No matter how you try to fight it, your hometown — with its particular quirks, humor, and lingo — affects your evolution. The same is true for bands, and "Las Vegas" is written all over the collective face of the theatrical punks of Panic! At the Disco. Its dedication to showmanship is part of its signature style and remains a central element of the brand despite changes in style and lineup.
With its latest record, Panic! gives fans a new level of danceable energy, at times reminiscent of groups such as the Faint and inspired by the likes of Kraftwerk. After ten years in the business, singer Brendon Urie says he's coming out of his shell, but the old Vegas charm is still there.
Like the album title, Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die, which is a straight rip from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. We spoke to him about his inspirations, what keeps him grounded, and why fans should seriously hydrate before their show at Mizner Park Amphitheater.
New Times: How has the tour been so far?
Brendon Urie: It's been amazing. This is my favorite tour so far out of honestly any tour we've done. I feel like the different things that we've done for the live show, not just with visuals but how we've performed and just the energy of the show has changed so much in the best way possible. I love the dynamic now. I love how everybody reacts and how we interact with the crowd, how we feed off the energy. It's phenomenal.
You guys have this wonderful sense of showmanship. Do you think that stems from forming in Vegas? Where does this theatricality come from?
I definitely think there's a part of Vegas in our live show. I wouldn't give full credit, though. For me personally, my family is very entertaining. They're just performers, and we've always been that way. Yes, the Urie clan is a very interesting family. We're all performers. We all love to entertain. We would spend weekdays, weekends just entertaining each other, getting together and being theatrical; that was always a big part of our family. I've just been raised that way. I'm very incredibly lucky to have been immersed in this because I was raised right for it.
This is your favorite tour, so what's the production like?
We've incorporated a little bit more of what we've tried in the past. We've tried to use video screens, we've tried to do a big light show, and I feel like we did as best as we could with the production we were given. This time around, it's so crazy. We'd done a couple of shows and set up a camera in front of house so we could actually see the show.
When we're onstage, we're not really sure what it looks like from the crowd's point of view. We actually watched it this morning, and I was just so blown away with how well our crew has done in terms of the lighting productions and just the way we've put on a show. Obviously we have to contribute a little bit by playing the stuff, but they honestly blew us out of the water in terms of how hard they've been working.
I think it's just a testament to how much everybody loves their job. I think that makes a huge difference. If you can really enjoy what you're doing, that's going to affect the work 100 times more. It's been phenomenal. We've got video screens playing all kinds of content, transitions between songs. Really it's just 90 minutes straight; it never lets up. There's always something going on. You're never sitting there like, "All right, play the next song." It's a solid 90 minutes of sweating and dancing.
Sounds like your new album. You explore different genres, but the energy always sounds up. It's very anthemic.
Thank you very much. I definitely wanted to do that, to incorporate some life-giving elements, some dance elements. I was spending a lot of time being a part of that world, just trying to enjoy myself. Whereas before, I would have been a little apprehensive in a club, nursing a beer, pointing at people, and making fun or something like a little jerk. Now I was jumping in the middle and dancing and having the best time of my life. I want to make music like this; I want to make something people can celebrate, especially with the songs.
A lot of the stuff in the lyrics, it's all very true of what I was going through in Vegas, and some of the stuff isn't necessarily sweet and happy. It's a little bit darker, incorporating some things I have regretted in the past to have a good contrast with some of the music, to have very serious messages. It's fun for me to incorporate bigger elements like the triumphant beat in a big song, a big chorus, and some kind of big melody to juxtapose that darkness of the message that the lyrics are giving off. I just had the best time making this record. It was a really fun experience for me to explore songwriting and producing a little bit.
Was there a reason for the attitude shift?
My wife definitely played a big part in that. She's been the strength for me in terms of building my confidence. Any time I've felt any doubt, she's always there to pick me back up, or any time my ego gets a little out of hand, she's always there to even me out. It's nice. She's really been my rock. For me, it was nice to feel like I was maturing in a way, if that sounds right.
I think it was easier for me to look back into the past and write songs about the person I used to be, because I wasn't that person anymore. I felt improved. I felt like a new man, so to be able to talk about that stuff, she definitely put me in a new light and made me feel like a different, better person.
Then also, our producer Butch Walker and our friend Jake Sinclair, they've both been huge mentors to me, helping me with any questions I have and really just gave me support in terms of writing and production. I think that's been really important for me to learn. You have to be wrong a lot of the time — actually, most of the time — to learn from that, and they were a huge help.
The title is striking. I read that it's a Hunter S. Thompson quote.
It's funny, because the record was done, and I still hadn't thought of an album name. I didn't really know how to describe this thing. I know that it feels like a character to me. I wanted to describe this character that I'm describing in these songs, and I didn't know how to do it. It's funny that it just happened one day, a few weeks after the album was done and I was really feeling crunched to figure out a name, and I couldn't think of anything. I was watching the movie, actually, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and that line just came up.
Johnny Depp's character is talking about Gonzo, and he's talking about his friend, and he describes him that way: "Too weird to live, too rare to die." That's exactly how I feel. So it actually worked out. At this point, I can't think of anything better or more succinctly said. Hunter S. Thompson got it, hit the nail on the head. It was really cool to incorporate that. It's kind of a hip-hop move, like "I'm just gonna take it."
So are you excited to return to South Florida?
The last time we were there, that was one of the hottest days I think for us on that tour, and it ended up being so freakin' loud. It was so loud that afterwards, I had to sit in a room and try to do the isolation-tank thing. What would sound deprivation do, because I had blown my eardrums out so bad. So I remember it was awesome.
I played a fan in Ping-Pong, and she kicked my ass. It was just a really nice time, but I think we're going to beat it this time. It's going to be amazing. You've got to be prepared to sweat, though. I'll tell our fans be prepared when you come to the show. It's going to be hot, it's going to be loud, and you're going to be tired after the show, but I love you for coming.