"Paramore are super-creative people, and they had it in their mind in the brief they gave us that they wanted to embody some kind of '80s vibe, but not do a total throwback video," says Joffe, who directed the video alongside his cousin, Matt. "They sent us a bunch of good references -- INXS videos, definitely A-Ha's 'Take on Me' and Peter Gabriel's 'Sledgehammer.' So we looked to the greats and said, 'How do we do something like this and not riff too hard?'"
The results totally nailed it. In conjunction with the poppy track's breezy island vibe -- which already has a whiff of '80s bands like Fun Boy Three and Bananarama -- the clip makes use of the kind of hand-drawn rotoscoping animation effects made famous in "Take on Me," and deploys a color palette straight out of Weird Science and Square Pegs.
With the buzzed-about return of drummer Zac Farro more than six years after he split with the group, Joffe says he knew he wanted the video to have a performance aspect so he could capture the reunited trio's energy.
"In the opening shot I just wanted to figure out a way to bring the audience into this dream world and use a lot of the visuals to represent different elements of Hayley's psyche in the song," he explains of the establishing shot in which singer Hayley Williams crashes a car with a neon "Hard Times" logo on the windshield, emerging into a world populated by electric puffy clouds. "I wanted to visualize some of the [lyrical] elements, specifically where she talks about having a rain cloud over her head... we didn't want to be afraid to be too literal."
Another big reference point the brothers mentioned was The Truman Show, the beloved 1998 Jim Carrey science fiction comedy about being an unwitting reality TV star -- which inspired the concept of Williams and the boys being lost in a fantasy world. "Except in the movie he's on his way out, and she's on her way in," says Matt.
For the squiggly animated effects, the brothers turned to Portland-based married couple Computer Team, who've worked their magic in videos for Reggie Watts, and Young the Giant's "Something to Believe In." Shot at Optimist Studios over two days in March, Matt says Computer Team had the perfect look to enhance the live soundstage performance footage: "Building on the references from INXS' 'What You Need,' we wanted to put tons of animation on the footage using an old-school technique... we wanted someone who was good at drawing on top of footage, and that’s their thing."
The brothers had plenty of help in bottling the Reagan-era vibe from Hayley and the band as well. One of Williams' best friends, GoodDyeYoung partner Brian O'Connor, came up with the bright, oval eye makeup she rocks under her Wayfarer sunglasses to contrast the singer's monochromatic outfits. But it was Williams' good friend and the video's wardrobe designer who picked out her oddest accessory.
"He picks things for people they might not pick for themselves, and we were about to shoot a scene and Hayley walked up and was like, 'What about this?'" Andrew says of the for-no-good-reason white leather backpack Hayley rocks in half the scenes. "That's what was so fun about this -- nothing had to make sense."
Paramore's fifth album, After Laughter, is due out on May 12.
|Courtesy of Fueled by Ramen|
Paramore Bounces Back With Old Faces and a New Sound
NASHVILLE — Hayley Williams needed a break from “Paramore hair.”
For more than a decade, while she established herself as one of the most dynamic mainstream rock singers of her generation, Ms. Williams was recognizable for her dramatic razor-cut bangs and bobs in bursts of violent color, typically the loudest synthetic shades of red, orange and pink. “I had a haircut that could have murdered you,” she said of the look that helped make her an icon of the mall-punk Warped Tour set.
Yet as her band, Paramore, worked to transcend its restrictive genre dogmas across four increasingly ambitious albums, taking the angsty pop punk of the Myspace moment to the Grammys and the Billboard charts largely on the strength of Ms. Williams’s voice, the singer, now 28, began to feel beholden to a visual shtick.
Last year, staring down a deep depression amid more personnel changes in a band plagued by them — and questioning herself under the hefty burdens of adulthood — Ms. Williams opted for “a blank slate,” she said, her currently white-blond locks further minimized under a beanie.
“You can run on the fumes of being a teenager for as long as you want, but eventually life hits you really hard,” Ms. Williams, a mighty presence who barely cracks five feet, explained last month, speaking for the first time about the tumultuous period since Paramore last released an album, in 2013. “I didn’t even know if we were going to make another record,” she said. “There was a moment when I didn’t even want it to happen. Then it was like, I want it to happen, but I don’t know how we’re going to do it.”
Paramore, somehow, pulled it off again. On May 12, the band will release “After Laughter,” its fifth LP, introducing another lineup — each Paramore album has featured a different combination of members around Ms. Williams — and, more notably, a new sound. Instead of the meaty, distorted power chords and hyperactive riffs of its adolescence, Paramore has dipped into cleaner, more rhythmic and synth-kissed textures of the ’70s and ’80s, owing to recent obsessions with Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, Cyndi Lauper and Blondie.
But while the group has long functioned in its own bizarre hybrid milieu — “too rock for pop and too pop for rock,” said the guitarist and Ms. Williams’s chief songwriting partner, Taylor York — Paramore returns to a Top 40 landscape even less hospitable to guitars than the one it left on an idiosyncratic high note. (“Ain’t It Fun,” which won a Grammy for best rock song, was also the band’s highest-charting crossover single.)
In pop, a throwback ’80s sound has since been tried with varying degrees of faithfulness and success by the likes of Taylor Swift, Carly Rae Jepsen and Jason Derulo, but has not, of late, been credibly executed by a band. Paramore, though, may be suited to this moment: Ms. Williams, cartoon hair or not, remains the focus, and her nimble melodies and sneakily huge pop hooks are as crisp and magnetic as ever, unbeholden to genre walls.
As a frontwoman, Ms. Williams’s shadow of influence has only grown during her break from music, with the most vibrant rock, especially in offshoots of punk, coming increasingly from female-led bands who aren’t afraid of a chorus.
Bethany Cosentino, the lead singer of Best Coast, called Ms. Williams an industry mentor, despite being her elder by two years. “She’s the most humble person I’ve ever known,” Ms. Cosentino said. “She’s a major superstar, but on any given day in Nashville you’ll see her in the back at a show. She’s still true to her punk roots.”
Ms. Williams demurred at suggestions that for a new generation of female musicians, she represents what Gwen Stefani of No Doubt and Shirley Manson of Garbage were for her, insisting that she is the one inspired by much younger acts like Cherry Glazerr, Tacocat and Bleached.
But she also recalled her determination when Paramore started in a male-dominated scene. “If we were booked on a bill with all dudes that were twice as old as us I wanted to be better than any of them,” Ms. Williams said. “I didn’t care if they had a penis or not. I had to be great at my job.”
Musically, her band “can do whatever we want and then when Hayley gets on it, that’s what makes it Paramore,” Mr. York, 27, said, adding that his recent guitar tones and phrasings had also been inspired by Afrobeat and other international sounds. “We’ve gotten to a point with our new music where we don’t really want to headbang anymore.”
In addition to a fresh direction, “After Laughter” is a partial reunion for the group, which, during recording, welcomed back the drummer and founding member Zac Farro. Formed in 2004 as a teenage garage band in Franklin, Tenn., Paramore fractured nearly seven years ago when Mr. Farro and his older brother, Josh, then the main songwriter, quit in a fit of acrimony, having dubbed the band “a manufactured product of a major label” that “became all about Hayley.” (Paramore’s 2011 damage-control interview with MTV is an excruciating document of an awkward period.)
Mr. Farro’s homecoming developed gradually after a personal rekindling with Mr. York, his childhood best friend, that became a necessity because the pair kept running into each other socially.
“Every teenage year that I lived was in this band, on tour,” said Mr. Farro, 26, a lovable goof whose mellow presence balances that of his more high-strung bandmates. “I needed a reset button.”
Carlos de la Garza, who worked as an audio engineer on “After Laughter” and its self-titled predecessor, called Mr. York and Mr. Farro, who spent his time away traveling New Zealand and making his own music, “true kindred spirits.”
What resulted from that refreshed partnership were many jubilant, even danceable, instrumental tracks that Ms. Williams then flipped on their head. “There was a little bit of a dark side creeping in to Hayley’s psyche,” Mr. de la Garza said. “Something was eating at her, and she was able to use a lot of that as fuel for lyrics.”
Despite the joyful, collaborative energy that stemmed from the reconciliation with Mr. Farro, Ms. Williams agreed that “there was a dark cloud” over the writing and recording process, stemming from relationship issues both personal and professional.
In the last two years, “A lot of life happened,” said Ms. Williams, who married a fellow musician, Chad Gilbert of New Found Glory, last February. Just before that, Paramore announced that it had parted with its longtime bassist, Jeremy Davis, who in a lawsuit invoked claims that have long dogged the band, and especially Ms. Williams.
While Mr. Davis contends in court papers that he was a creative partner, entitled to additional profits from songwriting royalties, merchandise and live shows, pre-emptive filings on behalf of Ms. Williams noted that she is the only member officially signed to Atlantic Records, leaving the rest of Paramore to be paid as at-will employees. (Lawyers for the singer noted that “because she wanted to foster a feeling of camaraderie within the band, at her direction, the band members’ salaries included a portion of Williams’ earnings.”)
Derek Crownover, a lawyer for Mr. Davis, said in a statement: “Jeremy Davis did not leave the band,” adding that the bassist “did not initiate the lawsuit either.” While the case is ongoing, Mr. Crownover expressed hope for an amicable settlement soon.
“Again?” Ms. Williams asked herself as she pondered the group’s fate. “I prayed until my knees bled, pretty much,” she said, acknowledging that Paramore has at times felt more like a soap opera than a band.
“We were down another member — same old story almost from Day 1,” she continued. “It made me question everything — am I doing something wrong? You read things that people say about you and eventually you just think, ‘Oh, I must be some kind of diva bitch.’ I know that’s not me, but it caused a lot of self-doubt.”
Ms. Williams, never one for love songs, channeled her disquiet into an album preoccupied with betrayal, disappointment and regret. “Hard Times,” the opening song and first single, begins with lines like,
All that I want
is a hole in the ground
You can tell me when it’s all right
for me to come out.
Elsewhere, she sings, “I can’t think of getting old/it only makes me want to die,” while other album highlights are titled “Forgiveness” (sample lyric: “I just can’t do it yet”), “Fake Happy” and “Grudges.”
“I couldn’t imagine putting something on an album that says ‘life’s great, everything’s cool, party with me,’” Ms. Williams said. And it’s true that despite long-running accusations of major-label meddling in Paramore’s career, the band has written its own often-bitter songs across three straight platinum albums without fiddling from the pop machine.
Though its members said their record label has previously tried to pair them with hitmakers of the moment, “We’ve somehow earned our freedom,” said Mr. York, Paramore’s softest spoken member. “I can’t imagine getting up there and playing a Max Martin song,” he said. “At that point we might as well just stop.”
Now, as Paramore moves from re-establishing its foundation in private to the public glare of an obsessive, impatient fan base, its members are openly anxious about how it will be portrayed and received. One recent night, the trio attended a hockey game for its hometown Nashville Predators, something they hadn’t done as a group since childhood. Exceedingly gracious to all who recognized them, there remained a nervous but endearing energy among the band, not unlike recently reconciled exes around skeptical old friends.
Yet in quiet moments, as Mr. York, Mr. Farro and Ms. Williams picked food out of each other’s teeth and retreated to the safety of inside jokes, they couldn’t help but seem downright content. “This is what you go through hard times for, so you can have these moments where you’re proud of yourself, proud of your choices and your friends,” Ms. Williams said.
“I have a public diary of my life,” she added, “and I feel useful because of it.”
Paramore on creating ‘After Laughter’: “I didn’t even know if we were going to make another record”
In a recent sit down with the New York Times, Paramore talk their new album, After Laughter, and the tumultuous time since releasing their 2013 self-titled record.
“You can run on the fumes of being a teenager for as long as you want, but eventually life hits you really hard,” Hayley Williams tells the news source. “I didn’t even know if we were going to make another record.
“There was a moment when I didn’t even want it to happen. Then it was like, I want it to happen, but I don’t know how we’re going to do it.”
Looking back at the beginning of the band, Williams talks about finding her footing in a male-dominated scene. “If we were booked on a bill with all dudes that were twice as old as us I wanted to be better than any of them,” Williams told the New York Times. “I didn’t care if they had a penis or not. I had to be great at my job.”
And through their multitude of successes, while putting together After Laughter, she went through her own personal struggle as an artist and member of the band, where she started questioning "everything."
“We were down another member—same old story almost from Day 1,” she continues. “It made me question everything—am I doing something wrong? You read things that people say about you and eventually you just think, ‘Oh, I must be some kind of diva bitch.’ I know that’s not me, but it caused a lot of self-doubt.”
Honing in on this inner-questioning, the band released “Hard Times,” marking a new era for the band. Williams explains she’s been inspired by acts like Cherry Glazerr, Tacocat and Bleached, and with the band’s sonic direction, Taylor York explains, “We’ve gotten to a point with our new music where we don’t really want to headbang anymore.”
They pulled from their experiences and created a record that exposes every feeling in the realest way—as they always do.
“A lot of life happened,” Williams explains, stemming from both her personal life and the events surrounding Paramore. “I couldn’t imagine putting something on an album that says ‘life’s great, everything’s cool, party with me.”
Yet, with Zac Farro back and citing their many own “inside jokes,” Williams explains to the New York Times that they're content with where they are now. “This is what you go through hard times for, so you can have these moments where you’re proud of yourself, proud of your choices and your friends.”
What are your thoughts on the bands brand new "Hard Times," and how excited are you for After Laughter? Let us know in the comments below!