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Hall Of Fame: Panic! At The Disco - A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out

Andy Ritchie
Andy Ritchie 27 August 2014 at 14.32

It's been almost 10 years since Panic! At The Disco released their groundbreaking debut album, and since then members have come and gone. Back in 2012, we spoke to Brendon Urie, Spencer Smith and Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz about the album that kick started a new generation of alternative music. Now available to read online for the very first time!

This feature originally appeared in issue 165 of Rock Sound (September 2012)

RELEASED: September 27, 2005
LABEL: Decaydance, Fueled By Ramen
PRODUCER: Matt Squire
PERSONNEL: Brendon Urie (vocals, synths, keyboards, guitar, piano), Ryan Ross (guitar, keyboard, piano, accordion), Brent Wilson (bass), Spencer Smith (drums)
ARTWORK: Alan Ferguson / Panic! At The Disco

It’s something out of a pop-punk fairytale isn’t it? Picture the scene: It’s 2005. Four teenage musicians have sent a song – their only song – to some guy from some band called Fall Out Boy through LiveJournal, and he’s actually digging it. Within weeks, their entire lives have been turned upside down…

Pete Wentz (Fall Out Boy bassist / Decaydance founder): “I think it was Ryan that first started goofing on me, sending links through Myspace and LiveJournal and stuff. At the time I was like ‘What’s this kid doing?’ I thought ‘I’m going to check out this guy’s band, then just come back and tell him how bad they sucked.’ But they didn’t. I heard one song, and they were just so far ahead of the curve.”

Dan Suh (FOB’s Tour Manager ’04 – ’08): “I remember sitting around this table in the studio when Fall Out Boy were recording ‘From Under The Cork Tree’, just playing with our laptops like geeks on the internet do. Pete had been sent a demo of ‘Time To Dance’, and I remember him stopping what he was doing, looking up from his computer and being like ‘This is good! And it really sounds like Fall Out Boy!’ It definitely left an impression on him right away. Then the weekend was coming around and Pete said ‘Do you want to rent a car to drive to Vegas with me?’ So that’s what we did…”

Spencer Smith: “I think Pete contacted us through our website, which was really cheap because we must’ve made it on GeoCities or something! On blind faith, he told us he was going to drive to see us in Las Vegas. We hadn’t even played a show at that point! I think Brendon had only been singing for us for a few months.”Dan Suh: “So we get there, and Pete’s like ‘Alright let’s hear this song, play me what you can play’. So they played ‘Time To Dance’ and they ripped through it. Then he said ‘Do you have anything else?’, and they said ‘We have another half of a song…’ so they played like however much of this second song; it was just certain bits. Then Pete said ‘Oh okay this is good…. play the other one again’. We watched them play ‘Time To Dance’ like two or three times that day, because they had no other songs!”

Brendon Urie: “It was all so new to me. I was like ‘Who is this band Fall Out Boy? Who is this guy Pete Wentz?’ And he just kind of introduced us to the idea that he was starting a label. He seemed like a genuinely interested person in our music and that just blew us away.”

Dan Suh: “Following that rehearsal, we took them to Del Taco and bought them lunch. The whole thing couldn’t have cost us more than like $35. It was probably the cheapest label lunch in the entire world! I just remember how excited they were to be eating for free; they were so jazzed about not having to pay for lunch.” 

Pete Wentz: “Not long after that, I remember going to Brendon’s parents house and like, having to convince his parents that he was actually signing to a label and they were going to go on tour, and it wasn’t just some African princess scam! That was so weird for me. At the time I was still a kid myself.”

Spencer Smith: “We were trying to tell our parents that you don’t have to be Led Zeppelin or The Rolling Stones to be successful as band. There are lower level bands that don’t have to have other jobs, can tour and play to 500 / 700 people a night and make a living. That’s all we ever wanted to do.”

Brendon Urie: “Right after we talked with Pete and he told us how interested he was, we told him, ‘Okay, we have four songs written right now,’ and he said, ‘Okay, well you guys need to keep writing,’ and so we did. We were just aching so bad to play live music, but we thought it’d be better if we just spent time writing for the record. I think we spent maybe four or five months writing after that.”

Fast forward a few months, and with ‘…Fever…’ finally recorded, Fall Out Boy took Panic! out on their first ever tour. What followed was a media circus that nobody was expecting, and an explosion of popularity that hasn’t been replicated in the scene since…

Brendon Urie: “I remember the discussion we had on our first tour in our van, and we were on the phone with our management. They were saying, ‘Okay: the good news is you guys are starting to get a little more popular, the bad news is we don’t have a single to go to radio with,’ and we were like, ‘What… is that a thing? We need a single to go to radio with? What does that even mean?!’ We just kind of took a leap of faith and said, ‘Well, we want ‘I Write Sins Not Tragedies,’ to be the single because we’re really proud of it and we think it sounds really weird, like us’.”

Pete Wentz: “I wanted to make ‘Time To Dance’ the first single! Truly, in my head, I thought if that song was a single, it would’ve sold 3million copies of the album. But the band made the decision on their own terms. It was probably the best decision they ever made.”

Spencer Smith: when ‘I Write Sins...’ was chosen, it was a little bit surreal. At that point, the record had been out maybe four of five months, and that’s when all of a sudden it really started to change and we started to notice. We’d be on tours, where we weren’t headlining, but we were getting one of the best reactions of the night. It was the summer of 2006, before we did our first headlining tour, that’s when we first got the calls like ‘Oh, you’re Number 130 on the chart’. Then we started getting them every week…”

Pete Wentz: “Why did Panic! explode after that? I think there were a couple of reasons. People’s attitude to FOB was changing. It was like ‘Hey, you know, we want to chill out, we’re being played on Top 40 radio in the US and hey, maybe it’s not as cool to listen to Fall Out Boy right now and there’s this new band that’s like a darker, weirder, kind of off-cousin of them.’ It was the strangest thing to watch in front of your eyes, because we actually saw them become rockstars on that first tour.”

an Suh: “We always joked as Fall Out Boy started to mature as a band, that FOB was the last band to get in the door before a certain era of the music business ended. But really, I think Panic! was that last band; they snuck in right behind us. ‘...Fever...’ sold over 2million in the States. It went Platinum in the UK; they did really well in Australia as well. After that, at least as far as what we considered to be ‘scene’ bands in that genre, no band was ever able to do those kinds of numbers, because the climate of the industry changed.”

Some seven years on and two more albums down the line, Panic! might not instigate the hysteria that they did at the peak of the ‘…Fever…’ cycle, but they certainly have a legacy to be proud of. With the wheels in motion for album number four, how does ‘…Fever…’ hold up in 2012? 

Brendon Urie: “It’s cool now to get nostalgic about changing things we wanted to on the record, but I think if we hadn’t had management saying ‘Okay guys, it’s been four weeks: you’re done, get out of the studio and get on the road,”; if they hadn’t said that, we probably would have kept going. It would have been a different record and at some point you just have to say, ‘Yeah, these are the ideas, we’re happy with how they are, they could be better and I’m sure we could just keep working on them.’ But I’m proud of it. It was like our yearbook, you know?”

Pete Wentz: “That record sold over 2million copies, you know, there was just something magical going on with the band at the time that I honestly had nothing to do with. And honestly, I don’t think anyone other than the producer and the band did, either.”

Spencer Smith: “I think that I can definitely look back and be really proud at the drive and the passion that we had for trying to make ‘…Fever…’ as great as we could at the time. Touring on the record and trying to transfer that into a really entertaining live show, I think for our age, was something that we can be proud of.”

Panic! At The Disco are currently touring North America on The Gospel Tour. Their latest album, 'Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die!' is out now through Atlantic.

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