand New Eyes," hit No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and topped more charts overseas.
But the lyrics of "Brand New Eyes" revealed some of the issues within the group that preceded the Farros' departure. And Williams says blame could be spread across the board.
"We took ourselves a little too seriously a few years ago, and I really feel that helped create the demise," explains the singer, who's been in a relationship with New Found Glory's Chad Gilbert since 2008 and was also the guest voice on singles by B.o.B. ("Airplanes") and Zedd ("Stay the Night"). "We stopped remembering just how to enjoy every aspect of it, and that's where we are now. We're just having a good time."
Williams, York and Davis took their time in bringing back the new-look Paramore, however. The trio contributed a song, "Monster," to the "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" soundtrack in 2011 and also started a Singles Club online through which it released several songs while in the process of making the "Paramore" album. That process spanned April-November 2012 in Los Angeles, with longtime nine inch nails and Beck bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen co-producing with York. The group was prolific, spreading 17 songs across 64 minutes and pulling no punches as Williams declares, at various points, "Tonight we want to have some fun," "If there's a future we want it now" and "Hollowed out and filled with hate/All we want is you to give us a break."
"Early on I decided I needed to get out of Nashville," Williams says. "We'd been going through a lot as a band. We had lost some friends, and it just felt like a really weird, dramatic time. It felt like high school was following me around. So I had to get out of town."
Williams headed for Los Angeles before York and Davis, but she was surprised by "how quickly I became scared of just sort of living outside my own bubble. And that kind of made me a little frustrated with myself because I've always been proud of being an independent person and taking care of myself and doing things for myself. But as soon as I got outside of my comfort zone, away from my family, away from familiarity. I turned into this little baby."
That, however, inspired the gospel-tinged single "Ain't It Fun," which Williams describes as "my way of picking myself up off the ground and saying, 'Stop crying. Just live your life. Experience all these new things. Life is too short to live in a bubble and be close-minded.'
"So 'Ain't It fun' is about getting out into the world and kind of just living out your story and letting it happen to you -- and hopefully telling other people they can do that as well."
The song helped set the tone for the rest of "Paramore," while Meldal-Johnsen steered the group across a variety of styles, including ska, glam rock, 80s techno pop, vintage girl group sounds and the rugged, White Stripe-styled kinetics of "Now." "As a band now, at this particular time, we kind of feel like there are no rules and we can do whatever we want," says Williams, who's also happy that Paramore's fans have embraced the album's experiments.
"I have noticed over the last few years that our fans have grown up with us," she says. "While we are gaining new fans that seem to be on the younger side, we're also gaining fans who seem to be much older than we ever imagined Paramore fans being. So it's all been really cool. I think it's nice when you know your music is hitting home with all sorts of people."
"Paramore" will keep Paramore on the road well into 2014; Williams says the cycle will take the group further around the world -- including Australia and New Zealand early in the new year -- as well as on the high seas with Parahoy!, which Williams predicts will be really cool. But the next album is also in the group's sights, including some songs that didn't make it on to "Paramore" that the trio may "revisit" in addition to brand new material.
"We're already talking about it," Williams reports. I know Taylor is already writing, and I've sort of been writing here and there. So it's definitely going to happen; as to when, exactly, none of us can be sure about that. I would say that as soon as we feel like we have songs that we really love and we're really confident about, we'll probably record them for fun.
"Where we're at now is if we feel like writing a song we're going to do it. If we feel like putting out the album tomorrow, then we'll do that. After everything we've been through, we're just trying to have fun."
Paramore, Metric and Hellogoodbye perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21, at the Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $25-$45. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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