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How Paramore’s Self-Titled Album Inspired A Dramatic Reinvention
In Depth

How Paramore’s Self-Titled Album Inspired A Dramatic Reinvention

Recorded after the departure of two founding members, Paramore’s self-titled album saw the Tennessee trio explore a bold new direction.

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When Paramore approached the recording of their self-titled fourth album they were a band in transition. During the four years since album number three, Brand New Eyes, the emo-punks had lost two of its founding members. The remaining trio, however, battled on, and in doing so found a new, more mature sound. Here’s the story of how Paramore became masters of reinvention.

Listen to Paramore’s self-titled album here.

 

The backstory: “There was nothing fun about this part of our lives”

By the time Paramore released their self-titled album, in April 2013, the Tennessee pop-punks were veterans of the scene. And yet they were barely into their 20s. While their peers were worrying about their high-school exams and dates for prom, Paramore were releasing albums to major critical acclaim and tearing up stages on the Warped Tour. And by the end of the 2000s, the emo titans had sold millions of albums and packed stadiums the world over. But growing up is hard for any teenager, and Paramore were doing it under the full scrutiny of the media and the public.

The loss of founding members drummer Zac Farro and his brother, guitarist Josh, was a painful one for frontwoman Hayley Williams. As she explained to HelloGiggles in 2013, “The first few months of going through that, especially when the press outlets got a hold of the story and the blog posts and stuff, it was a nightmare.” The “blog posts” were how Josh Farro chose to air his frustrations to the world, essentially chastising Williams for being the only band member signed to Atlantic Records while the rest of the group were part of the Fueled By Ramen stable. It’s a situation Paramore have always been pretty open about. Nevertheless, Williams admitted, “I could not leave my house in Franklin without seeing a million people… who thought they knew the story better than I did. It sucked – there was nothing fun about this part of our lives.”

Moving on: “We knew we wanted to make a happy sounding record”

As the time came to record the follow up to 2009’s Brand New Eyes, Paramore had to learn how to exist without the Farro brothers. More importantly, the songwriting process was set to drastically change without the creative input of their former guitarist. Prior to recording their self-titled album, Williams wouldn’t get involved with the songs until they were top to bottom finished by guitarist Taylor York and bassist Jeremy Davis. That’s when the vocalist would lay her lyrics on top. This time they changed tack, and it proved to be a liberating experience.

As Williams explained to Coup De Main in 2013, “Making this record was a little scary, but looking back on it, it was all meant to be that way, you know? Taylor and I spent a lot of time talking – all three of us did really – about just what we wanted out of it. It’s funny, we just shot out a bunch of words that we thought would be cool, like, ‘… We want it to sound joyful, we want it… to have this new wave tinge to it.’” So Paramore knew their intended destination. All they had to do was figure out how to get there.

“We knew we wanted to make a happy sounding record,” Williams said. “But we weren’t actually in that happy of a place at the beginning of the process. It took us from letting go of the past and allowing ourselves to grow and change and try new things, and when we finally did the songs just started pouring out. I think it was a lesson for us in being open minded and not putting a feeling or limitations on ourselves.”

The recording: “Making this album was scary, and exciting, and liberating”

Despite not having a drummer or a second guitarist, Paramore entered the studio in April 2012. And, with Nine Inch Nails/Angels & Airwaves drummer Ilan Rubin recruited for the sessions, the band took a leap of faith. “Making this album was really different for us and it was scary, and exciting, and liberating, all at the same time,” Williams told The Aquarian in 2013. The trio stepped into their new era by throwing off the shackles of their own expectations and letting the music be their guide. “I think there was just so much pressure on the album, and at some point we just had to stop thinking about it,” the singer recalled.

Williams continued, “When we got into the studio, we were sort of thinking, Whatever we want, whatever we love, whatever inspires us, we’re doing it. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks but us. We really just needed to have the best time we’ve ever had making the record.” The result was a cocktail of buzzing guitars, bouncing grooves, new wave synth-pop, and even an epic, avant-garde noise-rock instrumental in album closer Future. Paramore’s self-titled album is peppered with the unexpected – xylophones, gospel choirs and ukulele interludes – and yet it still retains the group’s unmistakable energy and anthemic choruses.

The release: “Don’t be afraid to let go, and risk and challenge yourself”

Released on 5 April 2013, Paramore’s self-titled album was their most successful record to date. Alternative Press journalist Scott Heisel hailed it as a “a sprawling, 17-song, 64-minute monster” featuring some of the best Paramore songs yet. Similarly, Kyle Anderson, of Entertainment Weekly, described the band as “making evolutionary leaps into something both refreshingly well-adjusted and genuinely new,” naming Proof and Ain’t It Fun as highlights, the latter scoring the band their first Grammy, for Best Rock Song, in 2015.

In letting go of their past, Paramore were able to move into a bold and adventurous new future with their music. “I would say that the album is about not being afraid to move forward, and not being afraid to grow up,” Williams told The Aquarian. She added, “This record, I feel like every song has its own story, but I think the thread that ties it all together is don’t be afraid to move forward, don’t be afraid to let go, and risk and challenge yourself.”

The legacy: “It felt like we’re a new band”

Paramore were growing up, and their eponymous fourth album was testament to that. As Williams explained to Radio.com in 2013, “The self-titled aspect of the whole thing is definitely a statement. I feel like it’s not only reintroducing the band to the world, but even to ourselves. We wrote this album kind of blindly, just letting it lead us wherever it was gonna take us. Each song felt very different and felt very new and exciting for us. By the end of it, it felt like we’re a new band.”

Find out where Hayley Williams ranks among the most influential female musicians of all time.

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