No panic, only liberation

Brendon Urie (above) wrote Panic! At The Disco’s fifth studio album, Death Of A Bachelor.
Brendon Urie (above) wrote Panic! At The Disco’s fifth studio album, Death Of A Bachelor. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

As the last remaining original member of Panic! At The Disco, frontman Brendon Urie is enjoying total control

Brendon Urie, frontman of pop- rock band Panic! At The Disco, is relishing writing music on his own.

As the only remaining member of the original quartet formed in Las Vegas in 2004, he says he now has total creative control over the band's output.

Speaking to The Straits Times ahead of their concert on Tuesday at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre, he admits: "It's a little dangerous because there are no limitations."

Urie, 29, has led the charge since the last of the original members, drummer Spencer Smith, left last year.

"I get to do stuff that I probably wouldn't have been able to do if I had to deal with three other opinions," he says.

"With four strong egos and opinions in one room, you have to make compromises."

The band's fifth studio album, Death Of A Bachelor, which was released in January, was written entirely by Urie with the assistance of musicians outside the band.

He now performs shows with a touring band made up of bassist Dallon Weekes, guitarist Kenneth Harris and drummer Dan Pawlovich.

While he acknowledges that the new album would have sounded "totally different" if it were written in collaboration with a band, he says: "I'm glad I get to do what I do - it's very liberating to write alone and create alone."

Fans have affirmed his songwriting efforts. Death Of A Bachelor debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts, making it the band's best-performing album.

The last time they played in Singapore was in 2008 at SingFest, held at Fort Canning.

While Urie is still "best friends" with Smith, he appears less chummy with the other original members, Ryan Ross and Brent Wilson, offering only that "we see one another once in a while and text every year or so to check in with a 'Hey, what's up man'."

Any suggestion of a reunion with the original line-up is quickly brushed off. Urie says: "Nah, we haven't talked about that at all... We're all kind of doing our own thing."

Apart from the new album - which features his signature operatic pop-punk vocals on tracks such as Don't Threaten Me With A Good Time and Victorious - Panic! are on the upswing with their version of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, featured on the soundtrack of boxoffice hit Suicide Squad.

"We'd been playing it for a couple of years (at our live shows) and then I was approached by the people making the movie," Urie says.

He concedes that "nothing compares with the Queen version, you can't beat that and even our live version would never come close".

Recorded in a day, Panic!'s cover of the song hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart this week.

While he is on a hot streak, Urie says he would love to continue pushing his creative boundaries and exploring genres outside of rock: "I definitely want to jump into different worlds, maybe hip-hop or R&B."

He has lent his vocals to superstar DJ Dillon Francis' Love In The Middle Of A Firefight, a pop-electronic dance music number that started with a few exchanges of tweets between the two musicians.

"I listened to the track for the first time and I immediately had an idea and recorded it front to back entirely off my Apple earbuds, the ones with the little microphone. It just kind of sneezed out of me - the lyrics, melody, everything."

Going solo, in a way, sure has liberated him.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2016, with the headline 'No panic, only liberation'. Print Edition | Subscribe