Four years after dropping their self-titled fourth album in 2013, US pop rock outfit Paramore today unleash their fifth record After Laughter. And according to Atlantic Records UK general manager Mark Mitchell, it could well provide them with their most successful UK outing to date.
Released via Fuelled By Ramen/Atlantic Records, After Laughter boasts a distinctly more commercial sound, typified by the album’s lead single Hard Times, which has already become the band’s highest charting iTunes single to date, peaking at No.8.
The label also opted to drop details on the single release, album and tour all within a very short time frame, in contrast to so many modern day releases that look to drip feed new music and accompanying announcements over the long term.
We caught up with Mitchell to delve inside the After Laughter campaign…
From the sound of Hard Times, it seems as though Paramore are taking their sound in a more commercial direction. Was that a conscious decision by the band?
They finished the last album with a track called Ain’t It Fun and if you go back over all their albums you can hear a real evolution of their sound and the image. I can understand how Hard Times, the opening track on the album, might take people by surprise, but if you look a little bit deeper, where they were on the last album certainly a had a little bit of this. I’m sure the next record will evolve as well. Maybe the band took a slight risk by opening with what some might call a more pop feel, but it certainly worked. We’re all really happy and proud of it. There is a real sense of freedom within Paramore. The last record opened with a more guitar oriented sound and progressed into a more pop feel. That was not only accepted by fans but was really successful as well, so going into this record there was a genuine feeling of, We can do what we want and have fun doing it.
Do you think this more commercial sound will provide the band with their biggest UK hit yet?
Quite possibly. They’re going to not only take their core fanbase with them into this record and beyond – certainly ticket sales are suggesting that – but they will open the band up to a whole bunch of new listeners. There’s always been a commercial pop element to what they’ve done, but this is a lighter, happier sound.
The band has welcomed back former drummer Zac Farro to the fold, after he left the band in acrimonious circumstances seven years ago. Has this affected their sound or inter-band relationships in any way?
It’s actually really energised them. Zac coming back to the band has given them solidity and a feeling of being a real gang again. It’s been hugely positive. They are opening the live campaign at the Royal Albert Hall – tickets sold out literally in a minute – I think that gig will be incredibly celebratory and a really exciting moment.
What was the thinking behind announcing everything at once, as opposed to drip-feeding the announcements?
Traditionally, you may announce a single then a couple of weeks later the album pre-order goes up, then the pre-order would be six or seven weeks. We all wanted to keep the momentum and the excitement really high so we purposely compressed announcements into a three-week window. It feels really exciting. There is often a danger of starting a campaign and creating a lot of excitement around the return of an act and within a two-month window the excitement starts to dip slightly. We were very conscious that a three-week window could be a real challenge, but it was absolutely going to kepe the excitement really high. The band felt it would be a great short period and that the first shows would be post album. And I think it’s worth it.
What is it about Paramore that makes them appeal to both rock and pop fans?
Hayley [Williams] is just utterly believable. If she’s in the midst of huge, loud, wailing feedback screaming into the mic at the end of a gig in a stadium, or she’s singing the lead vocal on a slightly R&B rap track she has a delivery and performance where you know she means it. It’s completely real. See her live and you know from the second you see her that she feels it and believes it.
The band have previously performed at The O2 and Wembley Arena in the UK. How big could they become as a live draw this side of the pond?
There is a balance between what the festival opportunities are and what they present, both for the fan and the artist, and what an O2 or an arena or stadium can present. By the end of this campaign it would be entirely realistic to be targeting multiple O2s or venues of that scale. Will that be right for where the artist is at the time, I don’t know?