Hayley Williams may be known for putting on a high-energy show, but sitting outside at her Nashville home on a break from touring, she’s in mellow mode.
After a whirlwind summer of touring, Paramore is spending most of the rest of the year at home, getting to rest and recover. Williams’ plans include band bonfires at drummer Zac Farro’s house, spending time with her sisters and otherwise laying low.
“This summer, there wasn’t a lot of centering. In fact, it was a huge lesson on not letting myself get uncentered again,” Williams says. “I would say that my norm for having a routine is therapy once a week, and a lot of specific things in the morning, whether that be making tea and having it feel more like a ritual than just pouring water and putting a bag in. I’ve been doing physical therapy, trying to strengthen my neck, which is messed up from head-banging all these years. And I think that that has connected me to my body in a way that I maybe have never been connected to my body. So those three things, being able to express and have a safe space to just really process things, is something that I didn’t do enough of while we were gone. I really let it go. And now that I’m home, I’m getting back into it.”
“It’s now been a year since we started the album cycle, since we started practicing again, rehearsing for shows and stuff,” Williams says. “So yeah, this is kind of our first little real break and we’re going to be writing and we’re just going to try to recharge so we can get back out there — especially next summer. We’ve got a long summer.”
Next summer will take the band to Europe as part of the 2024 run of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour (“It’s just going to be me double-fisting Aperol Spritzes all summer,” Williams says), picking up after opening two of Swift’s shows earlier this year. The current tour is in promotion of the band’s album “This is Why,” released in February, which was their first in six years.
Paramore was formed way back in 2004, and Williams is perhaps more shocked than anyone that they are still around, and as relevant as ever. Given how prevalent their song “Misery Business” is today, it’s disorienting to remember it was released more than 15 years ago, in 2007. Punk pop has had a huge resurgence in recent years, which means that the Paramore of 2023 is still performing its early 2000s hits.
“We retired ‘Misery Business’ for a few years, and it happened to be the few years that we took time off. So when we came back, there had been this huge resurgence of that era of music,” Williams says. “And we were just like, if we’re not going to give it to them, then what are we doing? And I think the thing that makes us feel better about dipping back into that in a nostalgic way is that we don’t live there. Thankfully, the people that come to our shows are also stoked to see new songs, and there never feels like a stale moment in the show, which sometimes it can. Sometimes you go to see your favorite band and you just want to see the songs that you grew up listening to. And every show I tell our audiences, thank you guys so much for loving the new stuff, but also for growing up with us. Because people don’t really necessarily want to get on stage and read their diary from when they were 17 every night and have that be it. At 34, I don’t feel like I’m writing ‘Misery Business.’”
At 34, Williams feels like she’s a completely different performer than she was as a teenager; when the group first started, she was one of the only women in a sea of male metal bands, and as a 17-year-old in that space, felt the need to create and armor for herself.
“I really created such a hard-core version of myself. And I feel so much softer and more open now, and that because of that, I feel like I’m allowed to be more myself. It’s nice because I do think that our band has always kind of championed people having their own unique thing, being different or being a space for people who have felt outcast in some way or all of that. That was just important to us,” she says. “But it’s interesting because at the time, being a teenager, I don’t think that I was fully present in myself because it was just, it’s scary. The world’s scary, and you’re 17 and you’re doing all these new things for the first time in front of the world. And I think that now there’s just an ease to being wherever I’m at, not feeling like I have to puff myself up and be really tough to get through something.”
Her approach to onstage fashion has also undergone a transformation, and for this current tour, she wanted to juxtapose the “anxiety” of the album with more feminine silhouettes and pieces. Her favorite decades of fashion are the ’60s and ’70s, so she looked to the style of people like Jane Asher and Debbie Harry as inspiration.
“We always will look to Debbie, because she also wore really feminine silhouettes, but had a cool toughness to her. And I think that where we’re at culturally and politically, I wanted to reflect a time that for all I’ve ever read about it, for all I know of, was similar,” Williams says. “There was a lot of fighting for rights that should be very basic human rights. And I think I just thought between all those things, it felt like the right persona or character for the album, to be really angry while wearing Mary Jane and a tiny, tiny miniskirt.”
Nostalgia, be it in the fashion inspiration or in the crowd’s reactions, is all over the Paramore tour. Now that she’s at home, having a moment to breathe, Williams is feeling reflective.
“Every now and then, we’ll play a song and I’ll be really present, not only the being with people aspect, but I’ll be really listening to the lyrics, I’ll be like, ‘oh my god, I can’t believe I can’t believe I wrote this.’ I remember we were playing a song called ‘My Ghost,’ which was on our third album, and it’s one of my favorites because I think it reflects some of the music that we were listening to more in our acoustic [stage]. And we were playing it somewhere, and it was the first time that I really paid attention to what I was saying in a long time, and it was so emotional,” she says. “I just felt like, ‘god, man, we’ve been through so much as a band. We should not still be here. There’s no reason that we should still be here.’ I joke all the time that we’re like a cockroach. We just won’t die. I’m so grateful.”