"You gotta get it perfect, that’s the thing," bemoans Panic! At The Disco frontman Brendon Urie as he attempts to draw a likeness of his much beloved quiff. Contemplating his self-portrait effort three minutes later, Urie muses, "It’s not bad. I can’t do bodies though, just stick-figures - the face of it isn’t bad, it kind of looks like me."
Whilst Urie might not be renowned for his drawing skills, the Grammy-nominated artist is instead a revered lyricist who is held in the highest regard by everyone who has ever cherished any Panic! At The Disco song throughout the band’s thirteen-year-long existence thus far.
After nine years since his last visit to New Zealand, Urie finally returned to Auckland this year, and Coup De Main caught up with him to discuss iconic P!ATD lyrics...
...love will always prevail and I do believe that... love will always trump hate...
COUP DE MAIN: It’s so wild seeing you in the flesh. You’re like that long-lost friend you talk to once every couple of years on the phone, but haven’t seen in real-life for a decade.
PANIC! AT THE DISCO - BRENDON URIE: I know, it’s so weird!
CDM: True story, when I was 17 my geography teacher got really mad at me because I walked out of a mock exam early to do a phone interview. It was my first ever phone interview and it was you. So today feels very full-circle-ish.
BRENDON: Oh my goodness, I’m glad that came full-circle! That’s amazing. That’s the coolest thing ever.
CDM: For today, we’ve gotten your fans to vote on their favourite Panic! At The Disco lyrics of all time and we thought we could go through some of them and you could share some of your thoughts behind them? Unavoidably, we first need to discuss 'I Write Sins Not Tragedies'. Is it "closing A goddamn door" or "closing THE goddamn door"?
BRENDON: Absolutely. I say 'the', but if you say 'a', it doesn’t really matter to me. I don’t really care, but I know that they all got really mad when I said that it didn’t matter. <laughs> So I’m gonna say it’s 'the'. It’s 'the'! I’ve been singing 'the' for the longest time, but I sing it both ways sometimes.
CDM: What was the inspiration behind the line?
BRENDON: When we wrote that, Ryan [Ross] wrote most of the lyrics on the first album. And that was about that time when his Dad walked in on him and his girlfriend and he said that to Ryan, like verbatim. He said, "Haven’t you ever heard of closing the goddamn door?" Then he shut it, and yeah that was where that came from.
CDM: "What a shame, the poor groom's bride is a whore." - 'I Write Sins Not Tragedies'
BRENDON: Yeah, Ryan’s girlfriend cheated on him. She was a total whore. <chuckles> Absolutely was!
CDM: "Time can never break your heart, but it'll take the pain away. Right now our future's certain, I won't let it fade away." - 'Golden Days'
BRENDON: That was the last part I wrote for that song, the bridge. It came about because basically I was thinking about the gist of the song and how time can be a healer, and as I get older the happier I get. As I get older, I find new ways to make myself happy and what truly makes me happy, what makes other people happy, so I’ve just learnt that over time. Time never has broken my heart, it’s only got better as time has gone on.
CDM: "Never did I think that I, would be caught in the way you got me. But girls love girls and boys, and love is not a choice." - 'Girls/Girls/Boys'
BRENDON: Sometimes you think you’re a certain way, but you don’t really know until you’ve tried it. Maybe kiss a guy one time, dudes. Maybe you go into a bar and you happen to kiss a guy and you don’t like it, [but] now you know. But try it, who knows!
CDM: God loves a trier.
BRENDON: God loves a trier! Don’t try hard, but just try.
CDM: "I’m not as think as you drunk I am." - 'Don't Threaten Me With A Good Time'
BRENDON: I’ve definitely flopped it around being hammered drunk. That’s one that I just like to-- I like to confuse everybody. You shouldn’t know what they are, you’re not supposed to fully understand it. <laughs> That’s what the music is for! I’ve definitely flip-flopped stuff, I love wordplay, I love all that stuff, but that just came from being way too drunk and somebody definitely said that. <slurs> "I’m not as think as you drunk I am." It just happens.
CDM: "Cause these words are knives, that often leave scars. The fear of falling apart. And truth be told I never was yours. The fear, the fear of falling apart." - 'This Is Gospel'
BRENDON: I wrote that about Spencer [Smith] because he had been struggling with an addiction problem for years and years and I was already so fed up. That song came out of a really angry place. I wrote it just trying to be like, 'Dude, you’re holding me down, you’re holding everybody down if you’re not helping yourself,' so really it was just a cry to try to get him to get help. Luckily it worked, but it was a daunting time and that lyric was just, 'The words you say obviously cut to me, cut into my heart and it hurts me so bad, but I’m never going to want to stop trying to help you. So if you truly love me, let me do what I need to do, let me go and do this thing, and we’ll try to help out.'
CDM: "There's never air to breathe, there's never in-betweens, these nightmares always hang on past the dream." - 'Impossible Year'
BRENDON: That’s a summation of exactly how I felt - I’ve had those years. It felt like for a lot of people, especially in 2016, that it was kind of an impossible year. I felt defeated a lot of times, and ultimately with fuckbag Trump whatever, that idiot in office. I think it’s nice to acknowledge that, because then you can move forward. If you say, 'Ah, maybe this wasn’t our best, we’ll try again next year! We’ll try again and again.' Usually I just enjoy ending albums in that kind of sullen sombre tone, a little sadder. There’s something about that that makes me happier in a weird way. I listen to a sad song and I feel better afterwards - it’s cathartic in a sense.
CDM: It’s kind of like a hug goodbye.
BRENDON: Yeah! There you go.
CDM: The imagery in that line is really beautiful, do you put a lot of thought into your metaphors or do they come to you naturally?
BRENDON: Sometimes yeah, if it’s not working out and I know the gist of what I’m trying to get across, I’ll work really hard on it, but most of the time it’s just natural wordplay or natural analogy.
CDM: "I lost a bet to a guy in a Chiffon skirt, but I make these high heels work." - 'Don't Threaten Me With A Good Time'
BRENDON: That’s real; that’s just a real story! The 'Good Time' is basically autobiographical because I just pull from a lot of party-experience. I’ve partied a lot over the last 13 years, and more importantly, it’s fun to be confessional, it’s fun to talk about a lot of stuff. That came from-- I was in Hollywood and I went to a bar, there was a guy in a beautiful chiffon skirt - yes, I know what chiffon is! He was in a chiffon skirt and wearing high heels, he was in drag, I was like, 'Wow that’s amazing!' We ended up talking and hanging out for a little bit, he had said basically, "I challenge you to see who can fit more hot dogs in their mouth" - the bar had hot dogs. So he won, I lost immediately. I thought I was just going to win, I was like, 'Let me redeem myself, who can chug a beer faster?' I lost again, so that was embarrassing. He said, "Okay now, here comes the time for the bet, you have to put on these high heels." I had to wear them for the whole rest of the time I was at the bar - I was only there for another hour maybe. He didn’t make me stand in them all day because that would’ve probably just killed me, I was able to sit down, but I wore them and I pulled them off very well.
CDM: Hands down, you always have the best party stories. Always!
BRENDON: Thank you. Thank you! <chuckles>
CDM: "Champagne, cocaine, gasoline, and most things in between." - 'Don't Threaten Me With A Good Time'
BRENDON: If you’ve never drank gasoline, you don’t know, man. I wouldn’t do it, I wouldn’t recommend it ever. I’ve tried a lot of different stuff, I’ve gone to different parties, especially in my younger years, in my mid-twenties. I was trying a lot more stuff, I was just curious. I’m a curious guy, and I think you can’t fully know until you experience it for yourself, so I was fortunate enough to be able to try a lot of different stuff. Champagne, cocaine, gasoline, and most things in between!
CDM: "Fixation or psychosis? Devoted to neurosis now, endless romantic stories, You never could control me." - 'Far Too Young to Die'
BRENDON: That was Dallon Weekes. He showed me that song - it wasn’t finished yet, it kind of sounded like-- the production just wasn’t right. The arrangement was a little off, so I asked him, I was like, ‘Can I take this song and basically rebuild it and do a different version with it?’ He said, 'Yeah', so that’s what I did, I took his song and kind of reworked it and it made it a little more 80s-synth with what I was going for. I was glad that he let me do that to his song, a lot of people won’t let you do that to their songs.
CDM: I guess when you feel like it’s sort of like a child of yours, it’s hard to let go.
CDM: "I know the world’s a broken bone, but melt your headaches call it home." - 'Northern Downpour'
BRENDON: That was a Ryan and Jon [Walker]-- that was a Ryan lyric. That song, we all knew we wanted to do a tribute song and make it more about fans, but it was more just about love and trying to tie that all in together. It’s easier when you make it about a specific thing. It kind of sneezed out, it wasn’t incredibly difficult to write, but that one held a lot of meaning especially when we started playing it live, then it took on an even deeper meaning and I’m just grateful for that. It was good.
CDM: "Baptized in the river of you." - 'Stall Me'
BRENDON: Oh yeah! 'Stall Me'. I had written that song with Pete [Wentz] and he helped me with that line actually. I just felt surrendered, I felt arrested in love at that point. Sarah [Urie] and I had just gotten together, we’d only been dating a short amount of time. I wanted that feeling like I’m drowning in your love but I’m so enamoured with everything that’s happening, so it’s nice to throw in a description of that.
CDM: "How does a heart love, if no-one has noticed its presence? And where does it go?" - 'Nearly Witches (Ever Since We Met...)'
BRENDON: Yeah that was a lyric I just came up with, I don’t know, it just sounded right. Do you know what glossolalia is? Glossolalia is just when you-- it’s like speaking in tongues, it’s when you just say random syllables and vowels. <speaks in glossolalia> I do that when I sing if I don’t have lyrics yet and it will kind of become a lyric, and I thought that that sounded like what I was saying in glossolalia-form. It just kind of worked out.
CDM: "If love is not enough to put my enemies to sleep, then I'm putting out the lantern, find your own way back home." - 'Folkin' Around'
BRENDON: I wrote that, that was for 'Pretty. Odd.'. That line is-- I don’t want to use hate against people that hate, that is just going to fuel it. I refuse to turn into what those people are, and so if I can’t defeat my enemies with love, I would just give up at that point. Luckily it hasn’t come to that, love will always prevail and I do believe that. That’s a roundabout way of saying, love will always trump hate.
CDM: "Don't you know that those watermelon smiles just can't ripen underwater?" - 'Behind The Sea'
BRENDON: Yeah, we were doing a lot of drugs. <laughs> We had to be on mushrooms when we wrote that, that was absolutely a mushroom-lyric! When you’re high, when you’re on mushrooms, you look at other people and you look at yourself in the mirror, at least for me and all of us [Panic! At The Disco]. We were just-- the smile looks like half a watermelon, it’s like a slice, and you’re just like "hnngggg" and your eyes are the size of the moon. We were just like, "Whooooo!" Tripping out, it was crazy.
CDM: Sounds like 'Adventure Time'.
BRENDON: It was 'Adventure Time', absolutely; Jake and Finn.
CDM: "No-one wants you when you have no heart and I’m sitting pretty in my brand new scars." - 'Hallelujah'
BRENDON: I think you’ve got to build character. I think scars build character, I think you have to be run down and beaten down to really find out who you are, and I like that. Looking pretty in brand new scars, I like that stuff!
CDM: "I hope you didn't expect to get all of the attention. Now let's not get selfish, did you really think I'd let you kill this chorus?" - 'Lying Is The Most Fun A Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off'
BRENDON: I like that. A lyric like that, a song like 'Hurricane', I like playing a cocky figure sometimes - like, you’d really think I’d let you get all the attention? Come on, buddy. It’s like one of those cocky arrogant personas you can throw on and there is something fun about doing that. I have carte blanche to play different characters.
BRENDON URIE’S FAVOURITE PANIC! AT THE DISCO LYRICS:
Watch highlights from our interview with Brendon below...
Click here to read our 2016 Panic! At The Disco interview.