Paramore singer Hayley Williams likes to blow stuff up.
“There was an old toilet behind the studio where we were making [our platinum-selling album] Riot,” the feisty 20-year-old tells SPIN.com. “One of the guys had some dynamite, and I was filming it, and I actually got so afraid that the ceramic bowl would blow up and the shards would come at me that all you hear [on the video] is me running, and it’s like Blair Witch Project and then the camera turns off…. If you showed that to anyone and said the person filming that died, they would believe it. But I’m still here.”
Fortunately, for Paramore fans. But last spring Williams’ appetite for destruction nearly cost her — and we’re not talking about a finger or two.
After an exhausting year of touring, Paramore found themselves on the verge of blowing apart. The high school friends from Nashville were fighting — frequent bouts of arguing, followed by strained silence. Williams had become a media darling, pushing her bandmates to the sidelines, causing envy and distrust. Rampant speculation that she was pregnant by boyfriend Chad Gilbert of New Found Glory didn’t help; neither did rumors that she was going to leave Paramore for a solocareer.
The quartet’s troubles came to a head in February 2008 when they canceled their European tour,citing “internal issues.” “It got to the point where we were like, ‘What’s even the point ofthis anymore?'” says Williams.
The band members were tired… and tired of each other — so they headed home to Tennessee for a time out.
A few months passed. The once-close friends barely spoke.
That fall, Williams’ called everyone together to audition for the soundtrack to blockbuster vampire movie Twilight.Paramore got the job, and set about to write and record a pair of new tracks with producer Rob Cavallo (Green Day, My Chemical Romance). Pleased with the results, the band regrouped in a friend’s studio to penmaterial for a new Paramore record.
But soon, everyone’s frustration returned. Unwilling to give up on the band — or her friends — Williams had a thought: Why not make the new songs about the emotions they were all feeling?
“The record is about our band,” she says of the yet-untitled album, set for a September release. “It’s about the things we’ve gone through and the times we’ve hurt each other. It’s like a diary or log of everything we’ve dealt with to keep this band going. [The songs] opened up conversations and sort of mended things because we were able to talk.”
On new tune “Ignorance,” for example, Williams vents: “It’s about how I’ve felt judged, singled out, and betrayed.” She says the song’s emotion was stuck inside her head — and it was her writing partner, equally miffed guitarist Josh Farro, whose angst-ridden playing set it free. “When Josh wrote this song it sounded exactly the way that I felt, and I was able to get everything out.”
The old Paramore teamwork was reborn.
On “Playing God,” Williams becomes even more venomous with an unidentified bandmate: “You don’t deserve a point of view if the only thing you see is you.” This line, she says, sums up one of her emotional goals: “I never want to not be able to put myself in someone else’s shoes… [the song] is making a promise to myself that I’m not going to be hypocritical.”
At first, the guys weren’t exactly stoked with the lyrics. Says Wliiiams: “They were like, ‘This is about us!?! That sucks — we have to play this every night!?!'” And I was like, ‘I can’t be wrong about how I feel.'”
Bringing her feelings to her bandmates, though, ultimately helped… a lot. “We sat and talked and hashed out our problems,” she says, likening the situation to the one depicted in Metallica’s 2004 documentary Some Kind of Monster, in which the metal band recruit a therapist to help quell their tensions. “Everyone just talked about their fears, doubts, and angers — and what are you going to do but just accept it?”
With their emotions exposed, rather than pent up, the band was able to write songs faster than ever. And with Cavallo producing, the tracks have a sonic edginess befitting the band’s raw feelings. “They sound fearless!” says Williams.
This week, 15 months after a tour nearly split up the band, Paramore kicks off a summer jaunt in support of SPIN cover stars No Doubt. Williams is stoked — one of her rock idols is frontwoman Gwen Stefani. “I remember seeing the “Don’t Speak” video on MTV,” Williams says. “When I was young I wasn’t really allowed to watch MTV, or listen to much good music, but I snuck it.”