Paramore's Hayley Williams on Jealousy and Nirvana

The Tennesee punk-pop survives success to rock with Gwen Stefani

Hayley Williams of Paramore and Gwen Stefani perform at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine, California.
John Shearer/WireImage
Hayley Williams of Paramore and Gwen Stefani perform at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine, California.
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The last couple of years have been intense for the Tennessee poppunk crew Paramore: Their breakthrough disc, Riot!, went platinum, and the success nearly broke up the band. "It was really about just growing up," says singer Hayley Williams, who turns 21 in December.

"We grew apart because of the hectic situation," she adds, addressing rumors that her bandmates gave her a hard time for getting so much of the group's press. She turned those feelings into songs like "Ignorance," the lead single from Paramore's new Brand New Eyes. ("You treat me just like another stranger," she sings.) We caught up with Williams — who's getting along better with her band — while she took a spin on her bicycle through her hometown of Franklin, Tennessee. "Dude," she says, "I'm just ridin' my hog down the street."

You guys opened for No Doubt all summer. What did you learn from Gwen Stefani?
It was surreal. Gwen is so laid-back, but she goes onstage and just owns it. I learned a lot about what it's like to be a woman — a respectable woman — but that you still go out there and rip people to shreds.

What did your bandmates think the first time they heard "Ignorance"?
We were writing and practicing in this little studio down the street from our houses. The PA we have in there is so crappy, I thought, "They won't even be able to tell what I'm saying." But the moment we hit the last note, Taylor [York] was like, "Is that song about us?" After that we all sat down and talked it out, which was awesome. On this album, you can hear the progression of songs go from angry and spiteful to super-hopeful and positive.

What's the worst thing about sharing a bus with so many dudes?
Jeremy farts a whole lot. I'm in the front lounge trying to hang out, maybe enjoy a Hot Pocket, and [bassist] Jeremy [Davis] walks in, and I'm like, "Dude, what is that smell?" And they hog the Xbox.

How much money have you spent on iTunes in your lifetime?
We're talking about more money than I actually have. I wish I was like, "I shop at indie retailers," but, dude, when I'm on the road, I go on shopping frenzies on iTunes. I buy videos, albums, singles. I just gifted Dexter Season 3 to tons of people. They have everything! One day I'll buy a kid on iTunes.

You've blogged about playing a game called Cornhole on tour. What is that?
It's a backyard-barbecue-style game. There are two wooden planks about 20 feet apart, with holes in the middle. You throw beanbags into the holes.

Who's the best Cornholer?
I'd have to say it's me.

You guys recently shot an episode of MTV Unplugged. What are your favorites?
I remember seeing reruns of the Nirvana one. I had to sneak on MTV in the living room after school, because I couldn't listen to anything even remotely punk-rock. The guy my mom was married to was pretty much a Nazi. My favorite is Dashboard Confessional. I hear all those people singing along, it's so sweet. It almost makes you cry.

This story appeared in the October 1, 2009 issue of Rolling Stone.

From The Archives Issue 1088: October 1, 2009