When Panic! at the Disco guitarist/lyricist Ryan Ross was writing his band’s latest single, “But It’s Better If You Do,” he had some pretty lofty goals in mind.
“It’s a song about being in a strip club but not actually liking being in there. So I wanted it to be about the sort of complex inner-monologue,” he said. “It’s not completely fiction, though. It’s based on a scenario when I was going through a breakup with a girl, and I was in one of these clubs but wishing I didn’t have to be. Because in reality, I don’t like strip clubs. I think they’re kind of ecch.”
His lyrics discuss sweaty lap dances, a dancer who “sheds her skin onstage” and a portly strip-club regular (“I imagined some fat business guy with a cigar,” Ross said. “Just some guy who comes in every day after work”), reflecting that “ecch” attitude. But Ross isn’t totally opposed to the whole strip-club experience. In fact, he’s more than willing to let “Better” become a strip-club anthem for the new millennium.
“When I wrote it, I never thought about it being played in strip clubs. But I guess it would be kind of a change from what they usually play in there,” he said. “It would be a surreal experience, for sure. I think the tempo is too fast, though. So maybe someone would have to do a chopped-and-screwed version or something.”
Directed by Shane C. Drake (who helmed Panic’s debut clip for “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”), the “Better” video is a bizarre, theatrical take on a typical night in a gentleman’s club — if everyone in the club wore Mardi Gras masks and the whole thing took place in Depression-era New York. It’s equal parts “Eyes Wide Shut” and “Keystone Cops” and just a little bit pretentious. Which means it’s perfect for Panic.
“We were actually in New Orleans and we found this amazing mask shop, so I had an idea for the video where we’d have all the guys wearing animal masks at this burlesque club, you know, to symbolize how they were behaving,” Ross said. “And then, out of nowhere, Shane called us, and he was totally thinking the same thing, so we were on the same page from the start. So we developed the concept, and we wanted it to sort of be like ‘Moulin Rouge’ but set during the Great Depression.”
And that whole “Moulin Rouge” theme is something Panic! at the Disco hope to carry over to their North American tour, which kicks off on June 6 in Tempe, Arizona (see “Panic! At The Disco Announce First Headlining North American Tour” ). The band are hoping to create an “early France, circa 1900″ theme for the jaunt, which means audiences can look forward to pantomime, circus performers and one giant windmill.
“We’re looking at this tour as a huge opportunity, because for the first time we get to do exactly what we want,” Ross said. “We’re planning on bringing out extra musicians, we’re going to have costume changes and an intermission and circus acts and things like that. We’re going to have stage props. We already have a giant light-up windmill. It may not be the coolest onstage prop, but we’re kind of looking at it as a start. We’ll probably look back in a few years and laugh.”