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Ignorance is bliss

After a near breakup, Hayley Williams explains how Paramore got its groove back


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Paramore has been rescheduled for Nov. 8.

The future wasn't looking so sunny last year for Tennessee pop-punkers Paramore. Led by 20-year-old spitfire Hayley Williams, the band had burst onto the national scene with its platinum sophomore effort Riot, been nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy, and even landed the track "Decode" on the top-selling Twilight film soundtrack.

But the skies quickly darkened: Citing internal band issues that required work, Paramore canceled most of its '08 European tour amid a whirlwind of breakup rumors. Could stardom have destroyed the group so soon?

Williams — who kept exhaustive diaries of the dizzying descent — still remembers the afternoon it all came to a head.

"I swear it was the weirdest thing — it was like the clouds parted," she says of a recent writing session that birthed their new single "Ignorance." "There had been some situations and things where it just felt like it would be worth it to go home and call it a day. But Josh [Farro, guitarist/arranger] was like 'I'll never write another riff like [breakthrough hit] "Misery Business" again, guys — I'm sorry, I just can't do it.' And then he starts playing this riff, and it's "Ignorance." And we were like, 'Well, what is that? Because that's good enough!' So we recorded it immediately."

Williams drove home, singing along to the quirk-chorded instrumental in her car. The lyrics — bristling with animosity toward her bandmates — poured out of her. "And I was like 'Wow! I feel these things, still — this is a real situation that we have to deal with.' I brought the song back to the band when I finished it, and everyone was like 'Ouch! Will we have to play this every night?' But it forced us to lay everything out on the table, and it was really good for us."

Hence the album title, brand new eyes, she adds. "I was like, 'Look, I know this sucks. But this is how I feel, though, and that can't be discounted. And that's when the idea of 'brand new eyes' came together. We were like, 'OK — if I can't see you how I want to see you, then how would you have me see you? How would you have me look at you and understand you?' It sounds like group therapy, but it didn't feel like that at the time. And looking back, writing this record was a better counselor than we ever could've had."

Paramore penned the rest of the record in a similarly cathartic fashion, as evidenced by cuts like "Feeling Sorry," "Playing God" and "All I Wanted."

"There definitely is a sense of 'Be careful what you wish for' on the whole record," Williams assesses. "It's a story that I'm really fond of, and why one of my favorite new movies is Coraline. And I think one of my next tattoos will be a Coraline tattoo — an underlying theme of all the songs can definitely be set up with that [film's] message."

As a compulsive diarist and blogger, Williams had stacks of tour journals to read in retrospect. Did she pinpoint exactly what went wrong? And when? She sighs. "I think that if I knew that, then I would know too much. But honestly, growing up is a lot harder than I thought. And it's not supposed to be simple and easy.

"It's meant to be a long journey."


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