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ATP! Interview: Panic! At The Disco

In case you needed a reminder of your ailing youth, it’s been a decade since the beautifully eccentric Brendon Urie gathered friends together to form Panic! At The Disco – a band whose first album, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, established the group as a staple in every teen’s music collection for at least the next few decades.

But times are always changing. MTV, which once firmly held Panic!’s “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” in its video lineup and which was instrumental to the band’s success, has all but nixed the music. Panic! aren’t what they were back in 2004, either. With four full-length records, sounds have evolved. Outside the music, they’ve endured some unfortunate circumstances - members came and went, forcing the band to continue as a two-piece at one point. The lineup changed again when Panic! drummer (and longtime friend of Urie) Spencer Smith announced last year that he would take a hiatus from the group to deal with his addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs.

The cynic in me wonders whether the group could have survived without Urie’s optimism.

At 27, the singer has such an insatiable thirst for creativity in his life, and a noble need to spread love, that cynicism and hate seem to only fuel Urie’s art and make his positivity more resilient.

“That actually makes me more appreciative of where I’m at,” he says of certain trials the band are overcoming. “We’re thrown challenges like that, it irks you for a while, and you’re really not sure how to feel. There is so much doubt, but honestly, the things that make me go are the passion and the love that I have for what I do and the appreciation and support we get from our fans.”

So when the Westboro Baptist Church thought protesting a Panic! At The Disco concert in Kansas City last month would make any impact, they were pathetically proven wrong.

In true Brendon Urie form, not only was the WBC hate met with a collective eye roll, but Urie took that hate as an opportunity for something good: a $1000 donation to the Human Rights Campaign. “[The WBC] are a joke,” Urie says. “They’re the most ridiculous people. I’m glad they showed up because people got to see how ridiculous and harmless they are.”

Soon after the protest, the band took their anti-hate momentum and launched a “Boys Love Boys And Girls” t-shirt campaign to offer even more support for the HRC, and soon after released a super-sexy video for their newest single, “Girls/Girls/Boys,” which is sure to piss off the bigots.

So props to the WBC for encouraging so much love-is-not-a-choice art, not that Urie needed any help getting inspired. The singer seems born with such an insatiable need for art that positive, everyday moments are enough to fuel the fire. “It’s so fun to create in moments when you’re just having a good time and being happy with friends,” he says. “That’s where the magic happens, because you’re in a mindset with no pressure. You’re just having a good time.”

It doesn’t hurt that some of Urie’s friends are pretty gifted musicians themselves. Urie says he’s been hanging with other musicians like EDM visionary Dillon Francis and Gym Class Heroes’ Travie McCoy, hinting at a few new collaborations or maybe even some solo releases (Urie and McCoy just released “Keep On Keeping On,” and it looks like there’s more to come).

Whether it’s hip-hop, electronic or rock, Panic! fans are sure to support whatever new material he puts out. As Panic! At the Disco continue their tour this year, Urie says the crowds have been immensively responsive to the band’s newer material, and repeatedly stressed how grateful he is to them. “Our fans are so dedicated,” he says. “They give so much love to us.”

That love was projected last month when fans voted Urie Best Vocalist at the Alternative Press Music Awards, a distinction he says pleasantly caught him off guard. And a lot of that love is sent to Urie in the form of art – drawings, paintings, covers of songs – gifts that reach beyond the meaning of simple fanmail for the singer. “It lets me know that I’m not alone,” he says. “Other artists, we’re not alone.”

It’s a bold statement that’s increasingly crucial for so many to hear: you’re not alone. Whether Urie is supporting fans, fellow artists or individuals told they can’t love who they love, the singer is fighting for some good in this world, and we can’t wait to see how far his positivity can go.

Words by Carolyn Vallejo

Panic! At The Disco are currently touring across the country on their "This Is Gospel" summer tour. Remaining dates and ticket information can be found here.

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