Interview: The Saturn Return of Paramore.

Interview: The Saturn Return of Paramore.

This is not a story about a chosen one. This is a story about how three star-crossed teenagers found each other at the exact right time when they needed connection and community - banding together to become the very best of friends despite being catapulted head-first by an unrelenting universe into nearly two decades of extreme trials and tribulations. Some would call it growing up, but what Zac Farro, Hayley Williams, and Taylor York have collectively experienced as cross-generational beloved band, Paramore, feels somewhat more akin to the infamous astrological phenomenon: a Saturn Return.

When the planet Saturn has completed a full orbit around the sun to return to the same location in the sky that it was when you were born, astrologers believe that this transit heralds entering adulthood and all of its associated challenges and responsibilities. Usually beginning around the age of 27, it seems apt that Paramore's Saturn Return arrived a decade early, having already been forced into a pressure-cooker of adult responsibilities and adult conflict forming the band so early in their youth ("Another fight about money and who wrote what songs" penned Williams in a 2018 op-ed for Paper magazine), and enduring multiple line-up changes from 2005 to a brief period in 2015 where York was the only member remaining in the band when Williams privately left Paramore to focus on her mental health, before Farro completed the trio by rejoining in 2017. Anyone less tenacious would have given up, and would have been valid in doing so ("I’ve wanted to quit this band so many times. Going through all this conflict and drama over the years... I was just like: ‘Man, I feel like we can keep going, but this is not worth it if we don’t want to be here,'" York once told The Guardian), but it's funny how rock-bottom darkness can shine a new light over your life - not to show a way back, but instead to help you forge a new path forward. It's been a rollercoaster, to say the least, but Paramore have always defied gravity with a cat-like mettle.

Click here to order our limited-edition CDM x Paramore zines (i.e. mini-magazines featuring photos / Q&A from this cover-story) || Cover design by: Lola Jacob & Wyatt Knowles.

In advance of Paramore's much anticipated return to New Zealand and Australia this month (during which they will play the biggest sold-out Australasian shows of their career), Coup De Main is invited to visit the band in their adopted hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. Over brunch, I temporarily experience what it's like to be part of the tight-knit trio: an entire secret language of never-ending in-jokes, chaotic ADHD segues, and the unconditional support of chosen family. Even watching the band order food plays out as a team sport - Farro, Williams, and York peruse the menu in search of items they know each other will like, before thinking about what they want to order themselves. It's the opposite of quibbling, and Williams sums it up best: "It's a lot easier in terms of the band, like in terms of our job, to tap into what actual joy feels like when you're able to see it reflected in each other... There's something really nice about community, when it's the right type of vulnerability and a real intimate friendship, where you can all see each other. Like you're mirroring each other in a way, and you're reflecting these-- whether it's accomplishments, or literally just one good moment that you can kind of revel in for a second, it's easier for me when it's shared." And for the record: the only time I evidence anything even bordering on infighting is when York observes aloud that Williams is good at everything (after she excels at drawing a self-portrait of herself) and she vehemently disagrees in embarrassment.

We've seen what happens when celebrities find themselves mentally stuck at the age that they first became famous, but Farro, Williams, and York might be the exception to the rule - having endured half their lives going through the wringer, but actually ending up wiser and with a holistic clarity that belies everything they have survived. When you're drowning, love and hate can appear the same... but there's a new-found self-assuredness surrounding Paramore, whom now in their 30s seem to finally be at peace with a reality where sometimes only you know the truth - but other times you're rudely reminded that you're in a band whose every conflict is psychoanalysed by strangers who feel entitled to rewrite and publicise their own versions of your truth. They may have mixed feelings about their fame, but like everything about Paramore now - Farro, Williams, and York are all in it together.

Today, seated around an outdoor picnic table at Soho House Nashville, Williams mentions that Farro is a great cook (specifically: a dab hand at home-made stromboli), but I would argue that York is the true chef of the band - his invisible influence all over your Para-meal, and meticulous work ethic thoughtfully baked into every bite. As a humble guest, you can't see the chef, but you're grateful to them for their hard work - and as Williams once told me: "Paramore just wouldn't be a band if Taylor York didn't exist." The baby of the band, Farro, is equally as diligent - and also the life of every party, proudly serving quips like Grand Slam winning aces, but always followed up on the side with the bonus nutritional content of an earnest observation or question. And Williams, she of course is your ever gracious hostess - today cheering me on for joining the band in a round of chocolate croissants (yes: chocolate croissants, not shots), off-duty likely to be found at home hugging her loyal dog Alf, and next time you see her on-duty in your future: fearlessly commanding the stage at a Paramore show.

19 years into Paramore existing as a band, that Farro, Williams, and York now find themselves more popular than ever - defying convention as the opposite of the law of diminishing returns - may be unfathomable to the trio themselves, but it's easy to understand for anyone that has ever experienced a hug in song-form via timeless classics such as 'Pool' (a candid magnum opus detailing co-dependency), 'Last Hope' (bottled-up courage), or 'The Only Exception' (the very first love song Williams ever wrote). You see, a good song is like the weather, it can improve your mood and change the way you're feeling... but these are perfect songs and perfect songs are super-powered. Take for instance, "This is why I don't leave the house," from the title-track of the band's latest album, 'This Is Why', or "Lucky for me, I run on spite and sweet revenge / It's my dependence on the friction that really hinders my progression" in 'C’est Comme Ça' - at the heart of every Paramore song is a comforting reminder that we are not alone in this scary and confusing world. And it's in our search to find and understand one's true self, that we look for pieces of ourselves in songs, books, on-screen, or in each other, collecting each souvenir like charms on a bracelet because heartfelt art resonates like nothing else. When Williams wryly observes, "Turns out I'm living in a horror film / Whеre I'm both the killer and the final girl," in 'You First', her self-awareness is tempered by the healing power of hearing your inner monologue verbalised by someone else.

"How the hell are we still here?" is what Williams chooses to write as a message for fans as part of the packaging for the band's Coup De Main zines... and how indeed? Humans are complicated and messy (York sagely describes life as "seasonal"), nothing is simple or linear, and all of that is reflected in the history of Paramore - but that’s what makes them real. We all float in and out of anxiety, living in chaos or turmoil to one degree or another, and as Algerian-French philosopher/author Albert Camus perfectly summed up in a 1954 collection of essays: “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back." Call it divine intervention, or call it the power of friendship, but there's no denying that where others would have crumbled under monstrous pressure, Paramore persisted to learn the hard way that after laughter may come an earth-shattering collision with reality, but there's nothing you can't overcome if you're facing it together with the people that know you best in this world (and love you all the more despite every quirk and flaw). "You can only hope that you have good friendships," says Farro warmly. "And especially when it turns into being your family, like your actual chosen family," he emphasises.

"We're going to be finished with the contract that essentially made Paramore our job and our livelihood - that's going to be done this year and there's a lot of things about that, that feel really, really exciting," explains Williams about soon closing the book on this era of the band's history and the conclusion of their contractual obligations to Atlantic Records. "Anytime you start a project, you don't necessarily start it to finish it, but you want to see something through and feel like you achieved that or you made it through. We're gonna know what that feels like by the time we get done with the Australia run. That's where it starts to feel like: 'Did we complete it?' But I think in our hearts, we know that there's so much further to go and there's more to experience and discover..." Because it's true that you don't have to know where you're going to get exactly where you need to go. Farro, Williams, and York have proven time and time again that they will always find their way home to each other.

Taylor wears: No Maintenance jacket, Nudie Jeans pants, Converse shoes, and a vintage shirt.
Hayley wears: The Great blazer, The Great pants, All Saints shirt, Neute shoes, Larucci earrings.
Zac wears: Corridor sweater, vintage shirt, Norse Projects pants, Scarosso shoes, Otra glasses, and his own hat.

COUP DE MAIN: A few months ago, I spoke to Hayley on the phone and we discussed how this current tour feels like particularly good value for money with Paramore performing 'Crystal Clear' from Hayley's 'Petals For Armor' album, and Zac centre stage for HalfNoise's 'Baby'... but there seems to be a big Taylor moment missing.
<laughs nervously> Hmmm...
CDM: So after 3 different flights to get here today, in very important news, I am here to inform you that I've figured it out for you.
TAYLOR: Oh no...
HAYLEY: I am so excited to see...
CDM: I think Taylor should bring this back:

<all of Paramore chuckle>
ZAC: <stage whispers> How the hell do you have this?!
HAYLEY: I remember those raps!
ZAC: A freestyle every night--
HAYLEY: With a different ending.
ZAC: Did you hear me screaming in the beginning?
TAYLOR: Wowee. We would laugh so hard doing those.
HAYLEY: That could be very easily snuck in... like slid into the show, I think.
CDM: I also have an alternative option, if that doesn't feel like the vibe.
ZAC: WHAT?! You have done your research.

HAYLEY: That's gotta be part of the show.
ZAC: That can be done very easily.
HAYLEY: Honestly, that should be the part that's on the lift. It's a hit.
ZAC: <sings along to 'Baby Come Back 2 Me'>
CDM: I haven't seen the show yet. But I feel like--
HAYLEY: Yeah, this is basically what it is.
TAYLOR: This would fit in. That's true.
ZAC: This needs to make an appearance. You know where it would really go off though too? Is at a HalfNoise show.
ZAC: Everyone would be very, very ready for that.
HAYLEY: Drunk?
TAYLOR: Maybe one day, maybe one day I'll...
ZAC: You're right though. We need him centre stage.
HAYLEY: You're so right. The style too, alone, is--
TAYLOR: Mark my words: one day I'm going to release something.
ZAC: On or off the record? <points at dictaphone> That's on!
TAYLOR: Yeah, I'm on the record! One day I'm going to release at least one song. Just because I have to. It has nothing to do with being the only person who hasn't, I just--
HAYLEY: You can be called CEO... CEO is your stage name.
ZAC: That's such a good name!
TAYLOR: But the thing is, had I started singing even background vocals a long time ago, then it might be different. But at this point, there's no way I would sing in front of people. We're at a point where I already am terrified to play guitar every night; my anxiety is like <makes rocket sound> - so I don't know if people are ever gonna get me centre stage like that.
HAYLEY: Like you missed your moment to grow?
TAYLOR: But I don't know, you never know.
ZAC: That's what's cool about studio projects though.
TAYLOR: Yeah! But those are fantastic ideas, and those bring back very, very fun memories.
CDM: 'Baby Come Back 2 Me' is kinda the opposite of 'Big Man, Little Dignity'... it's 'Two Men, Too Much Dignity'.
TAYLOR: <laughs> 'Two Men, Too Much Dignity!'
HAYLEY: That is what it is like to be in Paramore.
ZAC: We need to make 'Baby PLEASE Come Back 2 Me' - the second song.
TAYLOR: 'Two Men, Too Much Dignity' is good. That's very good.
HAYLEY: We were at a party recently... well, mostly just me and Zac and Zac's partner, Kayla [Graninger], and we were discussing the woes of being in heterosexual relationships with men. It was mainly other people talking about it and there were a few drinks, but at one point, Kayla stopped everyone from talking about their heartbreaking situations that they were recounting and she was like, "I have an announcement!" And basically went on to talk about how Zac and Taylor are really good men - and that they're the only good men.
ZAC: <puts on a voice> "Hayley and I have great men!"
CDM: It's not all men, it's all men except for Para-men.
HAYLEY: Right! <laughs>
ZAC: Kayla would do that drinking or not though.
HAYLEY: She would do that. It was very sweet though.
ZAC: And then I step back in because I had to go to the bathroom, and everybody's cheering and I was like, "Hell no!"
HAYLEY: We were cheering for Zac. We were like: <applauds> "He's a good man! He's a good man!"
ZAC: I turned to Brian and I was like: "This is a good man!"
HAYLEY: Too much dignity.
TAYLOR: Too much dignity!
CDM: Congrats!!
ZAC: That's too much pressure though.
HAYLEY: Yeah, that would be a lot of pressure, wouldn't it? For you guys?
ZAC: I mean, if we've got to carry the torch, I'm fine with that. But it is a little bit like--
TAYLOR: Blood pressure.
ZAC: But I guess it's good pressure.
HAYLEY: Well, I guess it's good you're not a narcissist. <laughs>
CDM: And now you get to talk about yourself for an hour!
ZAC: We're just trying to figure out if I have ADHD.
HAYLEY: I think it's safe to say we all have it.

CDM: On a different note, but maybe of a similar energy - my most vivid Paramore-associated New Zealand memory is from when Rowan Crowe's band opened and threw out raw sausages into the crowd at an Auckland show and it was a horrible mess. What's your own most memorable New Zealand x Paramore memory?
TAYLOR: Wow, that's really up there.
ZAC: I remember [our tour manager] Andrew was so mad.
HAYLEY: Yeah, he was so pissed.
TAYLOR: That's up there! Yeah, they got in trouble for that.
ZAC: What were they called again?
HAYLEY: The Jury & The Saints. That was such a good tour. I have a lot of great memories from that tour specifically and them opening for us. They let me play drums on stage with them.
ZAC: Weren't they wearing robes?
HAYLEY: They wore all kinds of crazy stuff, like masks and things. But any of the times we've been able to go out - like one of the first times we all went as a band, Rowan's family let us come and just hang at their house all day, and we zip-lined and jumped into the pool from various heights. And I think he took us to the quarry and you guys jumped off the cliffs, right?
TAYLOR: I think so.
HAYLEY: He's very famous for taking bands to those cliffs.
ZAC: I can't remember where we went that time? Because then y'all came back. One of my favourite times is when I wasn't in the band and I couldn't wait to take Taylor to all my places that I couldn't stop saying in New Zealand like: "We'll be going to Tāwharanui!" And then he kept saying the things back to me, but I was like, 'You just wait and see it!'
HAYLEY: He was like: "You love saying that word."
ZAC: But I also had a slight New Zealand accent because I thought I lived there.
TAYLOR: The thing that's awesome about New Zealand is that we've travelled to a lot of places but I feel like New Zealand is one of the few places that we actually live - we actually do things and experience culture and we experience the sights.
ZAC: I attribute a lot of that to Rowan too because he brought us to all of that.
HAYLEY: We met him so young and we were so green in general to touring, and his way of life and just the general existence of Kiwi culture, he brought that on tour with us a couple of times and then we finally got to go visit and really see what that is like day in and day out. Another one of my favourite memories is trying Hidden World Gin for the first time. It's my favourite gin. You can only get it there, and it's the feijoa - it's this specific flavour that they make that's only available that time of year, so I'm like: 'Will it happen?'
CDM: I'll start searching upon my return to New Zealand...
ZAC: I'm not a huge fan of feijoa fruit.
CDM: Nope, you're not allowed to come back now, Zac.
ZAC: I feel like I'm dogging New Zealand, but I love--
CDM: Apparently you do have feijoas in America, but they're treated as a weed? Like, people just get rid of them?
HAYLEY: Yeah, sounds about right for America.
ZAC: But you grew up having it! Wait! Can I say something? I'm really excited about the New Zealand show coming up because our friend that we met through Rowan, Scotty [Cleary], is coming back to New Zealand to play with his band And That.
HAYLEY: He's opening for us!
CDM: He did the 'After Laughter' album art, right?
HAYLEY: Yeah, he did! Wow, you really know your stuff. He's great.
ZAC: But there's so many good memories with New Zealand. I'm nervous to go back because I haven't been in so long. It's gonna be so cool.
HAYLEY: It's a special place. A special place!

Hayley wears: Courrèges shorts, Louboutin shoes, Larucci earrings, vintage shirt, and stylist's own socks.

CDM: In your best summary, can you walk me through the origin story of how Taylor York, Zac Farro, and Hayley Williams journeyed from being three music-loving kids in Franklin, Tennessee, to becoming the Paramore that we all know and love today?
I've been thinking a lot about it lately, for all sorts of reasons.
ZAC: You have!
HAYLEY: We're also back home. I was showing a friend who's never been here before - who is from London - like Franklin, where we met and where our schools were. And so I've been thinking a lot about meeting as kids and just that feeling of finding your people for the first time. I really think that the best summary for me, is just that we found each other at the exact right time when we needed each other. Our friendship was built around interest in music, and then somehow it's been 20 years, and we're still doing this. It feels far more valuable that we're still friends. Obviously, it's a bonus that we still get to make stuff together, but how often does that even really happen anymore? That you get to journey through most of, if not almost all, of your life with the same people who really know you and have context for the things that make you who you are, right? I really wish that we understood how all this happened, but maybe that would take the magic away from it.
TAYLOR: As complicated as most of our story is, I feel like that part of it was very simple and organic. It was meeting people at a young age that you connected with and we started playing music together, and we continued to be able to grow creatively, and we still share creatively. As much as we've all changed over the years, there's still a synergy and a connection that we all have. I mean, certainly with music, but we're just all close. We're all friends. And that part of it, I think, is really simple and it can't really be forced. Like, I was supposed to go to a different school in middle school and at the last minute I changed, and had I not gone to that different school in Franklin, I certainly wouldn't be a part of this story, so it was a right place / right time, and we never could have known that this would have been what it's become.
CDM: The universe knew what it was doing.
TAYLOR: Exactly!
ZAC: And also like what Hayley said at the beginning too... I mean, all of it, music, everything, whatever. Almost anybody I see that I've known for 20 years, I literally can't wait to NOT see them. You know what I mean? <says sarcastically> "It's so good to see you!"
CDM: "See you in another 40 years!"
ZAC: "I'm so glad to see you!" But then I'm like, 'Oh my god, I can't even believe I just saw this person. We're so different.'
CDM: Your friends are gonna read this and be so sad.
ZAC: No, my real friends are right here! So they're gonna--
HAYLEY: I'm gonna read it. I am!
ZAC: It's just incredible that you could stay friends with somebody, let alone stay friends and be creative. And also, be so close. I'm not like that with everybody. It's fascinating that we're still friends on top of it because most people are just like, 'Oh, yeah, we work together, we're not as close.' But it's the opposite for us - we are closer than the work we do together, which is just as close as those flies are to that croissant. <points at a chocolate croissant on the table> That's the most valuable thing to me. Because music and art and stuff is amazing, but that comes and goes - you make something and it's just a part of it that's amazing, right? And hopefully it touches people, but you can only hope that you have good friendships. And especially when it turns into being your family, like your actual chosen family - I'm closer to them than half my family.
TAYLOR: If we ever became just strictly business partners, which we've heard happens to a lot of bands, I just think that would probably be the end of it for us. it's just not worth it at that point.
HAYLEY: I don't even like business that much.

CDM: Relatable. In literary theory, 'the hero's journey' is a common pattern found in stories where the hero is called to adventure, challenged by obstacles, and then after a big revelation is victorious in a decisive crisis and comes home changed/transformed. To me, the story of Paramore feels like a classic hero myth, where you left Franklin at such a young age on a big adventure. Do you feel like you've come full circle on that hero's journey yet? Or are you E.T. still trying to phone home?
What a great reference.
ZAC: You're nailing this.
HAYLEY: That's a really good question. Because there's certain things about our career that do feel full circle, that feel almost like we're getting our own Saturn Return as a band. It's a little early, I think we'd have another seven years or something, but then at the same time, there's more openness and maybe more possibility than ever for things to kind of keep going and go in directions that we maybe don't even know right now. We're going to be finished with the contract that was signed and that essentially made Paramore our job and our livelihood - that's going to be done this year and there's a lot of things about that, that feel really, really exciting. Anytime you start a project, you don't necessarily start it to finish it, but you want to see something through and feel like you achieved that or you made it through. We're gonna know what that feels like by the time we get done with the Australia run. That's where it starts to feel like: 'Did we complete it?' But I think in our hearts, we know that there's so much further to go and there's more to experience and discover about what kind of--
CDM: It's a new book.
HAYLEY: Yeah, it's a whole new book, and that's really exciting.
ZAC: What does Saturn Return mean?
CDM: It starts when you turn 27?
HAYLEY: It's around that age, yeah, I think it's different for some people, but--
ZAC: Oh, I didn't know it was an age thing.
TAYLOR: Yeah, it's like when all the planets and when the solar system is exactly--
CDM: It starts in your late twenties, usually around 27, and then lasts for around 2.5 to three years because Saturn takes around 29.5 years to orbit the sun - so your Saturn Return is when Saturn has completed a full orbit around the sun to land in the same place in the sky as when you were born. It's a crazy, crazy time of transition and personal growth - an absolutely horrible time you just have to endure. Adele's latest album was about her Saturn Return.
TAYLOR: Right. Okay!
HAYLEY: Like, big life lessons. That was when I got my divorce. That was the worst.
TAYLOR: When it comes to what you were talking about, there's a part of us that all long to arrive and to reach the thing that you hoped for and that maybe you dreamed of, so there's a part of you that's always chasing that - but especially in art, you also don't really ever want to arrive because that would signal or signify the end of something. We always feel like there's more to reach for artistically and even just as friends. We just want to continue to grow.
ZAC: Isn't that weird too? Also, I do think we need Taylor's solo project. I'm still thinking about that.
CDM: CEO! I'm ready.
HAYLEY: Thank you. <says threateningly to Taylor> If it's not called that...
ZAC: It's funny because there's a moment when you're making a record where you're like: 'I have no more ideas, literally all the water's out of the sponge.' But at the end of 'This Is Why' and when I was making some new HalfNoise music, I felt that same way about both of them: 'Where do we start?!' And then towards the end, it's like: 'I wanna make another one!'
ZAC: Where did that come from? It's so weird. In the middle you're--
HAYLEY: You're like dying--
ZAC: Trying to find inspiration. And then it's weird.
CDM: But that's how you know that you're doing what you're meant to be doing?
HAYLEY: Totally. Yes!

Taylor wears: Vintage jacket and shirt from Moth Food, Nudie Jeans pants, Converse shoes.
Hayley wears: Vintage jacket from No Maintenance, The Frankie Shop pants, Sandy Liang vest, Dr. Martens shoes, Nadri necklace, Larucci earrings.
Zac wears: Re/Done jacket, Levi's pants, Adidas x Wales Bonner shoes, Otra sunglasses, vintage shirt, and Zac's own personal bucket hat.

CDM: In 'Franklin' on your debut album 'All We Know Is Falling', your home had become foreign to you and somewhere you didn't feel like you belonged anymore. On your latest album's title track, 'This Is Why', home now represents a safe space and luxury, protected from the outside world. What else does home mean to you, now that you're all in your thirties?
Friends, for sure. Yeah, friendships - I don't know if it's having multiple friends, but maintaining friendships that feel like you can be anything to them. You could be depressed, you could be excited, you could be yourself. Being in a world where there's so many different agendas and you don't really know what people want from you, to... now, I'm feeling supported and free to be myself, that's one of the more powerful things about good relationships, I think.
HAYLEY: Yeah, I agree with that, definitely. Home as a place is so interesting because I think about all the places I've lived in my life, and I grew up in a lot of apartments, and then now we own homes - like we get to make the world that we want to come home to and feel safe in. It's interesting to me how if you don't have that, if you don't have safe people / relationships, or if you're not taking care of your mind, it kind of doesn't matter where you are. Like, I could be back in Mississippi in a trailer with my mom, or I could be in the nicest, biggest house in Nashville, but it wouldn't matter if you didn't have some other things dealt with or squared away. I love home in the sense of all the things that you can create about it, like as a creative project - I think that that's important. Surroundings are kind of important to me, but yeah, at the end of the day, it's just not really anything without the right people. And also a dog - got to have a dog.

CDM: I just turned 35 recently--
PARAMORE: <in unison> Happy birthday!
CDM: Thank you! And so I also feel like I've grown up with Paramore my whole life - like part of the furniture of the home I've built for myself internally; Paramore has just always been there.
CDM: In 2023, does Paramore feel to you like an extension of your body? Like another limb? Or more like a treasured piece of clothing you can put on and take off when you want to?
HAYLEY: That's a great analogy.
ZAC: Are you a therapist? That's such a good metaphor.
TAYLOR: Yeah, you're killing it.
HAYLEY: Would you want to be our therapist?
CDM: If you keep ordering me chocolate croissants, we can keep going.
HAYLEY: Oh! Man! You want to know something? I think that it's both of those things at different times and sometimes either of those can feel healthy or not healthy. When we took a break after the last record - I always say after the last record instead of after 'After Laughter' because it is too much alliteration - part of it was because we finally had this amazing experience together, the three of us. The album went well, we didn't do a lot of press, we only did these little things that we wanted to do for it and we just had fun. The focus was just: let's get back to the basics of playing music together and being together again. And on tour we just hung out constantly and we partied and whatever, but we took a--
ZAC: You got drunk, like twice.
HAYLEY: More than that, from memory.
ZAC: Be careful when you say partied because that insinuates...
HAYLEY: People might be like: "Oh my god, Paramore had a coke bender." <laughs>
ZAC: We drink. That's all.
HAYLEY: Yeah, we just drank, but we partied so hard.
ZAC: Damn!
TAYLOR: It was partying for our young Franklin selves.
HAYLEY: It was yeah, but we got to choose - we got to voluntarily take the time off ahead of time because we had seen what happens when we just go balls to the wall for too long when we're touring constantly, and doing too much press, and saying yes to everything. That can eat away not only at your own interior self, but also your relationships. So we were like: 'Why don't we spend some time at home and not let our identities be so wrapped up in Paramore?' And I think that the divorce from that identifier for us was important at the time. But it's interesting. As we came back into it, I found myself trying to fight it: 'Your identity isn't Paramore! Your identity is not Paramore so don't let it become that again!' But I think in a way, there are times when that's actually very healthy and it feels very normal for me because we grew up in it. And I don't know what I would do if I didn't have this place to throw some of my feelings into, whether that's lyrically, or just on stage, like physically. It is a part of our identities, but I think it's more just about the moment that we're in and how we allow that to... are we really just putting it on and taking it back off? Are we valuing ourselves based on Paramore? And I think that we've all learned how to not do that, but I think there's still a way to let it be part of our identities and not become like a number.
CDM: You're more than your job, but it's okay for it to be extremely important to you.
HAYLEY: Thank you. That was very succinctly put.
TAYLOR: You should put that in the interview!

CDM: On your last album, 'After Laughter', happiness was an evasive concept that you were chasing - and in 'Fake Happy' criticising. In this modern age, the idea of happiness not only feels like a social currency, but can also be equated to the pursuit of wealth. Have your feelings around what it means to be 'happy', or if it's even possible to be 'happy', changed since you released 'After Laughter' and then created your 'This Is Why' album?
HAYLEY: <chuckles> Yeah, we were all kind of wrecks a little bit during 'After Laughter' but we had each other - I guess that was the positive; that was the good part. <says to Taylor> You talk! You say some pretty good stuff to me about happiness whenever I'm struggling with depression. This is such a vast subject matter.
TAYLOR: Look at life, it's such a seasonal thing. And the season that we were in during 'After Laughter', happiness probably did mean something differently to each of us than it does now, or it's morphed/changed. We were all single during 'After Laughter', and home maybe meant something differently than it does now even. I think we certainly have learned that success does not equate to happiness - you have moments of happiness with success, but it evaporates rather quickly. Man, that's a really, really deep... I would have to really think about that. But I think at this point, the world that all of us live in, being in the entertainment business, there's just a chaos that comes with that and it can sometimes be challenging to find happiness in the midst of that. Maybe even going back to the home thing, that's one of the things, that there's a type of rest and recovery and connection that we had, that has become even more valuable to us as the years go on. Things like accolades or success or whatever, those don't quite fill... it's like chasing that dangling carrot. Every time you grab it, it just gets out in front of you again, so that type of happiness is so fleeting. I'm thinking out loud, so please forgive me.
CDM: Professor Taylor York, please continue!
ZAC: CEO Taylor!
TAYLOR: So yes, it is different - happiness feels different than it was. Also, as you get older, you experience less firsts, and certain things that might have felt vivid and vibrant. Those are the things that might have felt so shiny to you, but they fade a little bit, and they're not as shiny, so sometimes you have to be a little bit more intentional in finding that joy and happiness because if you are stagnant in life, then things fade and things kind of grey out a little bit. But I think we all experience that.
HAYLEY: Yeah, you don't have to be in a band.
TAYLOR: Exactly. That doesn't even really have to do so much with Paramore, that's just being on a journey of life. Sorry, I don't know what I'm saying right now. <laughs>
HAYLEY: No! You sounded good! You said some deep shit.
ZAC: You don't need to say sorry. You did great.
TAYLOR: I say sorry about everything.
ZAC: I know. But you don't need to.
HAYLEY: He's like... it's like, a lady's problem.
TAYLOR: Sorry for saying sorry.
ZAC: You and Joey [Howard] both. I'll say: "Good morning Joey!" He's like: "I'm sorry!" Like, what?!
HAYLEY: I actually feel like it's a lot easier in terms of the band, like in terms of our job, to tap into what actual joy feels like when you're able to see it reflected in each other. I can't imagine doing this alone - so many solo artists navigate it really well, but I don't think I would be able to, I don't even know if I would know what's good. Like, this is a good moment but I'm just here by myself... I don't know if I'd be able to stop and really see that. But there's something really nice about community, when it's the right type of vulnerability and a real intimate friendship, where you can all see each other. Like you're mirroring each other in a way, and you're reflecting these-- whether it's accomplishments, or literally just one good moment that you can kind of revel in for a second, it's easier for me when it's shared.
ZAC: Well, the whole beginning of our band was built on connecting - and what we connected on was music and being musicians, and discovering music together, and playing music together. Connection was the origin of our band. I mean, connection is a funny word, maybe, but you know what I mean by that, like we connect on the things that we connected on, and in sharing that together and getting excited about it.
TAYLOR: We found a community.
ZAC: I don't know why I thought about this, but we had a friend and their dad was really wealthy - he had a house with a pool, and a pond behind it. Our friend really loved these old-school Christmas lights, and I remember we got him them for Christmas and he teared up. He has everything, but just to see this person that could get anything they wanted, and to supply their happiness being gifted something so menial and not big, but to still be connected to things you love - I noticed that, and I was probably 14. He had so much but was crying about these stupid little lights, and it meant something to me. He was still connected to memory - and not disconnected from it because he could pay for anything.
CDM: And that was the day that Zac Farro decided he would go forth into the world and be a good man.
TAYLOR: Ayyy! Ay!
HAYLEY: Exactly!
ZAC: Too much fucking pressure y'all.
HAYLEY: Full circle.

CDM: There's that iconic 'High Fidelity' quote: "What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?" Do you think the music or the misery came first?
HAYLEY: HAHA! I think misery always comes first. Misery is just ever present in the world and that's what leads me to music generally. I'm rarely like, 'Man, I feel so happy, I'm gonna put on a song.' It's always: 'I feel so sad and I'm gonna make myself sadder with this music.' Or my mom always tells me when I'm really struggling to put on something loud and pretend like I'm in that moment in a movie and it's a way to almost dissociate, but somehow it connects me to something tangible. So it's misery for me. What do you guys think?
TAYLOR: I feel like if you're miserable from the music it's probably not the music's fault, like it's probably something deeper than that. Sure there's exceptions where something can really rub you the wrong way, that happens, but that's got to be something deeper within yourself. Honestly, that's when we would need to call you and have therapy and have you help us out.
CDM: Your manager has my number, but don't call me when I'm sleeping 'cuz the New Zealand vs. Nashville timezone situation is terrible.
TAYLOR: Right right right!
HAYLEY: Timezones! We've got to fix that between us and you guys.
ZAC: Definitely music. Always. Misery later. But you said misery first?
HAYLEY: Yeah, that's me and my dark heart.
ZAC: Music first, and then I get sad. I'm like: 'Everything's amazing!' And then I realise that I've got to cry or something.
TAYLOR: Misery first for me.
HAYLEY: I came out the womb frowning. My mom then puts on Wham and I'm like: <smiles>
ZAC: That's why we're all a good team; we balance each other out. "Zac, remember to be sad!" I'm like: "Oh yeah, remember to be happy!"
HAYLEY: Exactly! True.
ZAC: It's a good balance.

CDM: In 'You First' you say, "Everyone is a bad guy / And there's no way to, no way to know / Who's the worst." What's the difference between a bad guy and a villain?
HAYLEY: That's the thing, there's not! I don't even really know anymore if there's much difference between a good guy and a bad guy - it's just the context that you put them in. You've probably had to make choices in your life that felt really complicated, and there's not really a lesser of the evils. Everyone gets put in that position - maybe it's one good time in their life, maybe it's a million little times. I found that after going through the last few years of my 20s and so many huge, big life changes, and also a lot of therapy where I had to reconcile with the truth, that yes, there's been some bad shit that happened to me or my family - I'm thinking of my mom - and as a young kid, the pain was inflicted by a bad guy. These types of people are bad. And my sense of justice from a very young age was: we gotta get rid of these dudes / we gotta get rid of this character. And then you get a little bit older, and you realise how complicated people are and maybe the reason that that guy was so bad is because someone was really bad to them. And I hate that conversation because then I have to start feeling empathy towards people that maybe have done despicable things. But then I realise that for someone out there, I'm that person, like, I've literally been the other woman - and it took me forever to be able to say that out loud. I've done things, or made decisions, or choices in my life where I look back, and that came from a really wounded, terrible place. There's nothing I can do to change how someone might view me in that context, but I can make the next best decision and continue to try to learn from that shit. My sense of justice is still fairly rigid and I get very black-and-white thinking sometimes, but it's not really helpful. It's not really actually helping the world to think that way.
CDM: In our minds, we are all the main character.
HAYLEY: We're all the main character! And I do love that. Most of us, we aren't trying to do the right thing, so it's a main character that's the protagonist, but it's also very interesting. I love movies where the main character is actually just really tortured and complicated and does weird shit. It's a lot. It's all I thought about while we were writing 'This Is Why' and I was just watching 'American Psycho' every day. It actually took me forever to realise when I first watched it, I was young, and I just thought all these things were really happening. As a 34-year-old, I'm like: <sighs> 'No, it's shit that drives you to the point that you feel like you're capable of all these horrible things.'

CDM: Forgiveness was one of the major struggles on 'After Laughter' - what's your relationship like now with forgiveness, forgetting, and grudges? You seem a lot more at peace now on the album, 'This Is Why'.
HAYLEY: Mmmm... Well, forgiveness in the context of what we were just talking about can get really slimy and sticky, but thinking about the actual song 'Forgiveness' and where I'm at with that now, it's more like if you focus on the wrong things, I do think it can be harder to forgive or to access forgiveness or empathy for someone, but if you focus on the parts that you can actually control, it becomes a little bit easier to have empathy. But it's a really uncomfortable feeling sometimes. What do you guys think about it? I've been talking for so long.
ZAC: Lyrically, it's hard to weigh in because it's very personal to you. <says to CDM> I have just been so fascinated that this whole time, flies have been landing on everything besides your croissant.
CDM: They know that I'm a New Zealander and they shouldn't bully me.
TAYLOR: They know!
ZAC: That is amazing to me! I've been watching it like a hawk. There's not one fly that has landed on your croissant.
CDM: Just more special New Zealand things.
ZAC: I've been thinking about putting a thing over it for you, but nope, you're okay... Uhhhh lyrics are rad, we love it... <imitates baby> "Goo-goo-ga-gah-milk..."
TAYLOR: Yeah, if we all answered you wouldn't be able to ask another question.

CDM: Love is a joint experience between people, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it is the same, or even a similar experience for those people, which I feel is a ley line that runs through the entire Paramore back-catalogue. On 'All We Know Is Falling' love is very dramatic and life-or-death, on 'Riot!' love is presented as a game you win or lose, on 'Brand New Eyes' there's the epiphany that love can actually be a good thing, on the self-titled album love is found in the history you share with someone else, on 'After Laughter' love is a shared delusion, and on 'This Is Why' love is healthy and honest - and you're proud to be in love. All of those viewpoints are very subjective, but what do you think is the most important thing you've come to learn about love?
TAYLOR: Ooohhh... That's a big one.
HAYLEY: Does anyone else want to go for it? <talking to passing train whistle> I like him, he can stay.
TAYLOR: He's sweet.
HAYLEY: What have you learned about love, Zac?
ZAC: Me?
HAYLEY: Yeah, I want to hear it.
ZAC: Well, you definitely gotta love yourself to actually love anyone else - is what I've learned. I think I was really good at acting like I loved people until I started working on myself. I was ignoring myself and what I need. It's funny, and also weird, when we talked about Saturn Return, I was like: 'I don't have one!' It was so distracting. And then I was like: 'Holy shit, there was a massive one when me and Kayla started dating!'
ZAC: And - <talking to train> excuse me! I'm talking about love! The train of love is here... I think that it's just loving yourself and then giving yourself grace for not being perfect. <trying to speak over the sound of passing train> Okay, that really is distracting and I can't really...
HAYLEY: You definitely do have ADHD. And it's okay!
ZAC: Give me some tips.
HAYLEY: Welcome. <laughs>
ZAC: That's a hard thing, like we talked about. Love is a hard one.
TAYLOR: Love is hard!
ZAC: It's not easy.
TAYLOR: Love is hard!
ZAC: There's different kinds of love too. It's like a partnership with somebody, or a relationship with bandmates, or friends. But I've been really thinking about what-- <talking to train> You're further away but louder?!
HAYLEY: You've got this.
ZAC: I feel like I'm botching this. It's been too distracting.
TAYLOR: You're good!
ZAC: I think I'm right on the precipice of it, but--
HAYLEY: You're so good, Z.
ZAC: It's really tough to look in the mirror, like the mirror that is a good relationship, or a good partnership with your band, or your friends. It's really tough when you start seeing the things you just threw to the side, like, 'I'll just do that later.' Because those are the things that really hold you back from being present - or held me back. So love is really important because it shows you what to do and what not to do - well, it has in my life, and to become a better person. Obviously, it's so easy to be idealistic about it. Maybe it's movies or books, that make you think it's gotta look one way?
HAYLEY: Yeah, but it is cool. To have a bit more of a realistic impression of it in our everyday lives where it's malleable in this really beautiful way and it grows with you and it shows you all these things, but a lot of that can be uncomfortable. All three of us being in a relationship with each other, and also being in our own partnerships, I feel like we see a new side of Zac. We've known each other since we were 11/12/13-years-old, but when Zac fell in love, it's like we got this whole new piece of him. But at the same time, it also feels like returning to this version of yourself that is the most pure, so you get to reconnect with that very beginning spark that he had when he was only 11. It's interesting that you're forged by fire, that love is like that, where you get to the purest sense of it, but you also get all this other beautiful stuff all compressed into one experience. It's been really good for all of us to experience the friendship type of love at its most potent, and also this other type of love that's a different type of intimacy and vulnerability because it makes us also just better friends to each other.
ZAC: You're right - like watching movies, and it's this idea that love was always an outward thing. I think my point was mainly, that also accepting it was a new challenge. Because to love outwardly, like when it's only an action, instead of receiving it--
HAYLEY: Right!
ZAC: I think all three of us like learning how to receive it. That's been harder for me, personally.
HAYLEY: Totally. I relate to that.
TAYLOR: My last thing: I think love can feel like an escape at times. And that's a beautiful thing, when you feel like you've transcended, but I think learning that when love is hard, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's wrong. Learning that the work is so beautiful and that being two different people loving each other can cause a lot of friction... There's times, probably in a lot of our lives, where we equate that to being wrong and not the right thing. But growing and learning that, that's part of it. And it's beautiful and it's worth it. I feel like that's taken me a long time to kind of understand because you just want it to be this blissful escape, and when it isn't that way, you're like: 'Ahhhh this is wrong!' Okay, I'm done!
ZAC: Imagine if our album title was 'This Is Wrong'... <sings> "This! Is! Wrong!"

CDM: We are raised to expect love to be the place where we fulfil ourselves and become whole, but from the moment we're born, we are also inheriting the learnt traits and behaviours of our parents setting examples for us. The creator of 'Succession', Jesse Armstrong, once said: "We're bent out of shape by the psychologies of our families." Why do hurt people hurt people?
TAYLOR: This might take us another hour.
HAYLEY: I know. I love this kind of stuff so much because I love the psychology of it. I like to think that it's because we get hurt and we think that we can undo that. Or we can redo it in a way. It's the classic thing, especially because of the age we're at now, where we have friends who have kids and it's like: 'I'm going to not do what my parents did that hurt me or that affected me in this or that way.' Obviously, that is the natural reaction, right? To swing the pendulum the other way. But then naturally, that's going to lead to some other twists and turns that you can't know the X variables of. You can try to pad the room and get all the things in place where you're never gonna get hurt, but you can't control the wind, or you can't control what someone else is going to walk in and do. I like to think that we might hurt each other by almost trying to not - like maybe everyone's trying their best and trying really hard to rectify something that went terribly wrong and we just accidentally look the wrong way at the wrong time, or we go this way because we looked at the map wrong and we were supposed to go that way instead. I would love to think it's all a big accidental social experiment. <laughs>
ZAC: I like that point too, that it's accidental, or you might because you're trying to not hurt. I fall into that category a lot more, than intentionally trying to hurt somebody. I've been talking closely with a friend going through a break-up, and there's a lot of different reasons why, but to summarise it in life right now, I think it's because a lot of people want to feel understood and they don't know how to be. And if you're not understood... that's like the biggest, or one of the hardest things - to be misrepresented, or to not be. People just want to be understood, so they lash out of that. And people don't know how to do that well.
HAYLEY: Ugh, it's lonely.
TAYLOR: And also, it is maybe impossible to be completely present all the time. I think that we have the capability to be whoever we want to be, and we can show kindness when we choose to, and show empathy or compassion, but it's almost like when we're on autopilot or when we're kind of asleep, I think a lot of times, that's when those systems that we grew up in can kind of subconsciously come out. Like, a lot of times, maybe something slips out of our mouths, or action, and it's almost like we didn't even know we did it, and then you wake up and you have to deal with the hurt you caused. I don't think that's always the case, but I feel like a lot of times, it's like we're on autopilot, and we're on our phones and we're distracted. And then when you've grown up with these patterns that you've seen and that are etched into you at such a fundamental level, a lot of that stuff's gonna show itself. Sometimes I think we can choose to do something hurtful, of course, but a lot of times I didn't mean to - that thing that you always saw, or that you see your parent respond to something with, and then maybe that situation happens to you, and that is what you know to do. Then you wake up, and you're like: 'Shit!' I don't know... maybe that's also part of it. We're gonna figure it out. This table right now.
HAYLEY: Yeah! <laughs>
ZAC: I'll agree to that.

CDM: Lastly... do you have any plans to play 'Thick Skull' live?
HAYLEY: Yeah, y'all are gonna be the only tour that gets it. And then the rest of the fans in the rest of the world are gonna be so pissed... 'Really?! You went all the way to New Zealand and Australia and you finally decided to play it.'


This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Photos by: Zachary Gray | Styling by: Lindsey Hartman
Polaroids by: Coup De Main | Hair & Make-up by: Brian O'Connor

Paramore's latest album 'This Is Why' is out now.

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