HAYLEY WILLIAMS is at band-practice. PARAMORE are rehearsing for their upcoming self-titled album tour, but Williams keeps getting distracted. Between phone interviews she's meant to be practicing her parts, but instead she just keeps playing Twenty One Pilots' song 'Car Radio' over and over again instead.
It's fitting then, that Twenty One Pilots will be supporting Paramore on their upcoming return to New Zealand in January 2014.
In anticipation of their 'self-titled' New Zealand tour dates, Williams called Coup De Main to discuss the importance of connecting with fans, the evolution of Paramore's songwriting process and her lessons learnt whilst growing up in recent times...
"We really just wanted to be able to enjoy being Paramore again, because it became so stressful for a while, we were losing band-members and losing friends and it was really hard. The three of us knew that it didn’t have to be like that."
COUP DE MAIN: Paramore is returning to New Zealand in January! Are you looking forward to coming back?
PARAMORE - HAYLEY WILLIAMS: Yeah, we can't wait! We've actually been hoping to re-book more dates since we were on the flight home from our last trip to New Zealand, so we're really ready to go back and see the fans there, and the people there that we just had such a good time with. I mean, you know because you live there, but it's such a great place to hang out and it kind of feels more like a vacation, more than it does anything else.
CDM: You're bringing Twenty One Pilots with you - obviously you're Fueled By Ramen label-mates, but are you a fan of the band as well?
HAYLEY: Yeah, I'm a huge, huge fan. I think they're one of the better 'new bands' or newer bands that are out right now. It's really cool that they're coming on this tour. To me, if I could have them on every tour that we're getting ready to do, they would be on all of them. I just think not only are they incredibly talented, but they're really cool guys too, so it'll be nice for the fans that are coming to these shows. They're such entertainers and I'm psyched for our fans to see them play.
CDM: And it's wonderful that you're making the special effort to play a show in Christchurch. I don't know if you've heard about all the earthquakes that happened down there, but I know it's going to mean SO much to your fans that you'll be playing there.
HAYLEY: Yeah, it's really sad man. I've only heard through fans that are online and that I see on Twitter of different communities that we update, but we're definitely excited to come back there and play a show and just have a good time. Music is, I think, the best way to... not forget, but to just escape for a moment. It'll be a nice night.
CDM: Do you have any favourite New Zealand memories or anecdotes from past visits?
HAYLEY: We swam in the ocean a few times [and] had some really good food. Fish and chips! It's been a while but I think the thing that we remember the most is just how cool all the people there are to us. Like the fans there at the shows, they're really easy to talk to and hang out with, and it's just a really good environment for us. I don't know after now having been away for a few years and putting out a new record - I really don't know what to expect as far as the shows go - but like I said, we've always been treated so well there and we've always felt very welcome and we're just ready to experience that again.
CDM: What should fans look forward to from the self-titled tour?
HAYLEY: We're figuring it out right now! It's a pretty big set-list and it's definitely the biggest show as far as production goes and all that stuff that we've never really put together, so it's exciting. I know it's going to be at least an hour and a half long show and we're going to try and play a little bit of something for everybody. I think that fans who have been coming to our shows since day one are going to be satisfied and I also think new fans who are just coming along for the ride are going to be really happy too. It's awesome to be in this band. We've played so many tours - countless tours - and put these songs together in different patterns and lists and different set-lists and it's nice to not be bored with it even after all these years. I think we've managed to find new ways to play songs or to put a set-list together that make us feel really proud and I know this one's going to be one of our favourites, I can tell that already.
CDM: You've described your song 'Part ll' as being a sequel to 'Let The Flames Begin', so will you be playing those two songs straight after each other in your set-list?
HAYLEY: I can't give away any of the set-list yet. The guys would kill me! <laughs>
CDM: What do you want people to take away from and/or feel while attending your live shows?
HAYLEY: I think for us, the most important part about playing shows and touring, is connecting with fans. At the end of the day it's not really a band and fans, we're all just human beings. I don't want to sound like I'm trying to be too deep about it, but when we play shows, music takes everybody on their own journey - because one song might mean something to me, that means something completely different to someone else. And that's the most incredible thing about playing the songs live for people - looking out to the crowd and seeing the different reactions and the different heart-strings and the things that people are relating to that mean something to them, that's crazy. It's insane that some of these songs, all of these songs, at one point were just me, or Taylor [York], or Jeremy [Davis], just sitting by ourselves messing around on instruments or with a pen and a paper, and then it becomes a big production. Even with all the bells and whistles at shows and all the lights and production gags, at the end of the day we're playing songs - we're playing music and we're trying to connect with people and give people a place to feel like they belong. Hopefully when people walk out the door from our shows they feel moved, they feel connected, and they know that they're important. All those things to me, that's what I wanted out of music as a kid and now being able to make that music is just a really huge blessing.
CDM: As a band, you've had a lot of chart and touring success, but what to you is the ultimate measure of success?
HAYLEY: Wow. Honestly, to me, I don't really know what else we could do that would make me feel any better about being in Paramore. We've had really cool milestones though and we've put out a Number One record for the first time with this new album and that felt amazing - that felt like a success, but I don't know if that's what success actually means to me. I think my core values are all about family and just at the end of the day, coming home and knowing that I'm happy being the person that I am - and that doesn't come without struggles, but to me success is just being able to go home and feel like you connected with somebody.
CDM: Speaking of the new album, congrats! It really showcases how diverse Paramore can be musically, and of course it must be nice to know that it charted at #1 in New Zealand.
HAYLEY: Yes! That's awesome!!
CDM: You must be excited that 'Ain’t It Fun' is the new single! It's such a great song.
HAYLEY: Yeah thank you, we are really excited. 'Ain't It Fun' has always been one of the frontrunners out of all the songs that made it to the record. We always felt something really special about it from the moment we wrote it, so it's kind of crazy that it's on the radio now. I remember demoing it and just thinking how crazy it was that we were putting a choir on one of our songs and it was a lot funkier that anything Paramore's ever done. So hopefully fans are really into it. It seems like everyone's into it. When we play it live it gets one of the best reactions we get all night, and that's saying a lot of our fans because they're crazy throughout the whole show, but I'm ready to play it now that a lot of people are hearing it on the radio. It should be even more fun.
CDM: Did you find the songwriting process for the new album to be quite a different experience than writing your past albums?
HAYLEY: Yeah! Making this record was a little scary, but looking back on it, it was all meant to be that way you know? Taylor and I spend a lot of time talking - all three of us did really - about just what we wanted out of it. It's funny, we just shot out a bunch of words that we thought would be cool like: "Oh we want the record to be... we want it to sound joyful, we want it to sound like this... to have this new wave sort of tinge to it." We didn't honestly know how to get there with any of it, especially because we knew we wanted to make a happy sounding record but we weren't actually in that happy of a place at the beginning of the process. It took us from letting go of the past and allowing ourselves to grow and change and try new things, and when we finally did the songs just started pouring out. I think it was a lesson for us in being open-minded and not putting a feeling or limitations on ourselves.
CDM: In 'Fast In My Car' you sing: "Been through the ringer a couple times / I came out callous and cruel..." How do you juggle those feelings with the fact that you're only twenty-four, you're still young - like you say in the song, you "just want to have fun".
HAYLEY: 'Fast In My Car' was a really good exercise for me in terms of lyrics and [song]writing, because I was in a place where I knew that the three of us had a goal in mind - we wanted to make a record that was exciting for us and exciting for our fans. We really just wanted to be able to enjoy being Paramore again, because it became so stressful for a while, we were losing band-members and losing friends and it was really hard. The three of us knew that it didn’t have to be like that. Some of it was me letting out my frustration with the media and the way that people always wanted to rehash all the old drama and I was just like: "Listen, we’re moving on, we’re moving past all that stuff - it’s going to be a good time whether people like it or not!" This song was good for me because it made me defiant about the fact that we were going to have fun this time, no matter who tries to stop it. It’s cool because when we play it live, it’s so rad to see fans jumping up and down to it and celebrating with us how far we’ve come from where we were two or three years ago.
CDM: I saw your recent tweet which thanked some journalists for talking to you about music instead of asking about popstars' haircuts. If you could change something about music media what would you want to change?
HAYLEY: Just that! I think there’s two sides to it though. Once your band gets to a certain level where... now we do a lot of mainstream stuff too now, which is crazy. It’s cool because it means a lot more people are listening to our music, but when we go to the Teen Choice Awards or one of these bigger award shows they want to ask us about pop-culture, but usually it’s stuff that doesn’t have any real depth to it. It’s like: "What do you think of Miley Cyrus’ new outfit that she’s wearing all the time?" And I don’t really know that I really have an opinion that I think people need to hear. I don’t feel like we have a say in any of that, it’s just empty. I like to talk about things when it pertains to a band. I like to talk about things that matter and music. And the way that we want to connect with people is not through stupid, shallow whatever, it’s hopefully through something that means a lot more than that. There are two sides to it, because I do see the value in the fact that there are people that just want to know what we’re up to as a band now... and it does mean something in the sense that the more people get into our music, the more opinions, the more media and the more interviews and all that stuff, and I can’t pick and choose how all of it’s going to go. I think at the end of the day, no matter what we do, no matter what how pop-py the show or whatever we’re involved with - I know in my head and in my heart that Paramore comes from a world that doesn’t care about any of that stuff. We don’t care about popstar haircuts. <laughs>
CDM: Even though you're singing about your own personal experiences in 'Grow Up', I feel like the line "said I’m done with all of my fake friends" is something that everyone can relate to. It's such a universal part of growing up, for anyone. How do you tell the difference between fake friends and anklebiters, and true friends that you won't ever leave behind?
HAYLEY: Oh man! That's part of growing up - learning the difference and to learn the people that are not in it for the right reasons. And it's not just because of the fact that the guys and I are in a band. I think that for me, Paramore hasn’t been the only obstacle in creating lasting friendships, sometimes people just don’t mesh. For me growing up, I’ve found that I don’t really go out and party and I don’t hang out - when I come home and I’m home, I’m a pretty chilled person. It took me accepting that about myself - that I’m not a real crazy social butterfly - and once I realised that and I accepted it, I started to realise how many people weren’t accepting of that. It was really weird, it was really strange. It was kind of like leaving high school all over again. I think it must happen a few times in our lives because I’ve talked to my parents and my grandparents about it, and it just seems like as you get older your life just tends to whittle itself down to the stuff that really matters, and you start to understand when people genuinely care about you and when you genuinely care about someone else. I think it goes both ways too, once you start to understand who you are - which is a lifelong process - when you start to understand more about it you realise what you do care about and what you don’t. And then when you stop caring about something, then other people have to decide whether or not they genuinely care about you, or not.
CDM: Obviously the band has been through quite a lot of conflict over the last few years - do you pick your battles? How do you decide what’s important to you to fight for?
HAYLEY: The good thing now is that with the three of us, each of us have our own strengths and weaknesses and we all pick up where the other person can’t. So we’re strong for each other, and it’s taken all this time since Josh [Farro] and Zac left the band and it was just Jeremy, Taylor and I, it’s taken until now. And we’re still learning what really works and what my strengths are, what Taylor’s strengths are and Jeremy’s, and how we can ease them together and really make everyone work more smoothly and more efficiently. As far as the things that we disagree on, I just think anytime there’s an issue that the three of us have to give our opinions on when our opinions are differing... I don’t know if it just comes from being a little bit older now, but we communicate better, we communicate the reasons why we feel a certain way. At some point, you’re always going to fight with people, you’re always going to have arguments and disagreements, but there always has to be respect and the three of us really respect each other. Even if there’s something that each one of us has a completely opposite opinion of the other, we always find our way back to a solution that is compromised but also still respectful, and we all understand where each other’s coming from.
CDM: I absolutely love '(One Of Those) Crazy Girls'. Everyone's got a friend that's a Crazy Girl, or has been in that situation themself. What do you think is the best advice to give to someone in such a state of denial?
HAYLEY: For me, when writing the song it was a fully sarcastic song - I think that guys can be quite crazy and girls can be too. I feel like it’s not really something that is just all about one gender, but I live around dudes all the time so I’ve heard millions of stories about how they go through a breakup and then the girl turns absolutely crazy. I always thought growing up like: "No, I won’t be like that - when I go through a breakup I’ll be cool." But then you start to realise really quickly that if that thing happened to you, you’d probably go crazy as well. So I wrote this song kind of pretending that I had been through a breakup and sorta putting myself in the shoes of someone who had come unhinged after being told that their significant other didn’t love them anymore. I realise that that would hurt me - that would turn me absolutely insane! So I think that as far as looking at someone and being like: "Yeah... they’re crazy." I don’t know... I feel like it’s pretty obvious, I don’t really think there’s really any room for denial. But I also think that it takes being honest, and knowing that everyone’s capable of it - even me, even yourself.
CDM: To some artists, performing live feels like acting, like you’re putting on a persona. Do you share that sentiment?
HAYLEY: No, I don’t really feel like it’s acting. I feel like, as far as our songwriting style goes we write pretty honestly about the things that we are going through as people. At the same time when we play shows, it is a very exaggerated, more energised version of each of our personalities - when I’m at home I’m not jumping round yelling and screaming and tripping over things. Well, I’m probably tripping over things, but I’m not playing or jumping or wearing latex. We’re very different people at home, but the people that we are on-stage is just a side of us that our crowd and the audience that comes to our shows... they bring that out of us. It’s just like when you hang out with someone that goes out and parties every night you might be a little louder and crazier with them, but if you’re hanging out with another friend in a coffee shop you might be a completely different part of yourself that’s a little more introspective, a deep conversation kind of person. Different people bring different sides out of each other, and for sure our fans bring out the most hyper and ridiculous side of us because we get so psyched to see everyone when we’re on stage.
COUP DE MAIN presents: PARAMORE and TWENTY ONE PILOTS live in New Zealand on the 'self-titled' tour in January 2014! Click HERE to read the full tour announcement.
Click HERE to read CDM Issue #9.
Watch Paramore's 'Still Into You' music video below...