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Panic! at the Disco returns this week with its fifth full-length album. But it’s not the Panic! fans first met back in 2004. As the collection’s accompanying booklet reads: “Panic! at the Disco Is: Brendon Urie.” After a long series of lineup changes, the former quartet of childhood friends is now a one-person act. This shows on the new album, its meditations — mainly about love and loneliness — feel more personal to Urie. That its sonics so often reference Frank Sinatra and Queen, two heroes of Urie’s, is also pronounced.
EW caught up with the ebullient frontman about recording alone, Kanye West — and finding his ol’ Blue Eyes-inspired swagger.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Death of a Bachelor is Panic!’s fifth LP, but it’s actually a solo album. Did you consider putting it out under your own name?
Brendon Urie: It was never a sudden decision that I would be solo — it really happened over time. [But] every time that we had a lineup change or anything like that, I was always in the same mindset: I never wanted to leave this group. I always had the same passion, I always wanted to continue. The name Panic! symbolizes everything that I’ve worked for. It’s given me fans and the chance to travel worldwide and care about something that I created.
What was it like writing and recording alone for the first time in 10 years?
Writing with four people as opposed to just me alone — I like it better now. I like getting my succinct ideas into a two and a half minute thing and if I need to, I can get feedback from people I work with. It feels like there’s less pressure, it’s more organic.
You collaborated with Rivers Cuomo on “Victorious.” How did that team-up come about?
I see him here and there, and then recently, when I was working on this album, I was working with a friend and at the time we were working, he got a call from Rivers and picked it up while I was showing everybody “Victorious” and he heard it over the phone and was like, “What is that?” and then gave me some suggestions or thoughts.
Can you tell me a little about the title of the album?
When I was a kid I spent a lot of time alone. I wasn’t allowed to go out on Monday nights and Sunday nights for religious purposes. [Urie was raised Mormon.] So all of Sunday, besides the three hours of church, I would spend in my room listening to music or sneaking music that I wasn’t allowed to listen to or reading books that I wasn’t supposed to and spending time by myself. So this album was a touch back to the past. I was writing everything and recording everything, and that’s what I did this time around.
“Crazy=Genius” is a pretty insane track — starting out with this throwback, Frank Sinatra sort of sound and then building into this enormous, operatic track.
I love how a song can change. We started off with one idea, I wanted to do like a Benny Goodman kind of suits and drum part with the Sinatra swagger — that’s the thing I’ve been chasing for decades now, for as long as I can remember. But that one for me, I just love the lyrics so much. The idea behind, “Who do you see yourself as?” and how that can be so different from who you actually are if you’re closed off. It’s such a fine line between crazy and genius, I think. I mean look at f–king Kanye West. He calls himself a genius but everybody else is insane. It’s all in the eye of the beholder. I think its so important to keep that glued to the back of your mind.
What are you most excited for people to hear off the album?
There’s a couple in particular, “Death of a Bachelor,” “Emperor’s New Clothes” I think is so weird and there’s this evil, operatic harmony in the bridge I’m excited for people to hear. There’s weird moments that happen in every song and I’m excited to have those and be available.
When Panic! originally brought the exclamation point back, [former member] Spencer Smith said it was to prove that the band wasn’t going to break up. Obviously he has since left the group, but you’re keeping it in.
I was like, “I’m f–king keeping it!” I’ve always loved it. I feel like I’m a cousin of the exclamation point. It’s just as crazy as me — I’m an excitable person. So, I’m keeping that s–t. That’s mine.
Death of a Bachelor is out Friday, Jan. 15.