Panic! at the Disco Interview: Brendon Urie on Celebrating Life, ‘The End of All Things’ + The Human Rights Campaign [EXCLUSIVE]
Speaking with Brendon Urie is like channeling Panic! at the Disco's latest album into a conversation. Both the singer and 'Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die!' are energetic, eloquent and unrelentingly optimistic.
The album, Brendon explains to PopCrush, is inspired by his desire to celebrate life. And from the album's lead single, 'Miss Jackson,' to the emotional 'The End of All Things,' he does just that.
When we chatted with Brendon, his positivity was evident as he talked about turning a new page in his life, working with the Human Rights Campaign and responding to Westboro Baptist Church protesters. Check it all out below!
I read that the new album was, in part, inspired by celebrating life. How did you take that idea and incorporate it into the music?
Musically especially, I wanted to create something sonically that was easier to dance to, more uplifting. A lot of the stuff I was talking about were just all real stuff from growing up in Vegas and some of the stuff wasn’t so happy. Having a very serious thematic element in the lyrics and then juxtaposing with something really triumphant and just a big beat to dance to is a nice contrast to having a dark message. I wanted to celebrate life in a way. I felt so much happier in my life. I felt like I had turned a new page, become this new person. I’ve improved on a lot of different levels and I wanted to celebrate that. I wanted to show people that you don’t have to be angry, you don’t have to be too cool for school. You can just have a good time and dance like no one’s watching. Just enjoy life.
Was there any specific event that made you happier?
It was a few things. Me and my wife were just about to get married when we had finished the album, and that was a huge thing for me. She’s helped me improve myself in so many different ways. It’s been unbelievable. She’s made me a new person and it’s such an eye-opening experience to be with her. I wanted to showcase that, maybe not so blatantly. There’s the one [song] on the record, ‘The End of All Things,’ which is very, very blatantly about her, but I wanted to in a more general sense describe that in different ways. The way that I could go back and be nostalgic about certain things I’d been through in Vegas or things that I felt guilty for in the past, but now I was a new person, so it was kind of nice to reflect on that stuff.
I felt so much happier in my life. I felt like I had turned a new page, become this new person. I’ve improved on a lot of different levels and I wanted to celebrate that.
But I was also going back and forth between where I live now in L.A. and where I grew up in Vegas and going to clubs, where I never would have done that before. I think I was like in that too-cool hipster mindset, where I would just nurse a beer in the corner and poke fun at people who were dancing and having the best time of their lives while I’m just miserable being a jerk alone in the corner. But now I’m that person. I was like, “I want to get up. I want to dance. I want to have some fun. I want to meet people. I want to build myself into the energy and see what happens.” That definitely had some effect on me for this record. I wanted to incorporate that into a sound.
You guys have been getting a lot of buzz in regards to the Westboro Baptist Church protesters picketing your concert. Whose idea it was to come up with such a positive way to handle the situation?
We hadn’t really talked about it beforehand. Westboro Church had been sending us threats for like two weeks via Twitter and other social media. It was kind of funny to see them getting so riled up. We’ve seen their tricks before. We’ve seen them harass Foo Fighters, we’ve seen them harass so many other people so we didn’t really pay any mind to it until they showed up at the show. We had told them, here’s the day of the show, if you guys bring 13 people, great -- we’ll [donate] 20 bucks a head. If you bring 100 people, we’ll donate 20 bucks a head. It doesn’t matter. Just bring as many people as you want to protest because we’re going to donate to a charity that we want to – which we had already planned on doing anyway, but this just gave us another medium to do that. To give more attention. So great, shed some light on stuff we support, actually believe in and want to do. For me, I feel like it was a slap in their face. Like a f--- you because they are so against human rights for some reason and I figure, “Hey, why don’t you be a part of it?”
So that was a fun thing, and I’m really glad we got to because now we’ve got a shirt up on the website and all profits go to [the Human Rights Campaign]. That’s something we’ve wanted to do for a while, and I like working with charities and I think it’s very important for people to understand that you can be open-minded. You don’t have to be the same as anybody else, but you can support -- just concerning human rights in general. I think it’s a beautiful thing. It’s a nice way to let people know exactly who we are and what we believe in.
I was going to ask you about the T-shirts. How did that come about?
Well, we had talked about it beforehand, before Westboro got involved, about doing a shirt involving ‘Girls/Girls/Boys.’ It’s such a strong message that I wanted to share with everybody. We talked about some kind of shirt and then we started talking to the people at HRC and that just got even better because they got really excited about it. It’s like, great, let’s run with this thing. Honestly, it became this organic process where everybody was on the same page. Yeah, let’s have fun with this and see what we can do. It was as simple as that. It’s a really simple decision to do something that we always wanted to do and it just kind of worked out around that timeline. Westboro jumped on it and gave us more attention to something that we love.
Has Westboro reached out to you since that concert?
No ... Actually, I haven’t checked my timeline to see if they have yet, but it’s so funny because I went through their timeline, their Twitter profile, and they’re just obviously attention seekers and they’ll tweet at anybody. They’re tweeting at like Katy Perry and Pink and everybody. It doesn’t matter who you are. It’s like, “Oh, yeah, you said something about how everybody’s equal. Here’s why they’re not ... ” It’s like, “Oh, OK, cool. Everybody knows you’re a joke so we don’t care.” But I haven’t heard from them.
I was at the show last night (Aug. 5), and it was incredible! That was the second time you’ve played the Theater at Madison Square Garden, right? How did it feel to be back?
Yeah, we played there on our first tour ever, on the Circus Tour. We did two nights and it was pretty incredible. It was amazing. It’s phenomenal. I love that venue. I know all of the crew does too. Not just for the sound, but the visual production and everything like that. It’s really nostalgic too. The first tour, it was so long ago but we’ve come so far now. I’m just really happy with how the tour’s going.
I have to say, the performance of ‘The End of All Things’ was one of the coolest concert experiences I’ve ever had.
Thank you, that’s so awesome. I love playing that song live.
You could feel the vibe of the crowd shift in a way I’ve never seen before. What’s it like to perform such a raw song like that when the rest of your set is so energetic?
It’s definitely surprising, in the best way possible. I like being able to do that. A lot of the reason is because, like you said, most of the songs are not like that at all. Not so raw emotionally. They’re more upbeat. We try to keep a nice, high-energy live show. But I feel like it’s a good roller coaster to have a couple breaks where you can get your breath again and have those moments that are a little somber and more sincere. To be honest, it’s a nice breather for me so I’m not running around like sweating and out of breath. It’s really sweet, too, to look out and see everybody’s lights. You know, everybody flips their iPhones on and just has the flashlight going. It looks so pretty. I love it.
Yeah, I thought they turned the house lights at first!
It’s so bright! It’s so bright. It’s kind of phenomenal.
Watch Panic! at the Disco's 'Girls/Girls/Boys' (Director's Cut) Video