FRANKLIN, Tennessee — With its modernized adobe façade, rose-tiled floors and leafy, wrought-iron porches, Emac Studios certainly doesn't look like a house of horrors. In fact, it basically looks like a Mexican restaurant, mostly because it used to be one until local legend/ former DC Talk mastermind TobyMac bought it a few years back and turned it into a high-end (though thoroughly conspicuous) recording studio.
But for Paramore, the place was a dungeon, a torture chamber. This is where they spent roughly a month trying — and, for the most part, spectacularly failing — to write songs for the follow-up to their Riot! album. It was where they nearly broke down, where they nearly split up and where they finally decided to put decorum aside and let the claws come out.
Needless to say, they have somewhat mixed emotions about the place, regardless of how nice the wrought-iron is.
"This room was kind of like ... sometimes it was really fun and almost a total escape, because we got to come in and play music together, and it had been a while since we had our own little space to rehearse. But after a while it became sort of dungeon-like," frontwoman Hayley Williams told MTV News. "We would take really long lunch breaks and try to get away, because a lot of stuff happened here. I brought some kind of ridiculous lyrics in for the guys to hear for the first time ever — after a whole year of me being quiet about everything I was feeling, and none of us ever stopping to hear each other out. And this was where all of that was put on the table."
"And that," bassist Jeremy Davis joked, pointing at the pane of glass that separates Emac's live room from the studio console, "[That's] the window we threw Hayley through as soon as she told us."
Of all the places Paramore showed MTV News in their hometown of Franklin — Puckett's Grocery, their local Goodwill, etc. — Emac is definitely the most personal. It was the site of so much strife ... and the place where they became the band they are today: the ones capable of making a stunning record like Brand New Eyes (which, incidentally, is in stores now).
"Most of our band talks and the counseling we had happened in this room. When [producer] Rob [Cavallo] came down to talk about what we wanted from the record and we realized we really didn't know, all those talks that happened were had here," Williams said, looking around the studio. "We had a lot of figuring and sorting out to do. Our whole mind-set on what we were doing as a band. We didn't spend a lot of time here, but so much happened here."
And while not all of what happened inside Emac's walls was good, it was all necessary. Paramore went through the fire and emerged not only a stronger band, but better friends too. And that's definitely the most important thing to come out of the place.
"We're still young, we're still growing up and changing and figuring out what we want, who we are, what we like — we're always going to butt heads, and it's a healthy way for us to deal with it: to talk about it and be open," Williams said. "We're not always confrontational — sometimes we are pretty quiet about things — and it takes us a while to bring up something, and then we'll butt heads and we'll be fine. We've learned that it's easier for us to be open about things."
"It's like therapy. They say it's good for you when you talk about it," Davis added. "I feel so much better that everyone knows what we went though and we're not hiding all this stuff that we had, because we're cool now — so why hide it?"