ANDREA SEABROOK, host:
There's something a little bit odd about the alt-rock band Panic at the Disco. Part of it's their roots. These guy formed the band in high school in Las Vegas. They built a following on the Internet with quirky songs and videos - a kind of YouTube carnival sideshow act, complete with acrobats and jugglers.
Panic's first album, "A Fever You Can't Sweat Out," sold two million copies worldwide. The big hit, this song, "I Write the Sin Not the Tragedy."
(Soundbite of song, "I Write the Sin Not the Tragedy")
Mr. BRENDON URIE (Musician): (Singing) Well, I look at it this way: (unintelligible). Well, this calls for a toast. So, pour the champagne, pour the champagne.
SEABROOK: But that was so 2005. Now, Panic is back, a little bit older, a little bit psychedelic and the carnival act is gone. Panic at the Disco's touring now and they've stopped by NPR's performance studio. Welcome to you all.
Unidentified Man #1: Hey, thanks.
Unidentified Man #2: Hello.
SEABROOK: Before we launch right into grilling you about your music, could you just introduce yourselves, starting with you, Brendon at the piano.
Mr. URIE: Brendon Urie.
Mr. SPENCER SMITH (Musician): I am Spencer Smith.
Mr. RYAN ROSS (Musician): I'm Ryan Ross.
Mr. JON WALKER (Musician): I'm Jon Walker from Chicago, Illinois.
SEABROOK: Now, the new CD, "Pretty. Odd," is pretty highly produced. But you have kind of a stripped down set for us today - at least not the horns, the strings. Can we hear your acoustic version of the first single? This is "Nine in the Afternoon."
Mr. URIE: Yes, you may.
(Soundbite of song, "Nine in the Afternoon")
Mr. URIE: (Singing) Back to the street where we began, feeling as good as lovers can, you know, y'all were feeling too good. Thinking of things we shouldn't read, it looks like the end of history as we know, it's just the end of the world. Back to the street where we began, feeling as good as love, you could, you can.
Into a place where thoughts can bloom, into a room where it's nine in the afternoon and we know that it could be, and we know that it should, and we know that you feel it too, 'cause it's nine in the afternoon. You're under the stars and the moon, you're good because you cancelled your (unintelligible). We're feeling so good just the way that we do where it's nine in the afternoon.
You're under the stars and the moon, you're good 'cause you cancelled your (unintelligible). We're feeling so good.
Back to street, it's under our feet, losing the feeling of being unique, do you know what I mean? Back to the place where we used to shake, now it feels to feel this way. Now I know what I mean. Back to the street, back to the place, back to the room where it all began, back to the room where it all began.
'Cause it's echoing in this room, I have (unintelligible) full of our boom…
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. URIE: My brain just goes, sorry.
SEABROOK: Brendon, let me ask you since you're talking. Even before I read any reviews of this album, hearing the first couple of tracks I thought, oh my gosh, this is like Sergeant Peppers, the first transition. You know, the sort of from…
(Soundbite of singing)
…you know, and it goes into a little help from my friends. You know, it comes in the piano. It sounds really similar.
Mr. URIE: That's what we did. Well, yeah, we sat down and we were just like, you know what, we should probably just completely rip this off because this is probably known as the biggest record of all time so.
SEABROOK: I gather you take a little offense to this.
Mr. URIE: No, it's not offense. It's just curiosity.
SEABROOK: Yeah, I'm not the first person to say this, though. I went back and read some of the reviews and a lot of people have talked about the Beatles.
Mr. URIE: Yeah, I mean, we definitely are all fans of them and, you know, I mean, I guess if you are going to be influenced by any band what better band to be influenced by?
Unidentified Man: It's like Christians who want to be like Jesus, you know? We're just trying to follow in someone's footsteps. It might as well be the Beatles. The Schmeatles, you know?
(Soundbite of laughter)
SEABROOK: So, the first album went double platinum, you guys, and you weren't even really old enough to do the champagne toast, legally anyway. You're, you know, 18, 19, 20 years old and you sit down to write your next album. I mean, you know, you got to live up to the first album.
Mr. URIE: Well, you know, I think I had more pressure to get good grades in high school. It felt like more pressure 'cause songwriting's just fun for us. And we don't really look at it like that, like a pressure thing. I don't know, maybe we're just a little bit cocky or something but I think that our new album is better just 'cause we're getting better at writing songs.
So, it wasn't like I thought that album was so good that we weren't going to be able to do anything better.
SEABROOK: Do you wish in some way that you hadn't made it so big with the first album?
Mr. URIE: I don't know. Sometimes you can go back and forth on that thought. But we kind of grew up a little bit in some sort of spotlight and it's strange to say you wouldn't want to be successful. But I think that just our songs are better now.
So, yeah, I would have rather people have heard these but I wouldn't have rather nobody heard the other stuff.
SEABROOK: It sounds like you guys were not quite as happy back then as…
Mr. URIE: Yeah, we weren't.
Unidentified Man: How could you tell?
Mr. WALKER: They didn't know me, Jon Walker.
Unidentified Man: We hadn't met Jon Walker yet.
Mr. URIE: He lights up our life.
SEABROOK: What is it, is it just…
Mr. URIE: You're the light of my life, Jon.
Mr. WALKER: Thank you, bro.
SEABROOK: Is it just getting older you think?
Unidentified Man: Maybe.
Mr. URIE: I think so. I think, you know, when you're a teenager sometimes your emotions are a little bit more drastic than maybe when you're in your 20s. You sort of level out a little bit. So, everything on that one was more about trying to take ourselves more seriously than we actually needed to. And, you know, just more angsty and we're not really like that anymore.
Mr. SMITH: We used to have anxiety disorder, now we don't.
SEABROOK: Spencer, you've had a big hand in a lot of this. What do you think? Are you happier?
Mr. SMITH: Yeah, you know, I think that was a big thing for us. It was hearing a lot of artists or other bands that we maybe listen to, you know, talk about how tough it is to be, you know, in a successful band. And for us we went from being in high school and living in our parents' houses. And everything that happened in the past couple years for us was kind of, you know, a dream come true.
And we just felt that it wouldn't be true to ourselves if we were still kind of acting like we were just pissed off at the world for something. You know, 'cause we were having a great time and we were just excited about writing so we just wanted to make that come through.
SEABROOK: I have to say - if I'm allowed to interject my own opinion.
Mr. SMITH: You are.
SEABROOK: It feels more sophisticated actually, the new album.
Mr. URIE: Thank you.
Mr. URIE: I think it's 'cause we weren't trying to be. I think we used to try too hard to be.
SEABROOK: Well, I would love to have you guys play us out with the third release - yet to be released - track from your new album, "Northern Downpour." But before we do that, I really appreciate you guys coming by. Thank you.
Mr. URIE: Yeah, thanks for having us.
Mr. SMITH: Thank you. It was fun.
(Soundbite of music)
SEABROOK: Check out video of Panic at the Disco performing in NPR Studio 4A on our Web site, NPR.org/Music.
(Soundbite of song, "Northern Downpour")
Mr. URIE: (Singing) If all our life is but a dream, fantastic posing greed, then we should feed our jewelry to the sea. For diamonds do appear to be, just like broken glass to me. And then she said she can't believe, genius only comes along in storms of fabled foreign tongues. Tripping eyes, and flooded lungs, northern downpour sends its love.
Hey moon, please forget to fall down. Hey moon, don't you go down. Sugarcane in the easy morning, weathervanes my one and lonely.
The ink is running toward the page, it's chasing off the days, look back at both feet and that winding knee. I missed your skin when you were east, you clicked your heels and wished for me. Through playful lips made of yarn, that fragile Capricorn unraveled words like moths upon old scarves. I know the world's a broken bone, but melt your headaches, call it home.
Hey moon, please forget to fall down. Hey moon, don't you go down. Sugarcane in the easy morning, weathervanes my one and lonely. Sugarcane…