Every once in a while during an interview with someone famous, you get yourself into what can best be described as an ultra-casual chit-chat about anything and everything in the universe. It doesn’t happen often, but it happened during Consequence of Sound’s conversation with Panic! at the Disco’s current one-man army, Brendon Urie.
Urie is a Las Vegas native and the sole remaining founding member of the cabaret/electronica/emo-pop act once systematically compared to Fall Out Boy. To his credit, his position at center ring is not a responsibility he’s taking lightly. The newly wed and recently relocated Urie has become a beacon representative of the Los Angeles scenery, a fact demonstrated through Panic!’s recent single “LA Devotee”, which might someday join the cavalcade of other celebrated California tributes we know and love.
Speaking over the phone ahead of the release of Panic!’s fifth album, Death of a Bachelor, our conversation kicked off on a religious bent. It turns out that the band has had run-ins with the notorious Westboro Baptist Church; in 2014, P!ATD offered to donate $20 to the Human Rights Campaign for each church affiliate that showed up to protest their concert. WBC disappointed, sending just 13 picketers to the show, but Panic! did not.
When asked about the matter, Urie politely shouted “fuck them,” railing passionately against those he views as “hypocrites who use God as a loophole” and circumvent blame by claiming “they don’t hate gay people, God does.” Raised by Mormons, Urie’s sense of humor on the subject of the WBC translated well as a motive for donating to HRC.
Our conversation from then on was nothing but pleasant; here’s an itemized play-by-play.
Weirdest thing a fan has ever done?
Lamenting life on the road, Urie mentions a gift the band received during their early travels. “It was this package of cookies, and we were just starting out, so we’re like, ‘This is a meal!’ So we’re touring and I’m snacking on these cookies, and I find a hair in one, a hair in another.” Upon inspecting the remainder, a WTF moment became abundantly clear. “She baked hairs into every … single … one! It’s like she wanted to be inside me!”
Also, some fans like to call him “Daddy.” The origins of the nickname are unknown.
On the comparison to Fall Out Boy?
Panic!’s latest, as well as FOB’s, have something in common — a taste for sampling. Urie says jokingly, “I was in the studio, and I told [the label] I’m taking a break. I’ll come back to this. A couple of weeks go by, and Pete Wentz [of Fall Out Boy] is texting me. He says he heard some of the new work in progress, and he loved it. A while later, I’m hearing some of his new material, and I go, ‘That fucker!’ [laughs].” No beef, just labelmate love.
“I’ll be in the grocery store, and somebody’ll come up and go, ‘Aren’t you that “goddamned door” guy?’ I’m still grateful, though. It’s because of that song that I got to where I can do what I love.”
Would you ever consider pulling a Mike Patton and singing with an orchestra?
“I’m a definite Faith No More fan, and I actually never professionally trained, though I had a vocal coach once whose exercise included an Italian opera song. I would love to do what he did, to learn a new language and really use my range.”
“Definitely The Sound of Music, but growing up Mormon and watching the South Park guys’ work [The Book of Mormon] while getting all of the little in-jokes is fucking funny.” Urie also name-dropped the hit production Kinky Boots, so maybe I need to just cave and go catch up on some plays.
Every single song on Panic!’s debut album, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, is named after a line in a Chuck Palahniuk novel, and that’s no accident. Turns out Urie has a flair for darker tomes. “Fight Club, or really anything from Chuck, is a book you have to read when you’re young and hungry for something deep. You’ll get far more out of it then. I’m also a Stephen King fan. The Shining, definitely.”
OK, but what are you reading now?
“Elvis Costello’s autobiography. His dad played in big band music and jazz, which I loved. I don’t normally go digging into an artist’s personal details like that, but this book is really something.”
What should we expect from the promotional tour for Death of a Bachelor?
“One thing I always wanted to do was set myself on fire and run across the stage in a fire suit, but the insurance won’t cover me. [laughs] I also don’t like wearing clothes, so expect a lot of costume changes and shirtless moments.”
Advice for budding fellow performance artists?
“Be alone. I spent hours alone, practicing guitar, fueling my passions. I had friends, I had a social life, but if you want my advice, be alone to practice and use that passion.” Urie says that his anxiety — the primary origin of the band’s name — came into play too, though he’s gained far more control over it with time. That solo time while recuperating in the early years might well be what helped him hone his craft.