They have endured band infighting, lawsuits and several lineup changes. But speaking via Zoom from their home base of Nashville in January, the members of Paramore couldn’t seem more at peace. Not only with each other but also with where they’ve landed in their career.
Adds guitarist Taylor York: “We have so many examples in our own story of what we don’t want to do.”
But now, Williams says, with Paramore arguably never more popular (the band heads out this spring on a sweeping arena tour in support of “This Is Why,” an album of essential, airtight, pop-punk anthems), the group that formed as kids in 2004 and initially bonded over their shared Christian upbringing can only marvel at how things have played out.
“It certainly could not have been thrown into a strategy,” Williams says with a laugh as she admits to the band’s tumultuous journey, which includes a six-year gap following its previous album, “After Laughter” (2017).
“We just got very lucky that people still care about our music after all this time,” she says. “For any band, even without the time off, that’s a big deal.”
“This Is Why” marks the first time in the history of Paramore — which now features Williams, 34; York, 33; and drummer Zac Farro, 32 — that it has maintained the same lineup from one album to the next.
It’s a bold, innovative step forward for the trio. Sonically, the band embraces several genres throughout the 10 tracks. The album’s heavy closer, “Thick Skull,” is all shoegaze drone; “C’est Comme Ca” is a post-punk, spoken word track; and the frantic, upbeat title track is guitar-anchored.
Paramore has also evolved in how it operates as a unit.
“Communication has become a huge thing for us now,” Farro says. “When you’re young, you just feel like, ‘Oh, I won’t say anything and it’ll go away.’ But when it doesn’t, it just builds into this big mud pile of bad energy.”
Some of that bad energy he references, interestingly, came from his former Paramore bandmate and brother Josh. The Farro brothers, original members of the band, both departed Paramore in 2010, but not before Josh Farro depicted Williams as a self-consumed and domineering leader. (Zac Farro rejoined the band in 2017; York, who joined in 2007, has been in every iteration of Paramore.) Taking time away between albums, all three band members agree, was essential not only for the health of the musical unit but also each member’s mental and physical well-being.
“We had toured for so long and it was just all output for so long,” Williams says. “And I think that was okay for a long time. I thought I could keep going. But when we were done with ‘After Laughter,’ we just knew somewhere in our guts that it was time to voluntarily take some time for ourselves. Not because we had to, not because we had to patch things up or figure some stuff out, but really because our life cannot only revolve around Paramore. It’s just not healthy. Everyone in this world is multifaceted, and we’ve spent most of our time only focusing on this one facet of our lives.”
Plus, Williams admits, she was battling severe depression following her divorce from longtime partner Chad Gilbert of New Found Glory. “Depression is not something that just goes away,” she says. “You need to find a way to treat that side of you as an integral part of who you are and your experiences.”
To that end, she admitted herself to an intense therapy clinic, and shortly thereafter wrote a solo album, 2020’s “Petals for Armor.” (York, who now is in a relationship with Williams, produced the album; Farro guested on drums.) She described the process as an intensely therapeutic exercise of its own.
“I never want to parade around acting like I’ve got it all figured out and I’ve gotten through it and it never affects me anymore,” Williams says. “Because it really does. I have really down days or weeks sometimes. But knowing that I’ve gotten through other things that really felt impossible, and seeing the other sides of those experiences and realizing how fruitful and meaningful they were to me, that just gives me a reason to not throw my hands up and give up on myself. Now, when I do go to those low points, I have a few tools that I didn’t before: age, good community and being willing to ask for help.”
Such wisdom didn’t come easy or natural for Paramore.
Encountering rampant music-industry misogyny, including having condoms thrown at her during the 2006 Warped Tour, made Williams realize how important it was that Paramore shows be a safe space for all sorts of people. Herself included.
“When people come to our shows, I hope there’s a common ground that people feel safe with each other,” Williams says. “Because all three of us — we’ve all felt alone or that we didn’t belong. Sometimes we’ve made each other feel that way. And then other times through living in the South and having a different outlook on society — whether it be individuating from our families, whether it be being on Warped Tour and not really feeling like we fit in with any of the other bands when we were younger — there’s so many reasons that a person’s sense of community or self-worth can be affected.”
To hear them tell it, just getting to this point is an unexpected blessing for Paramore. Williams, York and Farro all emphasized just how immensely grateful they all feel to still be going strong.
“The amount of odds that we’ve somehow beaten to get here is beyond the realm of us,” Williams says. “I mean, the fact that it all worked out …”
She stops, turns, looks at her two bandmates, then flashes a huge smile.