Four years ago, when Paramore lost founding members Zac and Josh Farro in a bitter public split, singer Hayley Williams was sure the band was over. "I thought, 'Well, maybe it's like the end of Stand by Me,'" says Williams, 25. "Not everything lasts forever. I'll find something else that I'm good at." Instead, the group went on to make last year's Paramore as a trio – and scored one of this year's biggest rock hits with the sharp, hooky single "Ain't It Fun." "I absolutely feel vindicated," Williams says. "For all the people who believed in us, we're saying, 'You haven't gotten tattoos of our lyrics for nothing. We're going to keep going.'"
Your bassist, Jeremy Davis, recently gave himself a hernia on your summer tour with Fall Out Boy. Are you concerned that you might actually be rocking too hard?
I'm starting to accept that 25 is not 16. Seven or eight years ago, we would go to Taco Bell, grab a bean burrito and run onstage. Now, getting ready for a show takes two hours – Jeremy and Taylor [York, Paramore's guitarist] have to wrap their ankles, and I have to do stretches so I don't hurt my neck from headbanging. I'm loving it, but I definitely might collapse at one of these shows.
The tour is called the Monumentour, but you don't have any monuments onstage. Which one would you pick if you did?
Oh, man. Well, I'm wearing boxing shorts and a sports bra, so maybe I'd take the Liberty Bell and be Rocky.
I saw on Twitter that you used to be a member of 'NSync's fan club. Is that true?
Yeah, it's true. I'll never forget the day that the package came in the mail. I was so pumped that I taped it to the wall, with my little card and signed poster – it probably wasn't actually signed, but I still cared about it. Joey [Fatone] was my favorite. I thought it was hilarious that his last name spelled "fat one."
Before Paramore, you and Jeremy were in a funk cover band. Is there any existing footage of that band performing, or has it all been destroyed?
Oh, there's footage. We would never destroy it. I've asked my mom, and she doesn't seem to have anything – I'm like, "Did you even love me?" But Jeremy's family has it all on VHS. Our favorite song to do was "Tell Me Something Good," by Rufus and Chaka Khan. That bass line is so sick.
I read that you've been watching Game of Thrones on the road. How long do you think you'd survive in Westeros?
I hope I wouldn't survive very long, because the women in that show, God bless 'em, are living the worst life possible. The way they're treated is sickening. I'm like, "I can't believe I'm watching this – and I'm actually really into it." But if I could come back as another person, I'd be Tyrion. He's a badass.
You've spoken about sexism you experienced when Paramore were playing small clubs. Has that gotten better with time?
I don't know, honestly. I'm not faced with it directly the way I was when I was 16 and we could see every single person in the crowd and hear everything they were saying. I think some of them didn't know how to handle a girl being in a position of authority. Now, I just don't want to hear my friends in bands saying, "I got asked again if I was a merch girl."
What about in the wider world? Did you follow the Supreme Court's ruling in the Hobby Lobby case that some businesses don't have to cover birth control for their employees? That's a conversation that I'm having almost daily with friends, because my mom and I, and a lot of the women in my family, have had to take birth control for many more reasons besides baby-blocking. I think it's a woman's right. A woman's body is her body, and her body is connected to her brain, which should be making the decisions for her body. That's all I'll say about that.
You'll notice I haven't asked you to explain your new hair color, unlike a lot of people this year.
[Laughs] I appreciate that.
What's the dumbest hair-related question you've heard?
Man, if we're going to talk about my hair, I like to talk about the reasons why, you know? For me it's just self-expression. And it hurts a lot less than getting tattoos. I've got a lot of those already.
I've noticed that Paramore songs go over well at karaoke. Have you ever done Paramore karaoke?
I have. It was a terrible experience. I used to go to this laser-tag spot in Nashville with a big group of friends – this was right after [2007's] "Misery Business" had gotten really popular. They thought it was hilarious to put me on the spot. Finally, I was just like, "Whatever," and I just did it. I don't know how this is possible, but I think I sounded worse than anyone has ever sounded singing that song. It was pitiful.