That’s the question on pretty much everyone’s minds as the Paramore-led rock cruise completes its third trip to sea, but fortunately, there’s still a day’s worth of fun to be had. After two euphoric, career-spanning sets from Paramore the first three days, the Caribbean spotlight shifted to the cruise’s support bands, who gave it all they had on the Norwegian Jade's final day at sea.
2:45 p.m.: Paramore isn't playing today, but fans are still getting treated to a unique live shindig with Hayley, Zac, and Taylor. It's the live Q&A, a Parahoy! tradition in which about a dozen fans get to ask the band a burning question in front of a sprawling crowd on the ship deck. It's a little like Paraoke in that the fans get to take part in the performance, but this time, no singing ability is required -- just a clever question for the trio. Early topics include Hayley getting weird in Times Square for the "Fake Happy" video and the cryptic hints dropped by the band in the early After Laughter rollout.
3:10 p.m.: Things get emotional when the topic turns to Zac rejoining the band. "Is it OK if I cry?" the drummer asks. "I didn't come back to a band, I got my family back... that's their strength, it's unconditional love." A personal dispute with Williams led to Farro (and his brother, guitarist Josh Farro) quitting Paramore in 2010, but he rejoined in 2016 to drum on After Laughter (his brother has made up with Williams as well).
“Zac is always so present and able to have fun and see the good in things,” Taylor says. “Sometimes when just Hayley and I do interviews, it’s kind of serious… [Zac] levels me and Hayley out a lot.”
3:20 p.m.: Things get a little more lighthearted when a fan asks who’d play each of them in a Paramore movie. Hayley says Jason Schwartzman or Owen Wilson would play Zac, which no one can argue with. Hayley says Little Miss Sunshine (not sure if she means Abigail Breslin from the 2006 movie or the cutesy 1980s cartoon book character). Taylor? “John Goodman is the first one that comes to mind for me.”
3:40 p.m.: Toward the end of the sesh, a likely longtime fan digs back into the earliest days of Paramore: “Back in 2005, what would you have all thought of After Laughter?”
“At the time we were so concerned with being heavy, being cool,” Hayley admits, mentioning how they sometimes sought the approval of the other bands in the scene. They all agree their teenage selves would have had some difficulty wrapping their heads around such a different sound, but they would have still appreciated it as their own.
7:45 p.m.: Still wired from the excitement of their evening main-stage set, we catch up with free-wheeling folk-rockers Judah & the Lion in the artist lounge. Frontman Judah Akers, mandolin player/backing vocalist Brian Macdonald, and banjo player/backing vocalist Nate Zuercher reflect on their Alternative Songs chart-topper “Take It All Back” and how they plan to follow their 2016 breakthrough Folk Hop ’n Roll.
How’s your first Parahoy! been treating you?
Macdonald: It feels like camp, where you run into a lot of the same people, with a lot of positive energy and high-fives.
Your hit single “Take It All Back” really broke you guys through to a much larger audience. What’s it been like performing it on the cruise?
Akers: When you’re an opener -- everyone here is pretty much for Paramore -- that song hopefully wins over the crowd. It’s usually our last song. It’s always the moment where it feels like the whole room comes together.
You’ve been covering Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and inviting fans to come onstage and freestyle battle over the beat. How did that start?
Macdonald: We used to do it way back in the day. Nate started playing it on the banjo. Then we stopped doing it for along time, but for this, we decided to bring it back. It either hits…or it fails. When you bring people onstage, you never know what you’re gonna get.
We did it on the main stage Saturday night and brought someone onstage to freestyle battle against me. He looked super confident and we thought he was gonna kill it. Usually you can tell. But he just kinda went blank. What did he even say? “Chicken…drinks…sober… Paramore.” We felt bad. I guess we kind of put him on the spot. [Laughs]
Being from Nashville like Paramore, do you feel like you have a special kinship with them?
Macdonald: We’re from all over the country, but the three of us went to college at Belmont, in Nashville. They’re like the Nashville band, that’s super cool, that we really have looked up to, and still look up to.
Akers: We’ve always resonated with Paramore’s message: There’s pain, there’s struggles, it’s emotional. We’re kind of emotional…. it’s a light at the end of the tunnel type thing. We’re all sharing in this thing called life, which is hard… not to quote “Hard Times.” Getting asked to do this was a cool Nashville thing.
What’s coming up?
Akers: We’re kind of putting Folk Hop n’ Roll to bed these next couple months. We’re excited about new music coming out. We’ve been writing a lot, on the road. We have a pretty clear vision of what the record’s gonna be about. As a whole, the record has a story. The first half is focusing on pain, sadder, more emotional songs, which turn into hope, and moving forward in life. We’re going to be in the studio longer than we’ve ever been for a record.
When do you think fans might hear the new music?
Macdonald: We’re hoping to have the record finished by the end of the summer. So I would think next spring, early summer will be when it officially comes out. But we’ll definitely want to release some singles here and there before that. By the end of the year we should have something to listen to.
8:30 p.m.: The sun is setting over the Atlantic, and the crowd on the pool deck can feel the four-day spectacle drawing to a close. Local Natives close off the main stage for Parahoy! 2018 with their ferocious, groove-heavy 2009 track "Sun Hands."
10:19 p.m.: The sentimental side of Paramore's Q&A has carried over to Halfnoise's set down below deck in the Stardust Theater. In between songs from Zac Farro's psychedelic, Beatles-indebted side project, the Paramore drummer admits much of his forthcoming Flowerss EP (due May 4) was inspired by his own dealings with anxiety. "I'm always seen as the happy guy, but I worry a lot!" he declares, still in a distinctly happy tone of voice. "My new year's resolution was to be more honest with myself," he says a little later, introducing the EP's Tame Impala-esque title track. "Earlier today I felt down, but now I feel really up!"
10:43 p.m.: "We only have four minutes left -- let's make them the best of our lives." Farro is granted one more track from the stage's sound crew, and he ignites the crowd by breaking his feel-good favorite "Scooby's in the Back" back out for a second performance. No one minds it was just played five minutes earlier; in fact, the stage is rushed by a dance party of about two dozen of Farro's friends, including Williams and Jennifer Clavin, guitarist-vocalist of LA garage rockers Bleached (who toured with Paramore earlier in the After Laughter cycle).
11:19 p.m.: The band performances are done for the evening, but a couple DJ sets are still rocking the Bliss Lounge. A circle pit opens up in the middle of Mija's set, only instead of moshing, cruisers are locked in a ferocious dance-off, the winner taking home a signed copy of her EP How to Measure the Distance Between Lovers on cassette.
11:58 p.m.: The Tennessee-based emo/pop-punk DJ night Nashville Is the Reason is closing out Parahoy! 2018, just as they did in the wee hours two years prior. A big crowd (with many holdovers from the Mija set) has amassed here, and plenty more are lured in by the sound of Ben Gibbard's voice and Jimmy Tamborello's bubbly synths from the Postal Service's "Such Great Heights."
1:06 a.m.: The Nashville DJs drop Blink-182's "First Date." As Parahoy!'s performances enter their final hour, the line "Let's make this last forever," particularly resonates here. Other crowd favorites from the two-hour set: PVRIS' "My House," Jimmy Eat World's "Sweetness" and Good Charlotte's "The Anthem."
2:00 a.m.:My Chemical Romance's raucous Black Parade track "Teenagers" closes out the evening, as much of the moshing has now transitioned into a sprawling dancefloor crowd screaming along in unison. But wait! There's an encore -- it's none other than the emo classic "Africa," by Toto. You can imagine how glorious those final vocal harmonies sound from a bunch of sweaty, sun-kissed pop-punk cruisers. On to Parahoy! 4 in 2020? Let's hope so.
Up next, look out for an online photo gallery of Billboard's shots from Parahoy! 2018, followed by an interview with Paramore in Billboard magazine and online later this month!