Hayley Williams always knew her debut solo album, Petals for Armor, would be a detour, but she still felt anxious about getting Paramore back together after several years apart. But on the first day she, Taylor York, and Zac Farro reconnected at a Nashville studio space, those nerves quickly melted into relief.
“We wrote and tracked something we loved and it actually surprised us,” Williams tells Rolling Stone in an email. “We kept joking it was all downhill from that point, but thank God we’ve been surprised a lot throughout this whole thing. I’m always waiting for the moment for us to know we’re onto something new and we’re not just rehashing the same shit. It was ‘Ain’t It Fun’ for our self-titled record, and ‘Hard Times’ or ‘Told You So’ for After Laughter. It’s not about it feeling like a hit so much as it’s a scary, exciting feeling that you’re treading uncharted waters. It keeps you curious. We got to feel that feeling early on this time.”
It’s been five years since Paramore’s last album, 2017’s After Laughter, and the trio is well into the process of recording what will be their sixth LP (no title or release date, yet). Their earliest songwriting sessions took place in Nashville, but they’ve since relocated to a studio in California to cut the record.
“Studios just feel like studios, but we brought a ping pong table and there’s a kitchen that I say I’m going to use. My Postmates bills are humiliating,” Williams quips, adding: “We started recording only a couple of months ago. We go into the studio around 10 a.m. and leave around 7 or 8 p.m. like a bunch of dads. I’ve been trying to get SZA to come hang with us ‘cause I want to be friends in real life but we leave the studio to eat and sleep and she’s still carpe-ing the diem.”
(Williams and Paramore have covered SZA songs in the past; the band’s live mash-up of their song “Grow Up” with SZA’s “20 Something” even earned a rousing “Go OFF queen” from SZA.)
Along with marking their first album in half a decade, Paramore’s next LP will also be the first Williams, Farro, and York have ever started and finished together as a trio. Noting he came in halfway through the making of After Laughter, Farro says, “It’s really exciting because the three of us have completely different strengths when it comes to creating. It’s making the music and just the whole process of making a Paramore album feel completely new.”
As for the album’s sound, Williams says she and York had been reminiscing on some of their earliest influences well before they began writing the LP. But she’s quick to note that that doesn’t necessarily mean the group is necessarily plotting a “comeback ‘emo’ record.”
“The music we were first excited by wasn’t exactly the kind of music we went on to make,” Williams says. “Our output has always been all over the place and with this project, it’s not that different. We’re still in the thick of it but some things have remained consistent from the start. 1) More emphasis back on the guitar, and 2) Zac should go as Animal as he wants with drum takes.”
Paramore’s album six sessions come ahead of a momentous moment: This March, as Williams notes, will mark 20 years since she, Farro, and York first met and became friends. Much has changed since then, and while all three needed to go their separate creative and personal ways for a few years and just be, as Williams puts it, “regular friends, without getting the outside world involved,” their paths were always destined to lead back to the same place.
“Paramore,” Williams says, “feels like home.”