When Paramore, the Grammy-winning, multi-Platinum musical trio made up of Hayley Williams, Taylor York and Zac Farro, first announced they were taking a break in 2019, it came as a shock to many fans. Undeniably one of our generation’s most influential bands, the group’s tenacious attitude and unique sound transcended its pop-punk beginnings to produce a genre-defying body of work that has defied the patriarchal penchant of alternative music and paved a new path for artists.
This is Why marks Paramore’s triumphant return following their hiatus, which the group explains they needed in order to reconnect with themselves outside of their profession, and is their first release in nearly six years. The resulting album is contemplative, but far from restrained – it’s a rebellious fusion of punk, new wave and noughties dance beats, and speaks to the paradox of confusion and compassion, anger and anxiety left in the wake of the last half-decade.
After signing their record deal with Atlantic Records and Fueled by Ramen in 2005 as teenagers, the trio admit that they grew up on the road. “I think we all needed to get back in touch with, you know, who we are,” explains Paramore’s drummer, Zac Farro. “We needed to nurture that at-home version of ourselves, which always takes a while when you’re used to being in a different city or country every day. We had to have a ‘normal life’ for a little bit.” The band’s frontwoman, Hayley Williams, jokes that she still needs to grasp her personal organisation skills. “I still don’t know how to buy the appropriate amount of groceries for a week. I’ve never learned that because we grew up on the road. Now I’m 34, and I still can’t. It’s so annoying how many bananas I probably waste?”
During their break – which they insist was not a break-up – Williams released two critically-acclaimed solo albums while Farro continued working on his own project, HalfNoise. Despite the distance, the group’s guitarist Taylor York asserts that the time spent apart has been essential to developing their sound after so many years producing together.”I think people sometimes want to make music that sounds like their old music – maybe certain people want that from us – but it’s like putting on a costume. I think we are, for sure, the most proud of this record from top to bottom,” he beams. “We bring out the best in each other.”
There’s a youthful sense of confidence and comfort among this line-up, although the band admits its relationship hasn’t always been so smooth – over their two-decade chart-topping tenure, the group has featured eight different members since signing to Atlantic Records in 2005. It’s no surprise then that This is Why also marks the first time the band’s line-up has remained unchanged for two albums. “I was really stoked to be making another Paramore album after two solo records,” Williams shares. “I just want to lean into what Taylor and Zac’s strengths are and then try to continue to hone mine.”
Since announcing their return in September, Paramore has been reconnecting with their fanbase, most notably while headlining the When We Were Young festival in Las Vegas a few weeks later. Among many notable acts, Paramore joined Avril Lavinge, The Used and the newly reformed My Chemical Romance in a fever dream of noughties nostalgia.. The event’s immediate sell-out prompted two additional days of performances and served as a firm reminder of the growing resurgence of new pop-punk listeners amongst the continued support from veteran fans.
The genre’s keen second wave has highlighted just how influential Paramore has been in shaping the landscape for today’s hitmakers, listing Billie Eilish, Willow Smith and Chloe Moriondo among the artists who have credited the band as inspiration. Most memorably, Williams and ex-Paramore guitarist Josh Farro gained songwriting credits on Olivia Rodrigio’s record-breaking single ‘good 4 u’ following comparisons to the group’s 2007 hit ‘Misery Business’, with the artist sharing her admiration for Williams following the ruling. Paramore will soon join Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour for its opening run in March, another Nashville native who earlier this year claimed she was “constantly floored” and inspired by the band’s songwriting skills.
We were just a bunch of kids in Tom’s basement fumbling through songs, and I think that if we can continue to do this and keep meeting new generations of musicians, that’s a bonus. We could have never dreamt or imagined that we would get here.
“It’s just a huge bonus,” says Williams humbly of their ever-growing fandom. “We dreamt about that when we were 16 and 17, and 18 years old and now it’s real. It’s how Talking Heads or Fleetwood Mac was for us. They’re a lot older than us, but they’ve never been more real and relevant to us, and it’s crazy. We were just a bunch of kids in Tom’s basement fumbling through songs. And I think that if we can continue to do this and keep meeting new generations of musicians, that’s a bonus. We could have never dreamt or imagined that we would get here.”
Throughout Paramore’s decades-spanning discography, it’s unsurprising that the effects of ageing have frequently been referenced in their songwriting. The track ‘Caught In The Middle’ from their 2017 pop-infused record After Laughter opens with the lyrics, ‘I can’t think of getting old, It only makes me want to die.’ Meanwhile, the group’s latest single, ‘C’est Comme Ca’, opens with: ‘In a single year, I’ve aged one hundred’. In an industry often obsessed with youth, Williams assures that for Paramore, “We don’t ever talk about getting older as a band in terms of like, vanity or trying to remain relevant.” Williams instead pens lyrics about the challenges of personal growth, both emotional and physical.
“I’ve had mental health issues that have affected my physical health. And that’s a crazy thing to realise is, like ‘oh shit’, I have to take care of my brain so my body can keep going,” she explains. ‘C’est Comme Ca’ is an ode to taking care of yourself: “In your 20s, you are restless and sexy because it’s just chaos. In my late 20s, when we were on the road, all I was trying to do was forget about my issues and problems. It’s boring to take your mental health by the reins and start making healthy choices, l it’s kind of unsexy. That’s what the song is about.”
“I still feel like I’m 12 years old, like when we first started playing music together,” York adds. “Any music that I think is unbelievable, I just assume they’re older than us.. It’s funny because I think most new bands we hear are younger.” York jokes that the band is now using TikTok as a way to connect with their younger fan base. Always finding a way to do it their way, ahead of the release of their single ‘The News’ in December, Paramore posted a CD of the track to one of their TikTok fans “GWizzle.” The user posted a video including a short track teaser and confirmed that the first listen of the song would take place on TikTok. Inarguably, the social media app has provided many with the platform to launch mainstream music careers, York asserts the importance for artists to cultivate their own unique sound, and not to get trapped imitating the trending sounds of others online.
“There’s a temptation from the outside to see what is working on TikTok or what isn’t, and you might think, what do people want to hear? Rather than what do I want to do,” says York. “We pride ourselves in never trying to follow the trends to connect with people, and it’s really not like we try to go against that, but I hope that we can be some sort of an example to even one young creative person to see that they don’t have to follow the radio right now.”
Austin City Limits Music Festival, October 2022.
For their latest record, Paramore share that they’ve been inspired by bands from the UK. Williams has especially praised Foals, Arctic Monkeys and Bloc Party as influences for the album, and three express how excited they are to tour here. “There’s something special about every part of the world. What is in the water over there [UK]? I don’t know what it is,” says York. “But there is something tangibly different and intangibly different about music made in the UK versus other parts of the world.” On one occasion, he admits to even changing his desktop background to a picture of a London tube station as he found it comforting. “I know you all had a hellish political climate too,” Williams adds. “I think a little bit of wanderlust is always great for creativity, and for some reason, I just kept thinking about Manchester!”
This is Why enters a very different world to that of Paramore’s last release and the last time they performed in the UK. “If you had never dealt with anxiety pre-2020, then there’s no way that you don’t understand anxiety today,” Williams notes. Their sixth studio album was written amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic, several global social justice movements and the impending doom of the climate crisis. The 10-track album captures the hopelessness, anguish and guilt of never quite feeling like you’ve done enough work to help push for change.
The record’s defiant second single ‘The News’, explores exactly that feeling. ‘But I worry and I give money and I feel useless behind this computer,’ sings Williams. The track details life in an era of information overload and the exhaustion from constant hyperconnectivity to the 24-hour news cycle. It’s an open cry for more compassion, although Williams does feel hopeful: “I think everyone kind of has a little bit more empathy, or at least I hope for the fact that it’s just been a really it’s been a really humbling time for all of us. Everyone has had to start over at Ground Zero.”
Lyrically on This is Why, Williams wanted to explore the anxieties of living on the planet right now, and how someone can even begin to overcome or dismantle that feeling. “It feels really overwhelming. There’s a lot of fear and anxiety and agoraphobia and just uncertainty. But as you get further into the record, it takes an introspective turn. It holds up a mirror,” she says.
The trio state the importance of being able to give back when you can or are able. Although she claims it’s cliche, Williams says it’s about putting your oxygen mask on first to make sure you can help someone else. “If you don’t take care of yourself and beat yourself up for not doing enough, you can’t do any good,” adds Farro. “There has to be a balance of taking care of yourself and your mental health to have enough capacity to actually give back.”
You have to be willing to really look hard at yourself, it’s not about only looking at the shit that’s happening outside your door, you really have to, to examine your ways and, and your, your own systems and structures.
They note that wherever they can, they use their opportunity to get involved and be passionate about activism. During Paramore’s recent show in Florida, they stood in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community by condemning their ‘don’t say gay bill’ on stage. In March 2022, Florida’s Senate passed a bill banning schools and teachers from covering topics related to sexuality or gender identity. They’ve also publicly declared their outrage over the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade.
“You have to be willing to really look hard at yourself, it’s not about only looking at the shit that’s happening outside your door, you really have to, to examine your ways and, and your, your own systems and structures,” claims Williams. Growing up in Nashville, Tennessee they admit to perhaps living a sheltered life and how important it is to acknowledge those privileges. “Growing up where we grew up, it offered a sense of safety that many people aren’t given. That’s just not a given for a lot of people, and we’re trying to understand how we can have a valid presence in other conversations.”
A portion of their upcoming tour ticket sales will also be donated to Support + Feed and REVERB, and fans may expect some surprises along the way. Although of course, these are still under wraps! “The surprise is, that you can maybe expect some surprises,” says Zac Farro. “It’s very exciting for us because it’s been ten years since we played arenas in the US and the UK, the fact that we’re playing venues that we didn’t know we would get to do again,” adds Williams.
While Paramore have never been afraid to make noise, now more than ever, they know exactly what they want to shout about. “It’s exciting, we’ve never had this much free reign,” Williams smiles. “We definitely want to take advantage of the fact that people still give a shit about what we do. You know, it sounds weird to be like, we just want to blow people’s minds, but we’re going to give fans what they’re hoping for.”
Paramore’s new record This is Whyis out February 10th, 2023. Pre-save on Spotify and Apple Musichere.
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