HEROES: Paramore

The boundary-breaking band is back with a bite

This feature appears in the pages of V140 now available for purchase

“The temperature culturally, everything is urgent,” Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams says of our global climate, and the common thread piecing together the band’s triumphant sixth studio album, This is Why. “If we don’t figure out our planet, we’re not going to have rights to fight for in the first place. Everything feels urgent.”

For Williams, guitarist Taylor York, and drummer Zac Farro, the past four years have been a period of sobering reflection, shrouded by a global pandemic, fights against racial injustice, and political upheaval. In 2018, the band decided to go on hiatus, spending the time off to explore friendship, personal projects—Williams released two solo albums and Farro dropped a string of records under his solo moniker, HalfNoise—and their identities outside of the beloved trio whose punchy, genre-bending hits and angsty melodies we’ve embraced for over two decades. The period was a welcomed exploration for the trio, who first met in the early 2000s as teenagers, playing and writing in York’s basement, just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. “Our goal was always just to make music,” Farro explains. “But I didn’t realize having the same friendships over 20 years is more important than anything. That’s one of the most amazing things about our band—we’ve been through hell and back, but it’s made our friendships that much better.”

In the time since, the unassuming, self-proclaimed “nerds” have transcended their small town upbringing, ultimately cementing themselves as of music’s most successful acts—with an impressive catalog of mainstream hits like “That’s What You Get” and “Still Into You” and more experimental offerings seen on tracks like “Future,” off of the band’s 2013 self-titled album. Their sound is instantly recognizable—unflinching in spirit and deeply personal in nature—with Williams’ signature emotive vocals, York’s electric riffs, and Farro’s punchy drum lines culminating in a sonic signature that has soundtracked, and backdropped, a generation. 

Utilizing lessons gleaned over time off and tidbits from their previous five albums, the band returned last Fall with the album’s lead single and title track, “This is Why.” Slow-building and decidedly explosive, the track is Paramore at their best—fiery, sensible, and passionate with a hint of unwavering honesty. “That track was the last song we wrote for the record, we were so tired and completely spent,” York shares. “For that to be the first [song] that comes out and the reception it’s had is amazing. We don’t take it for granted.”  The wider album—a ten track offering diving into personal journeys and 21st century realities—looks to the post-punk and dance-rock brilliance of the early 2000s as well as the essence of Bloc Party—the English rock band whose aggressive sound the trio continually referenced throughout the creative process—as inspiration. Not only taking cues externally, This Is Why combines elements of the band’s encyclopedic musical catalog, building off of sounds seen on the trio’s previous album After Laughter, as well as churning out new, experimental touch points throughout.

While Paramore’s hiatus shocked some, This Is Why proves that it was all worthwhile. It is a welcomed and victorious return for one of alt-rock’s most beloved squads, a call to arms of sorts and a love letter to our tumultuous world. “Sometimes I feel like This Is Why is a political album, other times I think it’s a completely personal album,” Williams shares. “It’s both and that’s what it feels like to be alive right now—it’s a really urgent, scary, chaotic time. So when there’s joy and moments of victory, you want to relish [in] that. You want to squeeze every drop from it to make it last.”

This feature appears in the pages of V140 now available for purchase

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