The emo-pop rockers expand their studio skills on a new album 

The members of Panic! at the Disco haven’t limited their experimentation to their instruments, as evidenced by their fourth album, Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! (a quote from Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, as well as a nod to their hometown). Produced by Butch Walker, the album allowed frontman Brendon Urie to become more ambitious in the studio.

“I was working with new programs, trying to make myself a better songwriter, but also trying to learn producing,” says Urie. “I don’t think there’s a better person to do that with than Butch Walker. He is an amazing mentor to me. He’s so willing to answer any questions. I was like a little kid: ‘Oh, Mr. Walker, how do you do this?’”

While learning from the production master, Urie also broadened his songwriting technique by experimenting with synthesizers. “I’ve always been a fan but never really knew how to work synthesizers,” he says. “A lot of times the sound would dictate a song instead of a lyric, which was pretty exciting.”

Lyrics, however, still play a central role in Panic!’s songwriting. For Too Weird, Urie wanted the songs to be confessional but not too personal. “I was writing a song about a girl, so the lyrics were true to a memory I was trying to get off my chest. I didn’t want to reveal her real name,” says Urie of the single “Miss Jackson.” “Someone mentioned, ‘It would be cool to use a celebrity name.’ I was looking at videos, and Janet Jackson’s ‘Nasty’ came on. I started singing ‘Miss Jackson’ as a joke. As I was laughing, I was like, ‘Wow, I’m actually in love with this. It makes me excited about the song.’”

The band also used their newfound studio knowledge on “Miss Jackson” by taking the opening hook—written and sung by Lauren “Lolo” Pritchard—and “treating it like a hip-hop song where we sample it. It was a new experience—but it’s an awesome idea.”

Urie is encouraged by the results of his inaugural studio efforts, but remains quick to credit his mentors.

“I like working in the studio. I love doing collaborative stuff as well as my own stuff,” says Urie. “But it was validating when Butch Walker told me, ‘These are good, let’s just add this part.’ A lot of the songs are pretty true to the demos I recorded, which is flattering. But everything got to that point because Butch and [engineer] Jake Sinclair were showing me these tricks of the trade.”

–Amanda Farah


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