Panic at the Disco, four barely legal guys more concerned with making music than impressing anyone with their masculinity, have never seemed very interested in hedging their bets with safe styling or simplified pop songs.
They chased Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz online until he gave in and started a record label in order to sign them. It was a good gamble: Their 2005 debut, A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, sold 1.7 million copies, primarily on the strength of I Write Sins Not Tragedies, the band's inescapable single that berated cheaters who haven't heard of closing the goddamned door. Then they toured with such a flamboyant and sexual stage show that even Rolling Stone was compelled to ask singer Brendon Urie and guitarist Ryan Ross if they were dating.
Panic's bass player, Jon Walker, and drummer Spencer Smith talked with Out about the band's sophomore release, Pretty. Odd., their boyhood sleepovers and how much they wouldn't care if all the rumors were actually true.
Out: The video for Build God, Then We'll Talk was one of the most awesomely perverse things I've ever seen.
Jon Walker: The pornomime!
Spencer Smith: We love that video.
Walker: We weren't even planning on releasing that as a single.
Smith: I don't even think it could get played on MTV, so it ended up just an internet release. But YouTube's bigger than anything in the world anyway. We never get asked about it!
Am I going to love the new one for "Nine in the Afternoon" as much? Is it as kinky?
Smith: It's not as kinky.
Walker: It's not as sexual in the sense that there's no mime having mimed sex with a decently hot girl.
Smith: It's definitely the most interactive video that we've ever been in. In the first couple videos we made, Brendon was really the only person in it.
Walker: We're all in this one equally. And there are more colors in it than we've ever seen.
Smith: More sets. More time spent filming than any of the other videos had the budget for before.
How would you describe the look?
Walker: Pretty... Pretty odd.
Smith: [Smiling] Pretty odd.
Walker: You'll have to see it.
Your last tour included a script where Brendon referred to Ryan as his lover and then chased him across the stage, trying to kiss him. Someone at Logo even called it the gayest stage show they had ever seen.
Smith: That's awesome. I guess a lot of bands we like, they just had more interesting stage shows. It seems that a lot of things get thrown into that type of view if it's not the most masculine thing. We just don't like going on stage with skull bandanas and ripped jeans and cut-off t-shirts showing off our muscles.
Walker: We don't have any.
Smith: We don't have any! That's the problem. We can't do that.
So you had to resort to costumes?
Smith: We had to resort to costumes. We wore some of the costumes from Gangs of New York, which I don't think anybody would have classified as the gayest movie ever they've ever seen! But as soon as we put them on... We laugh that off. I guess we can't make everybody happy.
I think you made some people very happy.
Smith: We made ourselves happy.
Walker: We played some pretty big places for only having one record out, and more than anything we wanted to make things as visually entertaining as possible. Brendon had this little character he was for the whole show. We had different moments where weird shit happened. I don't know. I don't think it was too gay.
Smith: Also the interaction between band members is something you don't see as much as you used to. We really are good friends, and there are a lot of bands that hate each other. But you used to have these whatever, like Jimmy Page and --
Walker: And Robert Plant, fucking hugging each other on the stage --
Smith: Singing into the same microphone.
Walker: Singing into the same goddamned microphone!
Smith: Yeah. Band interaction, I guess, can sometimes be confused for homosexuality. But it's not, in our case.
Do you think your gay fans are confused about you?
Smith: Me and Ryan just, over the past summer, both recently purchased our first houses. We used the same interior decorator, and she thought Ryan was gay for the first three months! And I had to tell her that he had had a girlfriend for a year and a half. So -- we have talked about it. For whatever reason our personal taste and preference in art and for videos and artwork appeals like that.
Walker: I think everybody's just too afraid to have a good time. Everybody's gotta loosen up a little bit.
Smith: We don't care who likes us -- or who dislikes us.
Walker: And what's the problem if Ryan and Brendon were actually dating, you know? There's not really any problem with that.
Smith: Because they might be.
What's the gayest thing Panic has ever done?
Walker: That's such a mean word!
I mean it in the good way, I promise!
Smith: Well, here's the thing. I've known Ryan since I was five years old, and we used to live down the street from each other, so we would sleep over. So I can say that I've slept in a twin-sized bed with Ryan Ross -- more than once.
How was it?
Smith: I got great sleep. It was tight. It was uncomfortable, because there's not a lot of room, but...
Ryan Ross -- good in bed?
Smith: I'm not going to answer that!
Sorry, that was a really cheap set-up.
Smith: [Laughing] Yeah.
Walker: I slept with Ryan in a twin bed less than two months ago! It was the most comfortable sleep I've ever had.
Pretty. Odd. (Decaydance/Fueled by Ramen) will be released on March 25, and Panic will headline this year's Honda Civic Tour starting April 10.