With the release of fifth studio album Death of a Bachelor, Panic! at the Disco is experiencing a handful of firsts. Not only is it on track to be the band's the first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 albums chart, but it's the first to be helmed entirely by frontman Brendon Urie, now the only founding member left in the Las Vegas outfit.
Fuse caught up with the singer, who not only sounded unshaken by the lineup changes, but more confident than ever. Death of a Bachelor is a record he's deeply proud of, and Urie remains unapologetic of its themes, sound and content. Read on for what Urie had to say about Death of a Bachelor, Fall Out Boy comparisons, new Weezer music and more.
FUSE: I don't know if you've heard, but the early chart predictions are saying you're on course for your first No. 1 album. What would a No. 1 album mean to you?
Urie: Oh my goodness, that's crazy. You know, I try not to look at it or think about it, because it's out of my control. But if it happens? That's amazing. It's up to the people that enjoy it. It's really a testament to how far I can take this thing and how far the fans can take it. But oh my goodness, that's really crazy. At the same time, it's like, I never really focused my time on that. If it happens, great, if not, cool, 'cause then I'm just going to work harder.
You've said you didn't need to compromise on this album. Can you take us through how that happened?
It's kind of been a gradual, organic process. It wasn't like, overnight, "Oh, I have to do this whole thing by myself." Luckily, when the first couple of members left, it was like, "Okay, I need to take the reigns on a couple things, there's two less people to bounce ideas off of," but that's happened over time.
This one, where it was really all me, it was just liberating. I'm able to delegate every situation, facilitate who I want to be in the room with me, or not. That's what I decided: I'm going to do this all myself and if I feel a need to ask opinions, I have enough friends that I've met over the years and got really close with that are producers or songwriters that I can ask their honest opinion, and they'll give me their honest opinion.
It's almost surprising hearing you taking so much control of the band. If you look at old P!ATD clips, you definitely weren't the most vocal member of the group.
No. I was actually told to shut the fuck up all the time [Laughs.]
Oh yeah, dude! It was the joke, like, "Brendon, get back in your fucking cage, we'll take you out when we have a live show!" And I was like, "Ehh, whatever." [Laughs] No, no, I'm joking. It's funny, I really wasn't, because it wasn't my band when I first joined and it was really, "Okay, whatever you guys say!" It's sad! [Laughs.]
And now that is all you, what are you more cognizant about sharing?
I'm able to focus on the things that I always wanted to, but never had the privilege to. It really is a privilege. It's something I'm grateful for and something I respect. Now that it's all me, I'm able to make decisions for myself and any idea I have, I can put it down. For me, honestly, it's not like a self-masturbatory situation where I'm just trying to get myself off. I'm really honestly trying to get the best idea, because in the process of creating, the best idea wins. [It] doesn't matter where it comes from or who gets credit, the best idea wins and I want that idea. It's a fucking shark tank out there, and people are just gonna move on to somebody else. I want to be in that shark tank. I want to be fishing around, punching sharks in the face, getting my idea out there.
Something that feels very "you" is this undeniable Frank Sinatra influence throughout the album—namely on "The Impossible Year," where you're essentially crooning. Was that something you always had in your back pocket?
It's kind of been developed over the years, but I always had a deep appreciation and love for Frank Sinatra. Not only as an individual, but especially as an artist, as a vocalist, as a singer; the timbre of his voice is so rich and the messages he's creating and portraying is so strong. And that's how I felt this time. A lot of has to do with that I've never done that before. I'm always pushing myself to do something I haven't done before, because it is exciting and it keeps it new for me so it never feels stale.
“I'll never compromise an idea artistically because someone else says it's not okay.”
I want to ask about another song, "Don't Threaten Me With a Good Time," which references cocaine on the chorus. You had mentioned some pushback about that—can you take us through that creation process?
I'll say this to start out: I'll never compromise an idea artistically because someone else says it's not okay. Good art should make you nervous. It should put you on edge. It should be like, "Oh shit, I don't know how I feel about this." It should make you question things. It should set you right and make you put your priorities in place because that's really what's going to push everything forward. That's what progress is, in my opinion.
That's what it was. When I presented it, I said, "I'm going to sing about cocaine." It's not my drug of choice really, but I've done it and I had a fucking great time and I'm going to sing about it because this is a party song. I'm not going to hold back and use another word to replace it. And they're like, "Eh, it might be problematic..." and I'm like "Good! I don't give a fuck, I'm using it!" [Laughs.]
I caught you in a recent interview referring to yourself as "a poor man's Fall Out Boy," which was admittedly hilarious. Is this you getting the punchline in first, or are those comparisons irksome?
I'm never honestly irked by them. You know what it is? It's like, I used to being bullied all the time and how do you beat a bully? You beat him to the punch, you make a joke about yourself. You start beating yourself up and then he's like, "What the fuck?" And he has no ammunition!
No, that was honestly a joke. I don't consider myself a poor man's Fall Out Boy. I'm coming for 'em, dude. I'mma crush Fall Out Boy! I saw Pete Wentz last night: I was like, "Watch out, bro!"
In between the last record and this one, you had some cool collaborations with Travie McCoy and 5 Seconds of Summer. Anything coming up or any collabs you're hoping will happen?
It's all been about the album until, really, today. I haven't had a moment until today. Today's the first day I've been back.
I'm a huge fan of Kendrick Lamar. I would love to do something with him. He's so versatile and one of the most diverse artists of this time right now. Halsey's another one. I got to meet her and she's a phenomenal performer. She is such a good singer, has such a good message, she's so good onstage, charismatic. Also, Bryson Tiller is another hip hop dude I'm really into. He's great and I'm really into his album. There's a lot of different bands, who knows what will happen. I'm a huge Kevin Park/Tame Impala fan, he's just donig really great stuff. Mark Ronson too, always loved him.
What else are you excited about in 2016?
We have one-off shows until the Weezer tour and that is so crazy! That is so crazy to say too. I can't believe that's going to happen. I'm such a fucking fan of Weezer. I saw Rivers [Cuomo] last night, and I was like, "I'm so excited," and he's like, "Yeah, yeah, it's gonna be great, man. I'm stoked..." [Laughs.]
What's your favorite Weezer record?
Oh, that's tough. I mean, Blue album, Pinkerton, Maladroit, they're all great. But honestly, the new stuff is crazy.
You heard the new stuff?
Yeah, it reminds me of listening to Weezer for the first time. The first time I heard the demo for "Do You Wanna Get High?," because I was working with Jake [Sinclair] on a lot of stuff, my buddy Jake is producing that album, he showed me and he was like, "Dude, you got to be quiet about this, but listen," and he showed me the song they were writing. And I was like, "This is so good! It reminds me of Pinkerton. I'm so stoked!" Yeah, I had the privilege. Rivers showed me a couple things and I was like blown away. I think people are going to be super stoked.
Stream Panic! at the Disco's Death of a Bachelor on Spotify below: