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Truly a group of their times, Panic! At The Disco was discovered shortly after they posted some demo tracks on the internet.
It all started with guitarist Ryan Ross and drummer Spencer Smith, teens living in the suburbs of Las Vegas, learning to play their instruments by covering Blink 182 songs. When they decided it was time to move ahead, they recruited classmates Brent Wilson, bass, and Brendon Urie, guitar/vocals, to form a quartet.
"We started off learning to play our instruments by doing Blink 182 covers. They were one of the first bands we got into." ~ Ryan Ross
The fledgling group soon adopted the name Panic At The Disco, after a Name Taken and Smiths song. Practicing in the living room of Spencer Smith's grandmother, it wasn't long before the band had a couple tracks they wanted to be heard. But how could they draw the attention they desired? Though it may seem like a novel idea to many, for high school kids of the new millennium it was a simple solution - they posted a couple tracks online on a site devoted to Decaydance, a label belonging to Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz.
When the tracks came to his attention, Wentz was so impressed he traveled to Vegas to see the band. After attending one of their practice sessions, he decided to take a chance on the group that had never, up to then, played a live show.
"We were kind of reaching out to him. Just the fact that he took a chance on coming out and seeing a band who had never played a show is cool." ~ Brendon Urie on Pete Wentz
The band and their new label, Decaydance/Fueled By Ramen, clicked from the start. "They understood what we wanted to do as a band," said Ryan Ross. "They gave us a lot of freedom to do what would make us happy with our music."
Next stop for the PATD express was College Park, Maryland, where the group met up with renown producer Matt Squire and went to work on their debut album.
"When I told my dad I wanted to drop out and write music, he definitely flipped out. It was a battle between me being happy and doing what would make him happy." ~ Ryan Ross on his decision to drop out of college to pursue a music career
Despite being influenced by Fleetwood Mac, Counting Crows, Third Eye Blind, Queen and Saves The Day, PATD's first album was uniquely all their own. Feeling that the lyrics to the first tracks were too autobiographical, Ross made a conscious decision to depersonalize the second half of the album. "I didn't feel I wanted that much of my life out there so on the second half I wanted them to be more open, more dramatic. I like to go into really small details but at the same time keep it open as a wider message." said Ross. In order to assure that the album didn't wind up having "11 of the same songs on it," the band decided to divide the album in half, describing the first part as "futuristic," the second "nostalgic."
"It was two extremes of influence being put next to each other: the most electronic music we have on the record and the most old, out-of-style music we have on the record." ~ Ryan Ross
Already attracting a dedicated internet following, Panic At the Disco began to hone their stage performance. It was only after they returned to Vegas after recording A Fever You Can't Sweat Out that they played their first live concert. More than 200 fans showed up, including Ryan Ross's enthusiastic father who realized now that PATD was much more than a distraction for his son.
Following the release of their album in September of 2005, the group embarked on the Nintendo Fusion Tour along with Fall Out Boy, Boys Night Out, Motion City Soundtrack and the Starting Line. PATD introduced their music, including the single I Write Sins Not Tragedies, to sold out audiences around the country.
"The lyrics are just stuff that happens to me, things that have happened to me in my life. By the time it's come to the last track on the album it's more a story than real life." ~ Ryan Ross
Bassist Brent Wilson was fired early in 2006. The group claimed that Wilson wasn't cutting it on stage, and that his bass parts on A Fever You Can't Sweat Out were recorded by other members of the band. Wilson reported that he had no part in the discussions about his dismissal and that he was fired over the phone. He was replaced by the band's friend Jon Walker.
Next came a series of headlining gigs around the U.S. and overseas appearances in the U.K. Following the release of their second single, The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage, the group's momentum continued as their music received more play on the radio and they won Video of the Year honors at MTV's VMA show.
From the Las Vegas suburbs to the internet to the top of the billboard charts, it's been a meteoric rise for Panic at the Disco.
Their second album, Pretty. Odd., was released in March of 2008.
Copyright © 2004- by Ace Toscano. All rights reserved.
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