Panic! at the Disco (formerly stylized Panic at the Disco) is an American rock band from Las Vegas, Nevada, formed in 2004. Since its inception, the band's line-up has included Brendon Urie (lead vocals, guitar, piano) and Spencer Smith (drums), and as of 2010, bass guitarist Dallon Weekes.
Founded by childhood friends, Ryan Ross, Spencer Smith, Brent Wilson and Brendon Urie, Panic! at the Disco recorded its first demos while its members were all in high school. Shortly after, the band recorded and released its debut studio album, A Fever You Can't Sweat Out (2005). Made known by the top ten lead single, "I Write Sins Not Tragedies", the album eventually was certified double platinum in the US. In 2006, founding bassist Brent Wilson was fired from the band during an extensive world tour, and subsequently replaced by Jon Walker.
Influenced by 1960s rock bands, The Beatles, The Zombies and The Beach Boys, and preceded by the hit single, "Nine in the Afternoon", the band's second studio album, Pretty. Odd. (2008), marked a significant departure from the sound of the band's debut, and ultimately led to the departure of guitarist and principal songwriter Ryan Ross and bassist Jon Walker, who favored the band's new direction. The duo subsequently formed a new band, The Young Veins, leaving Brendon Urie and Spencer Smith as the sole remaining members of the band.
Continuing as a duo, the band released a new single, "New Perspective", and recruited Dallon Weekes (bass) and Ian Crawford (guitar) to accompany the band during live performances. The band's third studio album, Vices & Virtues (2011), marked a return to the band's initial Vaudevillian pop-punk sound and was recorded solely by Urie and Spencer with producers John Feldmann and Butch Walker.
In 2012, the band added touring bassist Weekes to its core line-up, rendering the band a three-piece, and released its fourth studio album, Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!, in 2013.
On April 28, 2014, the band announced a 'Nicotine EP' with a release date of May 6, 2014. The EP will include 2 previously unreleased songs.
Formation and early years (2004–05)
Panic! at the Disco was formed in 2004 in the suburban area of Summerlin, Las Vegas, by childhood friends Ryan Ross, who sang and played guitar, and Spencer Smith, who played drums. They both attended Bishop Gorman High School, and they began playing music together in ninth grade. They invited friend Brent Wilson from nearby Palo Verde High School to join on bass, and Wilson invited classmate Brendon Urie to try out on guitar. The quartet soon began rehearsing in Smith's grandmother's living room. Urie grew up in a Mormon family in Las Vegas and early on skipped rehearsals to go to church. Ross initially was the lead vocalist for the group, but after hearing Urie sing back-up during rehearsals, the group decided to make him the lead. Initially, Panic! at the Disco was just a blink-182 cover band.
The monotonous nature of local Las Vegas bands influenced the members of the band to be different and creative, and they soon began laying down experimental demos. The band had not even performed a single live show when they were signed. "We never went out and played shows before we got signed because the music scene in Las Vegas is so bad. There's not a lot going on," Smith said. "In our practice space, there were something like 30 bands, and every day we'd walk into that room and hear the exact same death-metal bands. So it kind of influenced us to be different. And to get out of Las Vegas." Urie began working at Tropical Smoothie Cafe in Summerlin to afford rent for the band's new practice space. The four left their educations behind to concentrate on music; Ross had a falling out with his father when he dropped out of college, and when Brendon Urie dropped out of high school his parents kicked him out of the house. He stayed with friends until he could afford to rent an apartment.
Ross and Urie soon began to commit to their laptops the demos they had been developing, and posted three early demos ("Time to Dance," "Nails for Breakfast, Tacks for Snacks" and "Camisado") on PureVolume. On a whim, they sent a link to Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz via a LiveJournal account. Wentz, who was in Los Angeles at the time with the rest of Fall Out Boy working on their major-label debut, From Under the Cork Tree, drove down to Las Vegas to meet with the young, unsigned band. Upon hearing "two to three" songs during band practice, Wentz was impressed and immediately wanted the band to sign to his Fueled by Ramen imprint label Decaydance Records, which made them the first on the new label. Around December 2004, the group signed to the label. As news broke that Wentz had signed Panic! (who had yet to perform a single live show), fans on the Internet began to bash the group. "Almost right away we knew what was going to happen," Ross explained in a 2006 interview. "We had two songs online and people were already making assumptions on what kind of band we were and what we were going to sound like."
Meanwhile, Wentz began to hype the band wherever possible: from wearing "Pete! at the Disco" T-shirts onstage to mentioning them in interviews. Wentz gave a quick shout-out to the band during a press junket on the day before the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards: "I've got a couple of bands coming out soon on Decaydance, one being this band called Panic! at the Disco," Wentz said. "Their record is going to be your next favorite record. It's called A Fever You Can't Sweat Out – get it before your little brother does." At the time of their signing, all of the band members were still in high school (with the exception of Ross, who was forced to quit UNLV). Urie graduated in May 2005 and Wilson and Smith finished school online as the band left for College Park, Maryland to record their debut record.
A Fever You Can't Sweat Out (2005–07)
The band relocated to College Park, Maryland, to record their debut album from June to September 2005. Although they only had shells of songs when they arrived, the rest of the album shaped up fast through the marathon session. "We didn't have a day off in the five-and-a-half weeks we were there, 12 or 14 hours a day," Ross said in a 2005 interview. "We were making things up in our heads that weren't there, and on top of the stress of trying to finish the record, we were living in a one-bedroom apartment with four people on bunk beds," recalled Ross. "Everyone got on everybody's nerves. Someone would write a new part for a song and someone else would say they didn't like it just because you ate their cereal that morning."
The album is split into two halves: the first half is mostly electronic dance punk, while the second half features Vaudevillian piano, strings, and accordion. The band grew tired of writing only with drum machines and keyboards and, inspired by film scores (specifically the works of Danny Elfman and Jon Brion) decided to write a completely different half. "By the end of that, we were completely exhausted," said Ross of the studio sessions. After its completion, "we had two weeks to come home and learn how to be a band," Ross said. The group played their first live show during the summer of 2005 at local Las Vegas music venue The Alley on West Charleston. Afterwards, the band toured nationally on the Nintendo Fusion Tour with mentors Fall Out Boy, as well as Motion City Soundtrack, The Starting Line, and Boys Night Out for the rest of 2005.
Their debut album, A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, was released September 27, 2005. Sales began relatively slow. It debuted at No. 112 on the Billboard 200 album chart, No. 6 on the Billboard Independent Albums chart, and No. 1 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart, with nearly 10,000 albums sold in the first week of release. Within a span of four months, Panic! would see the video for their first single, "I Write Sins Not Tragedies", rocket up the Billboard Hot 100 as sales of Fever passed the 500,000 mark. At the end of March 2006, they announced their very own headlining tour. By August, their debut record was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and the music video for "I Write Sins, Not Tragedies" won Video of the Year at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards. "Some aspects of the fame are annoying, but at the end of the day it's something we're most grateful for. It's certainly opened the door to a whole new batch of opportunities," Ross said of the band's newfound fame and instant success.
In May 2006, Panic! at the Disco announced that original bassist Brent Wilson had left the band, "posting a statement that was both diplomatic and entirely inscrutable […] yet [failing] to mention any reason why Wilson is leaving Panic," according to MTV News. In June, Wilson asserted to MTV News that he was kicked out of the band via a phone call. "It was done as a phone call and the only person who spoke was Spencer. Apparently Brendon and Ryan were on the speakerphone too , but they didn't say a word. They never even said they were sorry," explained Wilson. Smith wrote a lengthy e-mail back to James Montgomery of MTV News, stating, in part, "We made the decision based on Brent's lack of responsibility and the fact that he wasn't progressing musically with the band," and revealed that Wilson did not write nor play any bass present on Fever: Instead, Urie recorded these parts. Wilson demanded a cut in royalties, and threatened to take his former band to court.
The band supported The Academy Is… on their worldwide The Ambitious Ones and Smoking Guns Tour from January to May 2006. Beginning in June, the group headlined their first unnamed national tour, that would last until August. During their performance at the 2006 Reading Festival in August, the band was greeted by excessive bottling, one of which hit Urie in the face that knocked him unconscious. Despite this, the band continued with their set after Urie recovered. The band's second headlining tour, dubbed the Nothing Rhymes with Circus Tour, began in November. In roughly one year, Panic! at the Disco went from being the opening act on a five-band bill to the headliners on a massive arena tour.
The Nothing Rhymes with Circus Tour debuted the band's highly theatrical and notable live show, which featured every song with dance numbers, skits and tricks performed by a six-member troupe, as the band donned intricate costumes, loosely re-enacting moments from the songs. Kelefa Sanneh of The New York Times noted the sudden success and circus-inspired tour of the young band in a concert review: "There’s something charming about watching a band trying to navigate sudden success, aided by a contortionist, a ribbon dancer and all the rest of it."MTV News favorably likened its theme and wardrobe to "Janet Jackson's audience-dividing, hypersexual Velvet Rope Tour." The group, fresh off the major success of A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, took a break after non-stop touring and began formulating ideas for their next record together during the winter of 2006.
Pretty. Odd. and ...Live in Chicago (2008)
After a short period of development regarding the ideas of the album, on March 6, 2007 the band arrived at a cabin in the rural mountains of Mount Charleston, Nevada and began the writing process for the new album. After recording the new tracks and performing them live over the summer, the band returned to their native Las Vegas as well as their old rehearsal studio, where they wrote their debut record. The band grew uninterested in the songs previously written and by August scrapped the entire new album (which Ross later revealed was "three-quarters" done) and started over. "We wanted to approach these songs in the most basic form," Ross said. "We wrote them all on one acoustic guitar and with someone singing. I think that we kind of skipped that part of songwriting on the first record, and this time we're sort of paying attention to that. […] We've written a bunch of songs since we've been home [Las Vegas]. I think it's the most fun and the happiest we've been since we started." With simplicity the new focus and the old album shelved, the group settled in and began recording what would become Pretty. Odd. In October, the band entered the Studio at the Palms at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas to begin recording the album.
In January 2008, the band unveiled a new logo and dropped the exclamation point from their name, becoming Panic at the Disco, which soon caused outrage among the band's fanbase. Released on March 21, 2008, Pretty. Odd. was described by the band as "more organic and mellower" than A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, as well as unintentionally and coincidentally similar to music of The Beatles, in both songwriting and scope. The record debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200 chart, with first-day sales of 54,000, and first-week sales of 139,000 copies in the United States. Those figures marked the band's biggest sales week to that date, beating a previous record held by A Fever You Can't Sweat Out (which sold 45,000 during the winter of 2006). The record also debuted at "Current Alternative Albums" chart and No. 2 on the "Digital Albums" chart, the latter of which accounted for 26 percent of the disc's overall sales. The album charted high in various other countries and was eventually certified gold in the United Kingdom, however, Pretty. Odd. received relatively disappointing sales in the face of its predecessor.Pretty. Odd. was, however, critically acclaimed in contrast to Fever: Barry Walters of Spin called Panic's debut album "embarrassing" while regarding the new record as "[daring] to be optimistically beautiful at a time when sadness and ugliness might have won them easier credibility."
The band announced plans to headline the 2008 Honda Civic Tour in January 2008, which took up the majority of early touring for the album. Motion City Soundtrack, The Hush Sound and Phantom Planet opened for the tour, which April 10 to July 14, 2008 across North America. Throughout October and November 2008, the band toured with Dashboard Confessional and The Cab on the Rock Band Live Tour promoting the video game Rock Band 2.
As expected and predicted by several music publications, the band adopted a very different style for the touring in support of Pretty. Odd., in contrast to the dark, circus-themed elements of their previous stage shows. Each show contained "woodsy set pieces, projections of flora and fauna, and mic stands wrapped in lights and flowers," and each band member dressed in a vest. While reflecting on the theatrical nature of A Fever You Can't Sweat Out touring, Urie commented "We did it and it was a lot of fun when we did it, but this time around I think we wanted to get back to a more intimate, personal setting, and scale it down a little bit." Ryan Ross explained that "It's more about connecting with the audience and seeing what's gonna happen every night. It's not as scripted out and pre-planned. It makes it more exciting for us, and less monotonous every night." A live album, ...Live in Chicago, based on live recordings from Chicago during the Honda Civic Tour, was released December 2, 2008. An accompanying DVD contains photos from the tour, each music video from the album as well as behind-the-scenes footage of the videos and the tour, the short film Panic! at the Disco In: American Valley, and the documentary feature based on the tour, All In A Day's.
Pretty. Odd.'s touring was also defined by a larger effort to remain environmentally conscious. On the tour, the band worked with two non-profit eco organizations: Reverb, which facilitates environmentally friendly touring; and Global Inheritance, which seeks to inspire more eco-activism. In a 2008 interview, Ross revealed that the band traveling on a biodiesel bus, to re-using plastics, and recycling more backstage. The band went as far as to print tour booklets on recycled paper, with soy ink, and organize an "eco-contest," in which profits from the tour went straight to environmental organizations.
Lineup change and Vices & Virtues (2009–11)
In spring 2009, the band began recording material for their then-untitled third studio album. However, on July 6, 2009, Ryan Ross and Jon Walker announced via the band's official website that the two were leaving the band. In an interview following the split, Ross explained that he first brought the idea to Smith in late June 2009 over lunch: "Spencer and I had lunch and caught up for a while, and then the big question came up, like, 'Well, what do you want to do?' and I said, 'Well, I think it might be best if we kind of do our own thing for a while', and he said, 'I'm glad you said that, because I was going to say the same thing'", Ross recalled. "And there was really no argument, which is really the best way that could've worked out." Ross said the split was largely due to creative differences between him and Urie. Urie wanted the band to explore a more polished pop sound, while Ross – and, by extension, Walker – was interested in making retro-inspired rock.
The news asserted that both tour plans with blink-182 in August 2009 and new album production "will continue as previously announced." The following day, Alternative Press broke the news that "New Perspective", the first song recorded without Ross and Walker, would debut the following month on radio and as a part of the soundtrack to the film Jennifer's Body. On July 10, 2009, Alternative Press also reported that the band had regained the exclamation point, becoming, once again, Panic! at the Disco. "New Perspective" was released on July 28, 2009. Former The Cab member Ian Crawford filled in for Ross on their tour during the blink-182 Summer Tour in August 2009, and Dallon Weekes, singer/songwriter of the indie band The Brobecks, filled in for Walker on bass.
The band re-entered the studio during early 2010 and spent much of the year recording their third studio album. On January 18, 2011, the band revealed that their new album, Vices & Virtues, would officially be released on March 22, 2011. The album was produced by Butch Walker and John Feldmann. The record's first single, "The Ballad of Mona Lisa", was released digitally on February 1, 2011, with the music video being released February 8, 2011. Vices & Virtues was officially released March 22, 2011 to relatively positive critical reviews.
The band began touring in support of the album, christened the Vices & Virtues Tour, in earnest beginning in February 2011. The tour has sported the same electric, over-the-top theatricality the band was known for during the Fever era. "I really miss wearing costumes and makeup," Urie told Spin. "I love throwing a big production. I've recently been reading about Tesla coils and I'm trying to figure out how I can get one that sits on the stage and shoots sparks without hurting anybody." They were scheduled to play the Australian Soundwave Revolution festival in September/October but the festival was cancelled and in its place is the Counter-Revolution mini-festival the band will play.
On May 12, 2011, the band collaborated with indie pop band Fun. for their US tour, releasing a new single named "C'mon". The group contributed a new song "Mercenary" to the soundtrack for the video game Batman: Arkham City.
In 2011, Panic! at the Disco played a month-long fall US tour with supporting acts Patrick Stump and Foxy Shazam at club and theatre venues. In January–February 2012, they play a sold-out, 8-date UK tour with support from Australian newcomers , during which they announced that they were currently working on a fourth album.
Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! (2012–present)
Since the last tour cycle, Urie, Smith, and Weekes, who joined the band as an official member in 2010, have been in the studio writing and preparing for a fourth album. On July 15, 2013, the album was announced as Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!, with a scheduled release date of October 8, 2013. The first single, "Miss Jackson", was released on July 15, 2013, along with its music video to promote the album. Panic! At The Disco are slated to tour the US and Europe in support of the new album, and are opening for Fall Out Boy on the Save Rock And Roll Arena Tour.
Shortly before the band began their first tour in support of the album, Spencer Smith wrote an open letter to fans regarding his abuse of alcohol and prescription medications since the recording of Pretty. Odd. Although Smith joined the band for the first handful of dates, he left the tour to "continue fighting addiction." Urie posted on the band's official website that "It's become evident that Spencer still needs more time to take care of himself. I can't expect him to be fighting addiction one minute and be fully immersed in a national tour the next. With that said, the tour will continue without Spencer while he is away getting the help he needs."
Music critics named a number of different genres to describe Panic! at the Disco's music, including emo, pop punk, electro, vaudeville, and baroque pop. These labels were more of a reflection of the band's work on A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, as the stylistic shift on Pretty. Odd. made many of these claims insignificant.
Panic! at the Disco went on record many times saying that their second album would be completely different from A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, as Rolling Stone wrote in an article: "The group cemented its next direction with their first single, called "Nine in the Afternoon". "It's influenced by the music our parents listened to: the Beach Boys, The Kinks, the Beatles", says Ross. "Our new songs are more like classic rock than modern rock. We got older and started listening to different music – and this seems like the natural thing to do right now."Pretty. Odd. has been described as being like "[Panic] dropping the entire Beatles catalog into a blender, adding some modern alternative ice and the horn section from Sonia Dada, then churning out a new-millennium Liverpool smoothie." In his review of their live album, Stephen Thomas Erlewine noted, "...Pretty. Odd. suggests that they're becoming that rare thing in 2008: a pop-oriented rock band. They might not be doing this knowingly, but the results are entertaining all the same."
Since the release of Vices & Virtues, the band's musical sensibilities have returned to the theatrical pop rock of their debut, albeit more mature and restrained in the style of Pretty. Odd. Urie has gone on record several times claiming that this was not the band's intention, stating that Virtues is a rebirth for the band and indicative of a new identity following the departures of Ross and Walker.
- A Fever You Can't Sweat Out (2005)
- Pretty. Odd. (2008)
- Vices & Virtues (2011)
- Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! (2013)
Awards and nominations
- MTV Video Music Awards:
- Nominated: Best Direction (2008) for "Nine in the Afternoon"
- Nominated: Best Pop Video (2008) for "Nine in the Afternoon"
- Won: Video of the Year (2006) for "I Write Sins Not Tragedies"
- Nominated: Best Group Video (2006) for "I Write Sins Not Tragedies"
- Nominated: Best Rock Video (2006) for "I Write Sins Not Tragedies"
- Nominated: Best New Artist in a Video (2006) for "I Write Sins Not Tragedies"
- Nominated: Best Art Direction in a Video (2006) for "I Write Sins Not Tragedies"
- Los Premios MTV Latinoamérica:
- Nominated: Best International Rock Group (2007)
- Nominated: Best International Rock Group (2008)
- MTV Asia Awards 2008:
- Won: edc Style Award
- TMF Awards:
- Won: Best Video International (2006) for "I Write Sins Not Tragedies"
- Grammy Awards:
- Nominated: Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package (2008)
- Nominated: Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package (2009)
- Kerrang! Awards 2011:
- Nominated: Best Single for "The Ballad of Mona Lisa"