Music » Music Feature

The Girl Can't Help It

Paramore wants you to know that there are three other people in the band



It's the same ol' story: Cute, feisty female singer pulls attention away from the rest of her male band. One of the guys gets pissed and whines about cute, feisty singer's spotlight-hogging. Eventually, he realizes he'd be stocking shelves with Sue Grafton's latest novel at Borders, if it wasn't for that cute, feisty singer in the spotlight. 

No Doubt went through all this a decade ago, before the guitarist or drummer or whoever it was who bitched about Gwen Stefani getting all the attention came to his senses. A few months ago, Tennessee pop-punks Paramore experienced the same thing. Tensions were high. Shows were canceled. And then the guitarist or drummer or whoever it was who was bitching about Hayley Williams wised up. These days, Williams - Paramore's 19-year-old front-and-center singer - downplays the blowups.

Ê "I know it was kind of a sore spot a little while ago," she says in an e-mail exchange. "To be honest, it's never been as much of a sore spot as the media has made it out to be. We knew going into this that it would be different, and for a while we tried to fight it. We've realized the best thing to do is just let people say what they want, because it's not going to change who we are as a band."

For the past 14 months, Paramore has been on the road and pretty much everywhere else promoting its second album, Riot! - its first CD to be backed by a major label (Riot! is on powerhouse pop-punk label Fueled by Ramen, which is distributed by Atlantic). Three so-so singles were pulled from the record for airplay: "Misery Business," "Hallelujah" and "Crushcrushcrush."

In March, right around the same time Paramore played South by Southwest and was prepping its summer schedule (which included select dates of the Warped Tour as well as its own headlining gigs), it released "That's What You Get," a terrific blast of summery pop, complete with a Godzilla-sized hook. A year after its release, Riot! went platinum. We can't help but think that part of the reason for the CD's slow build (a rarity in today's first-week make-or-break market) has to do with the record company holding on to "That's What You Get," an obvious single, for almost a year. If "For a Pessimist, I'm Pretty Optimistic" (Riot!'s firecracker of an opener and its best song) turns out to be the next single, it'll confirm our theory.

But Williams says that isn't the case; "For a Pessimist, I'm Pretty Optimistic" won't ever be released as a single, she says. "I actually think that's for the best, because it's a fan favorite. And a lot of times, those songs are better off saved just for the fans."

Paramore has racked up tons of those fans since it formed in Franklin, Tennessee (it's near Nashville) four years ago. The four friends were all in high school at the time. (Let's give the other members a shout-out here: bassist Jeremy Davis, guitarist Josh Farro and drummer Zac Farro. We don't want to start another inner-band feud.)

In 2005, the group released its debut album, All We Know Is Falling. Paramore became a word-of-mouth hit - especially the redheaded girl fronting the band. They mixed a little bit of punk, a little bit of pop and whole lotta teen spirit. Williams says growing up near Music City U.S.A. had much to do with Paramore's distinguishing itself from the region's big-hat-wearing cowboys and cowgirls.

"There are a few different scenes going on in Nashville," she says. "There's a great indie scene, an awesome hardcore and punk scene and, of course, there's a lot of country music going on. There's a little of everything. I think we are lucky to have a place like that to call home." The songs on Riot! deal with the usual MySpace-generation issues: boyfriends, girlfriends, breaking up, making up. They're vague enough for millions of fans to relate to, yet Williams says they all come from a more personal place. If listeners hear themselves in the songs, all the better. "I write about things that I've gone through," she says. "I never try to write on a subject I don't know anything about." Ê

Paramore has been on the road - with occasional breaks for Christmas and recording Riot! - ever since All We Know Is Falling came out three years ago. They'll be touring for several more months, so don't expect a new album for at least a year. "The writing process is slow," says Williams. "Needless to say, we aren't playing any new songs live. We can't wait to get home and focus on writing. We're ready to put out a new record."

At least it looks like the band will be around to release another album. Everyone seems to have finally accepted the fact that the cute, redheaded singer fronting the group is Paramore's real star, and there's no need to whine about the situation. At least not in public. "We're all growing up, and we're learning how to deal with it on a daily basis," says Williams. "It's a little different having the world watch, but I think we're doing a fairly good job staying levelheaded."

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