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Paramore may just be that band who have snuck into the collective consciousness without ever holding a crown as grandiose as this minute’s Biggest Band. They’re stealthily famous, invading your mind (and ears) like an intrepid operative trying to keep you unaware. You may not think you know who Paramore are, but you really do—they’re everywhere.
You know those songs. There’s the metal-pop “Misery Business,” exploding into an anthemic chorus courtesy of singer Hayley Williams’ vocal calisthenics. You hear it on the radio every five minutes—you know, the one in Guitar Hero? And then there’s “Decode,” which carries the Twilight movies in lyrical content and aesthetic. You may not know the titles, but Paramore’s songs have definitely lodged themselves in your consciousness at some point.
While the band might be somewhat derivative of the legions of sensitive, well-dressed rockers who have come before them (Thursday, Story of the Year, Fall Out Boy, etc.), there is no doubt they’ve managed to connect with the masses. Well, either that or the publicity machine behind them has more than done its job. In any case, Paramore are here, relevant—at least for the moment—and pretty damn big.
The band are in the midst of touring arenas across the country as the headlining act of this year’s incarnation of the Honda Civic Tour. While they do not get free Honda Civics out of the gig—each member does get a scooter to take home—they do get a healthy dose of adulation, an unquestioned sense of accomplishment and a growing fan base that shows no signs of slowing.
“I never, ever imagined we would get to this point. . . . When we started playing, I don’t think I even knew what an arena was,” says guitarist/principal songwriter Josh Farro. “Each day, it just gets weirder. It’s surreal. . . . I think if it ever starts to feel normal, that would be the day when our friends and family should probably stop talking to us.”
So how did a relatively non-threatening garage band from Tennessee get a platinum record and a Grammy nomination under their belt? The answer lies in the timing. In a pop-culture era soaked in an uncanny love for pleasant vampires and sensitive forays into the occult, Paramore are built-to-order. With the cute-yet-mysterious ginger-coifed vocalist Williams and their themes of young spurned love, the band are a musical outlet for all those Stephanie Meyer readers to sink their proverbial teeth into.
But that’s just part of it. Giving credit where it’s due, and with millions of albums sold and a rabid fan base they are surely due, Paramore write some catchy tunes. Plus, the band’s look, image and lyrical content are a complete summation of their audience’s zeitgeist. These people get them. The music, style, etc. provide them with what they’re looking for. Paramore nailed it on every level, and dividends are being paid in the form of mainstream success. That, and at awful lot of time away from home.
“We’ve basically been touring nonstop for the past couple of years,” Farro says. “It gets kind of exhausting. In the middle of this tour, we flew to the U.K. for a couple of shows, and then flew back to the tour. I’m not complaining, but it takes a lot out of you. I think everyone eventually reaches a point where they need some kind of break.”
Under the tenet of striking while the iron is hot, Farro and company see no pending end to their travels in the near term. After the Honda tour, there are plans to go to Australia and New Zealand, followed by a string of radio festivals. In addition to spearheading mild exhaustion, the constant stay on the road has pushed back the songwriting process for a new album.
Still, with what little time Farro has had to himself on the road, he has managed to flesh out and track new ideas. Time permitting—usually between interviews and sleeping—he’ll set up in the back of the bus with his guitar and some recording gear and let loose.
“That’s really my time to wind down and get away from things for a while,” Farro says. “It’s an escape for me from all the craziness on the road.”
While those escapes are few and far between, Farro is not taking any of his band’s successes lightly. He admits to appreciating the rare nights at home in his own bed, but he knows the pace of his current life is all related to professional success.
“It’s just wild . . . to be on this tour with these bands, see all the Honda stuff everywhere and play in front of these crowds. . . . It’s crazy,” he says. “It’s definitely different, but we’re all still really excited about it.”
This article appeared in print as "Paramore’s Not-So-Wild Ride: How a relatively tame pop-rock band become the voice of theTwilight generation."