While driving through England with the guys, Hayley Williams of Paramore took a few minutes to answer some questions. After a long while with no word from the band following the departure of brothers Josh and Zac Farro, they came back harder and stronger than ever. Their music has taken a more mature turn, and Hayley makes no excuses or feels any guilt this time around. Here’s what she had to say about the new album, touring, and more:
Hayley, tell me about your new self-titled record. What were some of the influences and how was the recording process?
Making this album was really different for us and it was scary, and exciting, and liberating, all at the same time. We lost two band members and it was the three of us [Williams, bassist Jeremy Davis and guitarist Taylor York] who stuck with it and were left to decide, “What does this mean? Is the music going to change, are we going to change? What’s going to happen?”
I think there was just so much pressure on the album, and at some point, we just had to stop thinking about it. Taylor and I spent weeks over at his house trying to write and we would just talk for hours because we were so nervous to start making songs happen.
When the first song came out, which was “Proof,” we started to realize how different this was going to be. The whole process, from beginning to end, felt entirely new. Normally I like to hear the music first, hear what the guys are doing first, and hear the melody. But, this time around, it was sort of all over the place. Every song had its own life and had its own thing, and we had to follow that.
When we got into the studio, we were sort of thinking, “Whatever we want, whatever we love, whatever inspires us, we’re doing it.” It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks but us, we really just needed to have the best time we’ve ever had making the record.
We moved out to Silver Lake, California, to make the record, and honestly, I felt like we were a brand new band. It was a really cool feeling. We’ve been playing together for almost 10 years at this point, and it felt like we were trying this for the first time. Everyone was really open-minded. We just had a really good time. It was so different for us and we just didn’t think too much. We let all different sides of us show.
There are parts of the record that I feel throwback to what we love about the new wave era of the ‘80s, some of the ‘90s, and we let everything come out how it did, and I like that.
Your first big hit off the album was “Now.” Was that meant to send a strong message to your fans after all you’ve been through?
Yeah, absolutely, and honestly, it was meant to say something to us, too. At some point during the time off at home, it really felt like I was asleep for half of it and I wasn’t really living. It was a tough time for us; it’s hard to lose band members. It’s hard to go through life-changing things and there was a point where I had to just wake myself up out of it, shake it off, and the guys, too.
This was the song that gained our confidence back. We’re here, and we have no idea what’s next, but we know that there’s something and we’re going to go for it. If anything, I thought it was an important song to put out first. After sort of a long silence, our fans still supported us, and the band still meant something to them. I thought it was an important message to come back with.
If you could pick one message to support your album as a whole, what would you say it tells your fans?
I would say that the album is about not being afraid to move forward, and not being afraid to grow up. We had to let go of a lot over the last three years and not just with the band, but our personal lives, too. We’re all in our mid-20s at this point, and we’ve been playing music a long time, but there’s been a lot that we didn’t experience until we took some time off and went home and lived normal lives again.
I think we realized just how much we needed to grow up, and how much we needed to grow at all. This record, I feel like every song has its own story, but I think the thread that ties it all together is don’t be afraid to move forward, don’t be afraid to let go, and risk and challenge yourself.
I heard that you almost didn’t release “Still Into You” in fear that it was too poppy. Does it feel good to see all of the commercial success it’s gotten?
Yeah, it does! When we were writing it, I was afraid of what I loved. I was going to let that dictate what we did as a band, because I didn’t want to know that we could be good at that, and do that, and feel so good about it.
I was writing the lyrics and melody for the chorus, and I looked at Taylor and said, “Oh my gosh, can I do this? It sounds really poppy.” And Taylor just said, “Well, do you like it? Then who cares?” From then on, that was what fueled us. It sounds so simple, but it’s easy to forget about what you think yourself.
You’re currently on tour. Where are you most excited to play?
Right now I’m really excited to get to London, but when we get to the States in a few weeks, I’m stoked for Seattle, Anaheim, for Florida. I’m just really excited to hit the stage and play big shows again. It’s been since 2010 since we’ve played shows like this, so I’m just ready. I’m really excited!
You have a big show coming up in New York. Is there anything you’d like to say to the fans attending?
Ahhh, yes! First of all, any show that we do in the Northeast—but really in New York and New Jersey as well—they’re always nuts. I should’ve included them in places I’m really excited to go. Madison Square Garden, to me, that is a pivotal point in a band’s career where we can say, “We’ve done this.” It just feels crazy! People all over the world know about Madison Square Garden.
We’re in England right now, and I’ve been getting asked in interviews what it’s like to be playing at a place like that back in America. So much is riding on it, not in a bad way, but in a good way. We feel like this has everything to do with where we want to go as a band. I feel like our fans deserve it too, just as much as I hope that we will deserve it. I hope we put on a show worthy of that place. I’m nervous, but I’m so excited!
Some of our fans have been coming to our shows since 2005. Especially when we come to New York, the first row is always familiar faces. I feel like the coolest thing to me is that they can turn around and look at this huge crowd at any point and say, “I’ve been here since the beginning. I was the start of this.” They’re literally responsible for the fact that every year we’ve grown a little bit. We’ve been able to play bigger places and try new things and experience new opportunities.
I just think our fans deserve it way more than we do. I’m hoping that when we have the show there, people say, “Man, they deserve to be here.” I’m just ready for it. I can’t say enough, obviously! (Laughs)
Enjoy the rest of your tour, Hayley. I will see you in New York.
Ah, awesome! See you there.
Paramore will play at Madison Square Garden Nov. 13 and the Mohegan Sun Arena Nov. 17. Their new self-titled album is available now through Fueled By Ramen. For more information, go to paramore.net.