It looked like curtains for Las Vegas alt-rock outfit Panic! At the Disco recently when two key members, Ryan Ross and Jon Walker, suddenly quit to form a Byrdsian new group called the Young Veins. But singer-multi-instrumentalist Brendon Urie and drummer Spencer Smith not only survived the schism, they rose to the adverse occasion with a buoyant comeback, “Vices & Virtues,” co-produced by Butch Walker and John Feldmann. Urie’s unique voice in modern music is a neo-vaudevillian quaver that borders on Broadway; he has a similarly grand way with a showtune-sharp hook. The duo brings its steampunk-inspired stage show to The City on Wednesday.
Did you see this breakup coming? It was kind of a slow process. [Ryan and Jon]didn’t just spring up and go “Hey, guys, we’re leaving!” It was a gradual realization. The arguments we were having and the musical differences were so vast and huge, that we should’ve seen it coming, I guess. And we’d see them some days, and then other days you wouldn’t see them until everybody got onstage — it was really weird. But we knew where it was heading. It just took us a while to realize that yeah, this is the best decision. Because if we try to force a record out, we’re all going to hate it. So I’m glad that we did it, because we’re all able to stay friends now.
You seem more unleashed as a writer now. You’re even getting into ELO and Queen territory, right? I love ELO and Queen! I listen to ELO’s “Discovery” and “A New World Record” almost every day, and they just blow me away. Even “Xanadu.” I’m like, “Jeff Lynne, you jerk!” It makes me so mad because he’s just so good — his production is amazing.
Songs like “Memories” and “Ballad of Mona Lisa” sound like music-box melodies inflated to arena-rock size, don’t you think? I guess a lot of our stuff kind of comes out as lullabies, and then we try and work it into a rock song. So it’s safe to say that I’ve stopped second-guessing myself. I was hiding in the shadows with things that I knew I wanted to do, but I’d never made it clear. But now, working through this record, and having the responsibility of writing all the lyrics and stuff, it’s forced me to be more definitive with the things I wanted to do and say.
So everything does happen for a reason, huh? Yeah. The more you go along in life, the more you find moments that are inexplicably like that. So “Vices & Virtues” definitely happened for a reason.
IF YOU GO
Panic! At The Disco
Where: The Warfield, 982 Market St., San Francisco
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
Contact: (800) 745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com