Members of Las Vegas four-piece Panic! At The Disco are taking a stripped-down approach to their as-yet-untitled sophomore album, due March 25 via Decaydance/Fueled by Ramen, relying less on computer software and more on their abilities as musicians, says Panic! guitarist/lyricist Ryan Ross.
"We just wanted the record to sound like four people playing a song," Ross said. "A lot of the songs are definitely more geared toward playing live; we didn't think about that on the last record."
Musically, the emo rock band is "working backwards," Ross explains, drawing musical influence from such classic rocks acts as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and the Beach Boys. "When I started playing music, all I was hearing was whatever was on the radio," the guitarist explains. "I'm 21 now, so a lot of my musical tastes have changed."
Along with some horn and string orchestral arrangements, "I played harmonica on a song and did some slide guitar, which we've never done before," Ross notes.
To help achieve the new sound, Panic! tapped producer Rob Mathes, who worked with the band on cover song "This Is Halloween" for the soundtrack of last winter's re-release of Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas." "We didn't want to go with one of the big rock producers, who say, 'It's my way or the highway,'" Ross says. "[Rob] has a really positive attitude and keeps us motivated when we're sometimes not feeling it."
Discovered online by Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz, Panic! made a splash with 2005's "A Fever You Can't Sweat Out," which has sold 1.7 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Not long after the album's release, the act became a headliner on the road, grossing nearly $6 million from 50 concerts in 2006, according to Billboard Boxscore.
Indeed, Panic! has learned a few lessons during that time, many of which are reflected on new songs like "Things Have Changed" and "Nine in the Afternoon." Lyrically, Ross is moving away from sarcastic one-liners and focusing on "our situation now and how things are a lot different than they were on the last record," he explains.
"Nine in the Afternoon," which the band road-tested on summer gigs, is about "all of the things you get caught up in while you're in a band ... then coming back and realizing that it's just fun making music with your four best friends," Ross says.
In support of its forthcoming album, Panic! will play U.S. theaters this March, according to Ross. Known for its elaborate stage setup and costumes, the band "just started throwing around ideas for a tour," Ross says. Although there are no concrete plans for how performance will play out, the guitarist can assure fans of one thing: "We're not going to do a circus show again."