Paramore's astonishing second album turns 10 today (June 12). This is its story.
Before ‘After Laughter’, before the self-titled era and before ‘Brand New Eyes’ was a time when it was just Hayley, Josh, Jeremy, Taylor and Zac against the world.
A time when people were still shocked by *gasp* a girl in a band, let alone a girl with a huge voice and a personality to match. It was a time before almost-breakups and reconciliations, and a time when the world hadn’t quite clocked just how special Paramore were yet.
This was pre-Instagram, pre-Snapchat, pre-Spotify and pre-Paramore blowing up. This was ‘Riot!’.
The Tennessee mob had made steady progress with debut full-length ‘All We Know Is Falling’. They’d toured the world off the back of it and were tipped as Ones To Watch by everyone from Warped Tour’s Kevin Lyman to your very own neighbourhood Rock Sound, but with album two, they came back with something that defined a scene and made it Paramore’s own.
Thirty-eight minutes and 58 seconds filled wall to wall, floor to ceiling with the biggest, catchiest songs; to the point where even the album’s B-sides have millions of Spotify streams; ‘Riot!’ was (and maybe still is) Paramore’s defining moment.
It combined their boys-and-girl-next-door appeal with a newfound barbed edge on timeless pop-rock hits like the sugary-sweet ‘That’s What You Get’, thumping ‘Crushcrushcrush’ and the incomparable ‘Misery Business’ to become 2007’s defining release.
And in a year where Fall Out Boy released their own barnstorming epic in the form of ‘Infinity On High’, that says a lot.
“None of us know what’s going to happen, there’s no way to tell until the record comes out,” admitted Hayley back in early 2007.
Speaking to Rock Sound from David Bendeth’s House Of Loud studio in New Jersey, she seemed excited and quietly confident in how her band’s second album was shaping up, but nothing could have prepared her and her bandmates for what came next.
The world was suddenly enthralled by this hot, fiery bubble of youthful angst and sweetness from a band who were quite obviously living everything they were singing about.
A band with an average age of 19 – Jeremy was 22, Josh was 19, Hayley 18 and Zac had turned just 17 a week before release – they were like you, like us, a relatable, available extension of the awkwardness, the anger and optimism of growing up.
“‘Riot!’ literally means an unbridled outburst of emotions,” explained Hayley at the time.
“When we were writing, it seemed like our thoughts and emotions were coming out so fast that we couldn’t control them. There was a riot within us. So the album takes our passion to a new level.”
‘Riot!’ went double platinum in the USA (that’s two million sales in an era when people still bought albums), platinum in the UK and their touring crew swelled from just two to nine in the space of 18 months as the venues they headlined got bigger and bigger.
The band were nominated for a Grammy for Best New Artist (they lost out to Amy Winehouse, FYI) and wove themselves deeper into teen culture with songs on the Twilight movie soundtrack.
By the time a live album and DVD swung around to cap the record cycle in the form of ‘The Final RIOT!’, they’d achieved so much...
...but more than merely a collection of great songs, awards and sold out venues, the ‘Riot!’ era was the moment Paramore were well and truly recognised as A Band.
"All the stuff you hear about Paramore being Hayley’s band and nothing else, it’s totally true,” Hayley joked to Rock Sound around the record release.
“We bow down to her every time she enters the bus,” smirked Josh, while Zac chipped in: “And we have to kiss her feet…”
“We have a lot of time to think and joke about the stuff that happens to us. We laugh most of it off,” said Hayley, but mercifully things like that began to happen less and less.
Josh and Zac Farro, Jeremy Davis and Taylor York – who began the cycle as a touring guitarist and ended it a fully-fledged member of the band – became more and more prominent as Paramore’s collective star rose.
It seems like they did have differing views on their appearance at the MTV VMA awards, though…
“[It] was incredible,” said Hayley back in 2008. “If it weren’t for having it on tape then I wouldn’t believe it truly happened.”
“To be honest, those awards shows freak me out, there are so many famous people, and we don’t consider ourselves famous at all. I still consider myself as a 21-year-old geek from Franklin, Tennessee that strums he guitar,” admitted Josh.
“You get all of these famous people walking around, trying to look better than everyone else; I don’t think I really dig on that vibe that much.”
This honesty made them all the more endearing to their fans, who rapidly started going to lengths you only see when bands approach cult status.
Whether they were queuing for 24 hours or clubbing together to gift the then-cherubic Zac an iPod for his 17th birthday, they all had one thing in common – Paramore meant everything to them.
“We realised how strong our connection with our fans had become over the past year and how much stronger it’s going to become after our new record (‘Riot!’) is out,” wrote Hayley and Josh on LiveJournal (remember that?!) back in March 2007, but neither could have predicted quite how much.
That connection to their fans has certainly lasted, but during the ‘Riot!’ cycle the band increasingly found themselves at odds with each other.
The first real signs of the tensions that have followed this band through their long, illustrious career showed when they cancelled the remainder of a February 2008 headline tour and flew home, releasing a statement that said, “We just aren’t willing to risk the life of our band over one tour.
"Maybe one day we will tell the whole story but for now, just know that all five of us are going to work so hard to get it right,” they concluded rather ominously.
“We were telling everyone that we were so happy, that we were best friends and as soon as we got home from a five-month tour we would be hanging out again every day. It was a very unrealistic image of ourselves and very exaggerated,” said Hayley after all was said and done.
“We did that innocently, We weren’t trying to come across as perfect, it was just that we had never done this before, we had never been in a band that people paid attention to.”
Once home, they went to counselling.
“We sat down with someone who had known our band for a long time, someone who forced us to be honest and talk to each other about what we were feeling, who we were and what had happened,” Hayley revealed almost two years later.
Maybe it’s that adversity – and Paramore forcing their way through it – that made ‘Riot!’ so special. It’s a relic of a fraught, thrilling, emotional time. A one-off the likes of which the band might not want to recreate even if they had the chance.
They were flawed but fantastic, and growing up in a very public way.
“We had a lot of pressure and people watching us. I felt like we were in a room that was always getting smaller and smaller while more people were looking on,” said Hayley at the time.
“I don’t know if any of us thought the band was over, but there were certainly times when it would have been easier if it was.
"It was definitely never said out loud, but I know everyone thought it at some point. There were times when I wondered if I would be happier, or even if I would get along better with the guys, if we were not playing music together any more.”
Maybe it couldn’t have happened any other way.
The intrigue of internal turmoil only added to the mystique of these bright new superstars, but the fact that they emerged with an album and launched such an iconic era for alternative music from all of that – let alone carried on to become the megastars they are today – says a lot about the strength of Paramore as people and ‘Riot!’ as an album.
It was and is an inspiration to the likes of State Champs, One OK Rock, With Confidence, You Me At Six and a whole bunch more bands you can read gushing over ‘Riot!’ here, but Hayley herself half-hopefully predicted it all before they’d even released the album.
“I want so many people to hear these songs; these are our favourite songs, we love the songs that we have written for this album and I just want people to hear them, as many people as possible in the whole world,” she told us from the studio way back in 2007.
“I think that would be amazing.”
And it really was…
This feature originally appeared in Issue 228 of Rock Sound magazine.
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