You'd think the guys in Panic! at the Disco would have a whole buncha goals in mind for the follow-up to their platinum debut, A Fever You Can't Sweat Out. But, no — they have just one.
"Actually, our whole goal for this CD is to create a close relationship with Dr. Dre. You know, getting some sort of business plan worked out," bassist Jon Walker laughed. "I mean, the guy's a genius."
Of course he's joking (we think), because there's clearly more on the line for them this time around. Which is probably why, earlier this month, they announced they were moving into a cabin in the hills of Nevada to begin work on the yet-untitled disc (see "Panic! At The Cabin: Rockers Go Into Hibernation To Work On Sophomore Disc"). And it's probably why, when MTV News caught up with them in Atlanta last week — where they took a break from the recording process to play a free show at Centennial Olympic Park — they were fully sporting the "studio look": grizzled, patchy beards; bags under the eyes; and pale(r than usual) complexions.
"We're all sort of getting cabin fever. We'd go four to five days without leaving the house sometimes, and it's been nice to be outside for even a day," guitarist Ryan Ross sighed. "And I got sick of wearing sweatpants every day."
Ross added that Panic have four songs finished already and that they'll remain in the cabin — located around Nevada's Mount Charleston — for another month before heading to Los Angeles to continue work on the album. The new songs, he said, will follow his earlier idea of a "modern fairy tale" (see "Panic's Vacation Plan: Shoot A Video, Write Songs, Find Spot For Moonmen") but with a romantic twist.
"After bands become successful, they always make that choice to do the record about how cool or how hard it is to be in a successful band," he said. "So we wanted to do something more universal, something that pretty much anyone can relate to ... something that you wouldn't be able to place in a certain time period. And it's been really challenging [to write] lyrics for something like that, especially when our last record had so many references to pop culture. ... This one is pretty much a love story."
Walker chimed in to add that it's not just Ross who's spinning that love story. The whole band is getting involved, collaborating on a story line that one might even call — gasp! — a "concept."
"We all got together and created this — I guess you could call it a concept — that we all wrote and we were all involved with and pretty interested in," Walker added. "Most people who listen to our music can't relate to what it's like to tour and play shows and live on the road. That's the last thing we want to write about, because we do it all the time anyway. Ryan said it best. It's kind of a love story. It's a timeless age of romantic, poetic fantasies."
The guys have apparently scrapped their original plans to recruit songwriter/composer Danny Elfman to work on their sophomore album (see "Panic! At The Disco Promise Vulgar Video, Want Movie Music For New LP"), instead choosing producer Rob Mathes, who worked with Panic on the re-release of the "Nightmare Before Christmas" soundtrack (see "Fall Out Boy, Panic, Marilyn Manson Add To New 'Nightmare Before Christmas' Soundtrack"). The band's management, however, said Mathes has not been confirmed as the producer for the album.
And though Elfman might be out of the question, that doesn't mean things aren't still gonna be theatrical, fantastical and/or cinematic on Panic's new album. Quite the opposite, in fact.
"It's been really fun so far. I'll show these guys the lyrics and we'll all sit down and just come up with ideas. Kind of how you do a film score: The composer will watch the scene and then write what he feels like that scene is," Ross said. "And this record feels like we're doing something like that."