MINNEAPOLIS—On the night before they kicked off their first arena headlining tour to cap off 2006, the members of Panic! at the Disco finally realized what a crazy year it’s been.
“We all had the chance to sit around last night and kind of look back on everything,” bassist Jon Walker said by phone earlier this month from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “We’ve been touring so much, we haven’t really had any perspective on it. But it’s absolutely nuts when you think about it.”
Said guitarist and chief songwriter Ryan Ross, “It’s been totally insane.”
Friends from high school—and barely out of high school—Panic! at the Disco played its first concert in August 2005. Its debut CD came a month later. Now the Las Vegas-reared cabaret-punk band’s disc, “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out,” has sold 1.3 million copies, and its arena shows are filling up.
Panic!‘s rise has been so quick, and its style and approach so different, that the band started earning a backlash almost as soon as it did a buzz. Ross and Walker took the time to better explain their seemingly overnight arrival.
What’s with the theatrical/cabaret side of the band?
Not only are their videos full of circus rejects, cabaret dancers and mimes, but so is their live show. The name of their current outing is the “Nothing Rhymes With Circus Tour.”
Ross: A big part of that definitely comes from us growing up in Las Vegas. I didn’t think (the city) had much of an influence on us, but when I got around more and asked people about `Cirque du Soleil’ or `Phantom of the Opera,’ I realized not everybody can go see those shows like we did.
Walker: We’ve tried really hard not to be just another band that stands there and plays its songs. We make a point of making a spectacle. But everything that goes on onstage relates to the songs in some way.
What’s with the super-long song titles?
Other tracks on its CD include “Lying Is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off” and, wait for it, “There’s a Good Reason These Tables Are Numbered Honey, You Just Haven’t Thought of It.”
Ross: “You spend so much time writing and recording a song, it seems so lazy to just pick a couple words out of the chorus and call it that.”
Walker: “They’re not just made-up titles. A lot of them are lines from a movie or a book or whatever. They’re part of what sets this band apart so well.”
What’s with firing your old bass player?
The one snag in the band’s quick climb was its split with Brent Wilson this spring, which brought Walker into the band.
Ross: “It was tough, because we all went to high school together. It just got to a point where it didn’t seem like he was taking it seriously and was along for the ride. And he started to get into things we weren’t happy about. It was a hard decision, but with Jon in the band now, we know it was the right decision.”
Walker: “This band is everything to these guys, so it’s not fair to them if someone in the band can’t keep up.”
What’s with becoming rock stars before you’re 21? Walker is the only member to reach drinking age—and that happened just two months ago.
Walker: “Nobody in the band is really into drinking and partying anyway. Not that we’re against that, we’ve just been so focused, and we all have girlfriends, too, who keep us grounded.”
Ross: “I don’t think our age makes a big difference, except maybe we’re young and energetic enough to have kept up with our tour schedule this year.”
Walker: “The great thing about being where we are now at such a young age, I think, is that we all still have so much to look forward to. I mean we all still get to start families and have kids, but we’ve already accomplished something that a lot of people work their lives to achieve. So we definitely know how lucky we are.”