Franklin, Tennessee band Paramore formed over ten years ago, and after several incarnations, the band exists as a trio with the fiery-haired, spunky lead singer Hayley Williams alongside guitarist Taylor York and bassist Jeremy Davis. Their self-titled fourth album “Paramore” released in 2013 was their first to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 and this year it earned them their first Grammy for “Ain’t It Fun,” (Best Rock Song) an infectious, new jack swing-style pop-rock toppling some of the best rock acts in the game. Achievements aside, Paramore have enjoyed longevity by growing up with their fans and churning out relatable songs while focusing on the music and having a good time doing so. April through May, Paramore embarked on an intimate tour called “Writing The Future,” which they decided to have booked at North American theaters rather than stadiums and arenas, so fans could really connect with the music and the band. It’s a bold move in a world of lip-synching and back-up dancers, which Paramore would never employ, though you better believe they could sell out Madison Square Garden (they have) or Barclays. The Beacon Theatre will be a special evening on May 6 when the band hits heartstrings up close and personal – though big rocking anthems like “Misery Business,” “Crushcrushcrush” and “Ignorance” would hit hard in large venues, tunes like “Hallelujah,” “When It Rains,” “The Only Exception” and “Still Into You” should really connect with audiences in smaller rooms. Hayley and her genuine yet huge personality took some time to chat with New York City Monthly about an early show at CBGBs, why Paramore is playing smaller venues and what that sweet Grammy win felt like.
New York City Monthly: The Grammys are not exactly new for you, Paramore was nominated for Best New Artist in 2008 and fast-forward to 2015 you have been recognized four times, with a trophy this year for “Ain’t It Fun” for which you won Best Rock Song. I’d imagine the fans are the best validation or marker of your success, but what was it like to be recognized by the industry while winning for your biggest hit to date? You also beat out some stellar rock company: Ryan Adams, The Black Keys, Jack White and Best Album winner Beck – all which are pretty badass.
Paramore: First of all, being included in that category was so surreal. We were fanning out hard. It is such a huge bonus to win a Grammy this far into our career. A lot of people don’t realize that we’ve been a band for over 10 years and that’s perfectly fine by me! I’m down to be someone’s new favorite band any day. But the people who stuck by us all this time are all the validation we ever needed. That’s why I say winning is a bonus. Not to mention, the fact that it was “Ain’t It Fun” made it even sweeter.
NYCM: Paramore has played some major NYC venues over the years – Central Park, Madison Square Garden, Hammerstein Ballroom and you headlined Bamboozle years ago at the Meadowlands. Do you have a particular New York moment that stands out in your career?
Paramore: We played the worst show of our whole life at CBGB’s. Apparently, Tom Petty was hanging out there but I doubt he’d remember…unless we really were that horrible. I was 16, our debut album had only just come out, and I remember feeling like I had no idea what I was doing. The only thing that mattered though was we were playing CBGB’s. It means even more to me now that it’s gone.
NYCM: “Writing The Future” is your spring tour, which is a more intimate outing at theaters including the upcoming Beacon Theatre date (also Grand Ole Opry near your hometown). Why did the band opt for thousand-seaters instead of tens-of-thousand-seaters in an arena at this point? That’s a pretty special show for fans at this stage in your career, not needing binoculars to see you.
Paramore: Honestly? We just miss it. Theatre shows are like no other shows, especially if you’re the ones on stage. Maybe it’s a selfish move on our part? I dunno! I’m more excited than I’ve been in quite some time to go back out and play. What we want is to create a moment in time with our fans that represents this era of our career and of our respective lives. I think giving it the right backdrop is one of the most important factors. We couldn’t really present ourselves in that way if we were back in the sheds or the arenas we were playing throughout most of this album cycle. I don’t have to project myself quite so outwardly, the way that I do when I’m trying to reach the people who are all the way in the back of those big places. That’s a lot of fun for me and I always love being a bit showy… but it feels like the right time to do something different. A little more conversational and hangout-ish.
NYCM: One thing I think Paramore stands for is not taking yourselves too seriously – and I think this remains one of the reasons you have succeeded. People are able to relate to your band because you take risks, have fun and you’re not afraid to be different. What are some of the most rewarding risks you’ve taken up to this point in your careers?
Paramore: Greatest compliment we could ever get! Thank you. The biggest risk thus far has been our self-titled album. Consequently, the biggest reward thus far has also been our self-titled album. It really is proof for me that in life, the things that are worth the most usually take the most risk. Writing a song that feels more “new jack swing” than Paramore felt incredibly risky before we did it but that’s what we were feeling and we went with it. Bam! First top 10 hit. First Grammy. And don’t even get me started on the “don’t go cryin’ to yo’ mama” sing-a-long at shows.
NYCM: Hayley – you stepped out solo to collaborate on some other killer tracks. Do you think your vocals on Zedd’s “Stay The Night” and earlier on “Airplanes” with B.o.B set the stage for Paramore to have such whopping success with your biggest pop hit to date, “Ain’t It Fun” not to mention your other recent hit “Still Into You?”
Paramore: I think it definitely helped my voice become more recognizable so that when we had our own songs, we were already a little bit familiar to those listeners. Radio hits are tricky though! You could end up becoming that faceless, nameless melody that people sing along to without knowing who they’re singing with. I never wanted to be that and that’s why I think Paramore was actually an asset to those two songs I sang on. Being “the girl from Paramore” helped give me an identity where otherwise I might’ve just been a featured vocal. To be honest, it’s much sweeter to have had radio success as a band because we write our own songs. We don’t do that thing where songs get pitched to us and we mess with them until they sound like us. These songs- “Ain’t It Fun”, “Still Into You”, every last one of ‘em- are our lives. I feel so good that we never compromised a thing to get to where we are right now.
NYCM: Can you give fans a clue on what will make “Writing The Future” so special? When you performed at Central Park, there were lights (possibly some pyro) and there was a set and it was intensely energetic. Will you be doing some ballads, duets, unique covers in this more intimate setting? Can we expect some different instrumentation or arrangements on favorite songs?
Paramore: That Central Park show was so fun, I remember it well. But we are an entirely different live band now than we were then. In all the best ways…I truly do believe. I think we are at our best right now and I’m hoping that the subtleties of all that don’t get lost on even the most casual fans. I think it’ll be easier to show off a bit during Writing The Future. This show will be less of the “in your face” intensity and more of a hang out and enjoy music together kind of night.
(Photo Credit: Ryan Russell)