As soon as the news came down that brothers and bandmates Josh and Zac Farro were exiting Paramore, the rest of the band was quick to let the world know that they would be carrying on as a unit, playing upcoming concert dates and working on new music in 2011. The band has had changes in personnel before, but this is by far the most high profile exit of them all (and also represents the last of the “original” members of the band to leave — save, of course, for singer Hayley Williams). It’s not a break-up, but it is a shift. What will they do now?
Historically speaking, fans seem to be willing to stick with a band as long as the frontman (or in this case, frontwoman) remains in tact. There aren’t any original members of Smashing Pumpkins left, but as long as Billy Corgan is the guy at the front of the stage, they’ll continue to draw. Guns N’ Roses remain a worldwide commodity despite the fact that the band is made up of Axl Rose and a bunch of guys who happen to return Axl’s phone calls. If the band has an already-established fan base (which Paramore does) and a recognizable brand name (also a check), then they can soldier on without worry of alienation. (Sure there will always be a small percentage of people who will whine, but as long as the songs are good, those people will come around.)
There are even instances where the frontman exits and the band can still draw a following. One of 2009’s biggest rock releases was the new album by Alice in Chains, whose frontman Layne Staley died way back in 2002. But fans who loved “Would?” and “Rooster” still packed arenas in support of the group’s new album Black Gives Way to Blue, despite the fact that the group’s key personality wasn’t there.
Ultimately, Paramore should hold the lessons of No Doubt close to them. The parallels between the two groups are pretty obvious (both are mostly male with a female singer who gets the bulk of the attention, both featured members who dated, both came from a punk aesthetic and evolved into something greater), and even when Gwen Stefani left the fold to pursue her solo career, the band remained a (relatively) solid unit. They haven’t put out new music since 2001, though a new album is due next year and they could put a successful tour together whenever they like (as they did in 2009). In the meantime, Stefani scored big solo hits while the rest of the band pursued other, more personal projects.
A band doesn’t have to be a prison, and if the group is really working, then people should be able to leave, come back and shake around when needed. Pearl Jam do it all the time, but are Paramore well-established enough to pull off that trick? It’s possible, but only time will tell. In the meantime, the world will eagerly wait to see what the new music sounds like and what the future holds for the three remaining members of Paramore.
MTV News will be unveiling our exclusive interview with Paramore on Friday at 4 p.m. ET with “Paramore: The Last Word,” a live stream on MTV.com that will feature in-depth analysis of the band’s future, real-time discussion with their biggest fans and exclusive footage of the band, past and present.