It's been more than a year since Paramore released their self-titled fourth album, a long-playing, sonically ambitious effort that was as much a reboot (their first LP as a three-piece) as it was a risk: There weren't many major-label rock bands releasing four-sided, 17-track, hour-plus records (complete with "interludes," strings and choirs) in 2013.
Yet, Paramore has become a slow-burning success, the band's first album to produce two platinum-selling singles, "Still Into You" and "Ain't It Fun," the latter of which has become a crossover smash, a staple on Billboard's Rock Songs chart, the Adult Top 40 and the all-encompassing Hot 100. Six months after it was released as a single, "Fun" is not only Paramore's set-closing standard, it may very well be the song of the summer. And its success has reinvigorated a band that, less than four years ago, was on the brink of collapse.
In fact, a decade into their career, Paramore appear to be operating at both their commercial and critical peaks.In between dates on their co-headlining trek with Fall Out Boy (the apropriately named "Monumentour") Hayley Williams spoke to Rolling Stone about defying the odds, barfing out the band's biggest hit and why she hates questions about her hair.
Over the past decade, this band has experienced success, but nothing on par with what's happened this year. Is this the best time to be in Paramore?
For sure. On every level. We keep learning what it means to be a band, both professionally and as friends in a band. It's a constant learning process. We made a record that we were so proud of, and its success is so far beyond anything that we expected when we were writing it. So that's incredibly satisfying, obviously, but on a personal level, I feel like our friendships are just constantly deepening, and becoming really important and vital.
"Ain't It Fun" has become an anthem. When you first wrote it, did you have any idea it would become this massive?
We took so long making this album that we couldn't help but be disconnected with what was going on with music at the time. It was about how we felt in the moment, what was inspiring us and what made us excited to be in a band again, and it's so weird that those same songs are the ones that gave us the most success. Some of them are the poppiest things we've ever written..."Ain't It Fun" was like word vomit; it just came out, and now everybody's singing it, it's on the radio, it's really cool. I don't know if you get that twice in your career. This is the first time we've experienced it, and I'm just really thankful.
So have you had a chance to actually enjoy any of this?
We all have. This year has been surprisingly calm, especially considering the song has been going wild. We did one tour at the beginning of the year, we did a cruise and now we're on Monumentour. That's kind of all we've done. We spent a lot of time at home, and it was really nice; real life is so different from the life you spend in a bus. Now I much prefer sitting on the back porch, being with family. I can tell, now more than ever, how much older I've gotten since we first started.
Paramore has never been bigger, yet, in a lot of ways, all of the success seems very organic. Has it been a struggle to do things on your terms?
We know when things don't feel right. We're all very close-knit on the road, and we are able to be honest with each other when something doesn't feel true to the cause. Doing things like that fashion video that involved our crew guys, that keeps us enjoying every little moment, so it doesn't become this big factory. That's the stuff that's important. Just like back in 2005, when we were writing back [to fans] on MySpace, if it feels real to us, then that's how we gauge every step that we make.
Have you personally turned down offers that didn't feel right?
In the beginning, I turned down tons of stuff; as soon as I turned 18, FHM magazine came to me. There's been countless ridiculous things since then, and probably some cool opportunities that we just didn't feel right about at the time. We sort of let ourselves bloom as people at the same time that we've let our band expand its territory. I think some of that has been in us, to know what feels right, a sense of what Paramore really is, but some of it, you grow into it. I'm not so sensitive about going out and doing certain things by myself these days, and the guys aren't so sensitive about it either. And there's something like the Teen Choice Awards, where we would have been like, "Oh, we don't want to do a teen show" when we were actual teenagers and it probably would have made more sense. [Laughs]
In the past, you've been wary of being the focal point of the band. Is that still an issue?
You know, it depends. [Sometimes] we do TV spots, interviews, and we spend tons of time talking and you think that it feels very evenly spread out, you think that it feels deep and the questions are nice, and then it gets edited and then it's just you, and it's just asking about your hair. That's the stuff that I get uncomfortable with.
At the same time, you did "Stay the Night" with Zedd, and it went platinum. So what's next, another Paramore album, or more solo stuff from you?
We want to make another record. Taylor's writing all the time, and Jeremy writes quite a lot, too. I'm in that phase where I spend a lot of time journaling, and it's usually a month or two of that before I start liking what I'm writing. It happens every album. So I think an album will happen as soon as we start writing things together that we're like, "Yes, this feels awesome." We've never finished a song we don't like, so we have started songs, then been like, "You know what? Nah." So we're just waiting for that one to click, and then it will be really on. But the wheels are already turning.
As far as the little solo appearance things, I always judge based on how I feel about something in my gut. If a song like "Stay the Night" comes to me, it's undeniable, but it has to feel right.
You've been fronting this band for a decade now. Has the job gotten easier or more difficult?
I'm still surprised when I feel uncomfortable with it after 10 years. It's funny when I feel left out, or in the cold, and everyone's focusing on me. Onstage, it's so much about the music that I feel comfortable. But being the frontwoman is not an easy job, it's something I'm really proud to be getting better at; performing really well, singing really well and speaking to the crowd – that's the part I'm most nervous about, like "What do I say that makes me sound cool?" – but also trying to keep it the same way that it felt when we were in clubs. I want to connect, and so do Taylor and Jeremy. That's our mission every night.