Panic! at the Disco's Brendon Urie Invites Us to His Home to Premiere Fender Guitar Collab, Talk 'Surreal' Grammy Nom
“I’m glad I’m not up against Twenty One Pilots!”
Panic! at the Disco’s Death of a Bachelor has sold over 500,000 copies to date, making it the fourth highest-selling album released this year (according to Nielsen SoundScan). It’s been a massive comeback year for Brendon Urie and company; the response to their fifth studio album proved just how vocal and revitalized their fan base is, 11 years after “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” introduced Panic! to the masses.
Like the noted musician who discovered him, Urie has lent his talents toward guitar design, particularly with Fender. To preview his collaboration with Fender guitars -- the Offset model favored by many of your punk and grunge heroes -- we’re premiering a video of Urie talking about the project while showing us around his splashy Los Angeles home. We also chatted with him about his guitars on -- it just so happens -- the same day he learned Panic! had been nominated for its first major Grammy.
Below, find the vid, followed by our interview about Fender and being up for best rock album.
So how did this collaboration with Fender come together?
To start out, I’ve played Fender my whole life. I just remember watching people playing on TV, whether it was Eric Clapton or whoever, you know, Jimi Hendrix. Just seeing that classic guitar, I fell in love with it. So I tried it out you know, when I was 14 or 15, and my dad split the money with me and I got a Fender Telecaster. So I was just in love from that point. It had the F-hole in it; it was a Thinline body. I was so in love with it. So originally I just always wanted to work with Fender on something and the fact that it was something more in line with what I’m used to in terms of sound made the Offset so perfect for me.
I have the olive-colored Mustang Offset, which is amazing because lately -- and it kind of worked out perfectly – because this is their fall line -- and lately I’ve been working on just heavier music, which is what it’s perfect for. So I can down tune it, I can get a really fat, Foo Fighters guitar sound. It’s kind of amazing.
So it specifically caters to the kind of music you play with Panic!?
Yeah, absolutely. I do big power chords and just massive arrangement with a distortion bed underneath, so it definitely helps with that. I have smaller hands so it’s nice being a littler guy, having a guitar that fits my body type. And the short scale just makes it a bigger sound so I don’t have to play as many chords or do as many tracks, you know? I can get it done in one track as opposed to recording four stereo tracks.
You know, this reminds me of the Panic! song “I Constantly Thank God for Esteban,” you mentioned in our oral history of A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out that its title comes from the old infomercial for Esteban’s guitars.
Yeah, that was so funny to have! So many song titles and album titles came from just jokes like that. So we’d be up at 2 a.m. watching infomercials with Esteban selling his guitars and one of us literally says, “I constantly thank God for Esteban” and we thought it was so funny. I mean that’s when the magic happens. It’s late at night, you turn your brain off, and the things that hit you just impact you so much deeper than it normally would I guess.
Do you think you’re pretty much like Esteban now?
If I could make that pull quote, goddamn it. If I compared myself to anyone it would be Esteban for sure.
And you know, Pete Wentz had his signature Fender bass a little while ago with the Decaydance bat on it. Do you think yours is cooler?
Absolutely mine’s cooler, man. I don’t need a bat. Come on.
So are you down to talk Grammys? What was it like when you got the news?
Yeah! I woke up, pretty early actually, to my phone ringing at 5:30 a.m. But it was one of my managers, Scott. So I woke to my phone vibrating and I was like, “I’m not answering that. It’s 5:30 a.m., f--- you.” So I hang up and just kind of sat in bed for a couple more hours, and then I had no idea why he was calling. So finally I woke up around 7:30, 8 o’clock I checked my email, and there were like three emails from him, and he’s like, “Hey man, wake up! You got nominated for a Grammy!” So I jumped out of bed, I was like, so ecstatic. I made a pot of coffee, I was like, “Oh my God, I don’t even know what to do.” So I was kind of like bouncing around the house for like 45 minutes -- just elated, man. Just a very surreal thing to be nominated for something like that.
What do you think about your chances to win?
Uh, I’m glad I’m not up against Twenty One Pilots! That momentous snowball that will never stop, it’s amazing! No, it’s just crazy, like, to be in such company like Blink-182, Cage the Elephant -- they’re amazing artists. You know? This is not a throwaway thing, this is so magnanimous to me. It’s huge.
From your vantage point, how do you think Death of a Bachelor has taken Panic! to this higher level from where it's been in recent years? Like, I saw you play the Theater at Madison Square Garden in 2014, and next year, you’re headlining the actual MSG.
It’s been amazing, you know? The fact that the fan support can do that, can take us around the world, to let us play places we’ve never played, meet people we’ve never met before, be in venues we’ve never played before, it’s amazing. I mean yeah, like you mentioned, the first time in 12 years playing Madison Square Garden proper -- that’s so crazy. My parents are very proud. I let them know -- I didn’t really have to let them know, they looked it up -- but I just saw them a couple days ago and they were like, “Holy hell, what the hell? What is going on?” They didn’t really know what to think because it’s just amazing. Like I said, it’s really daunting.
Have you been to the Grammys before?
Yeah, we went one time back in, like, 2007, maybe. And it was awkward because we got there and our handler didn’t really know -- I guess it was her first time too -- and we felt kind of bad but ultimately we were just annoyed because we couldn’t get into the party. She had forgotten our tickets I guess, and we were just kind of standing there like a bunch of jackasses. And people were taking pictures of us like, “You guys aren’t allowed into the cool party!” So it was pretty embarrassing, but ultimately it was fun. We just got to walk by and see a bunch of people we look up to. So it was cool.
Panic! surprised everyone by winning video of the year at the 2006 VMAs. What was your mindset back like then?
It was so funny, because we spent the previous week shopping for the most pirate-looking clothes we could find. Then I’ll look at pictures of it and think it’s hilarious. It’s awesome. So yeah, we were just really excited and we wanted to make an impression, and when we did it was amazing. We won the award for video of the year and it was crazy. I remember though sitting next to the Hilton sisters. Literally, I was right next to Paris and Nicky Hilton. So I was like, “This is very strange because I’ve seen you, like, getting DUIs on the news and shit. Like this is really bizarre to be sitting next to you because like you’re massive people.” And it was really crazy because when they called our names -- we didn’t know at the time -- the guy came up and interrupted us, so we got that in common with Taylor Swift. But afterwards, we watched the footage from our friend’s TV and saw people mouthing like, “Who the f--- is this?” Christina Aguilera is one who’s like, “Who the f--- is Panic! at the Disco?” It’s very cool to just come out of nowhere and win that. And from then to now, it’s been a crazy ride, man.
Who do you think you’ll be sitting next to at the upcoming Grammys?
Shit, I don’t know. I hope it’s like Robert Downey Jr. or something. I hope he’s just there to party, you know?