Sometimes you never truly appreciate what you have until it’s gone, goes the old maxim. And Brendon Urie can definitely relate. Growing up Mormon in the gambling mecca of Las Vegas, he was too young—and too sheltered—to fully appreciate Sin City.
And by the time the singer had joined emo outfit Panic! at the Disco in high school and set out on tour, he’d grown angry, resentful of the metrolis. Eventually, he relocated to Santa Monica and never thought twice about his past.
“But I’ve been going back and forth from LA to Vegas quite a bit over the past couple of years, and it was just a totally new city to deal with for me,” he explains. Hence, the creation of the band’s new fourth set, Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!, a title nicked from Hunter S. Thompson’s classic ode to Vegas, and a libidinous celebration of the place in its own dance-pop right. It opens with a stomping faux-spiritual, “This is Gospel,” then keeps the church feeling going on the current Lolo-featuring kickoff single “Miss Jackson” (Urie’s reflection on a few old infidelities, and how it felt to finally get cheated on himself).
But with track three, a disco-glittery “The Vegas Lights,” the album kicks into dance-fevered gear, and never lets up, through “Nicotine,” “Collar Full,” “Girls/Girls/Boys,” and “Girl That You Love.” Driven by retro synthesizers that he and drummer Spencer Smith, Too Weird looks upon their hometown with bedazzled, fully adult awe.
PureVolume: First off, you just got married to your girlfriend, Sarah Orzechowski, right?
Brandon Urie: I did! Just a couple of months ago, actually. We had the ceremony in Malibu, just about seven miles from our place in Santa Monica. And it was amazing. And we honeymooned for seven days in Italy—three days in Rome, and then we went to this litte coastal town that was a total beach community. It was really beautiful.
Was the guest list an emo/punk Who’s Who?
Ha! Well, that would be awesome if it was! But not so much. Our friends in Fall Out Boy came, and we’ve been friends with them for a long time. And actually all of our other good friends in different bands, as well, like Butch Walker, were here. But we kept it pretty small—it was only like 80 people.
How is domestic life?
It’s pretty much the same. I mean, I feel like I’ve been pretty domesticated for awhile now. I’m usually at home doing chores, or hanging out with my puppies. Sarah and I have been living together for almost five years now, so now the only big difference is, I’m actually sharing life as her husband.
Oh, yeah. I’ve got a Jack Russell terrier and a Boston terrier. And we really like hanging out with our dogs because they’re so much easier to get along with than people. Plus, you don’t have to pay for their college tuition or anything – you can just hang out with them.
Did your missus—or marriage itself—influence the new album?
Yeah. All of the people who are involved in my life definitely influenced me in some way, or inspired me a lot of the time to create whatever I’m creating. But more directly, I wrote two songs about her on the record, and one in particular ends the record, called “The End of All Things.” Right before we got married, we wrote our own vows. But in a way, I kind of wanted to make her a promise, to tell her ‘This is how I see us spending our years in the future. And no matter what happens, I’ll always be there.’ You know, that kind of a thing.
A good vow would be to never get separated from her and the shopping cart at Target. Because you’ll never find them again.
Yeah! I know! But we have rules about that. We really do have rules. I’m not so good at the grocery shopping, but she really cares about it. So thank God for her! And I know when I’m going to Target, I end up going, ‘Hmm. Are these socks better those socks? Yes? No? I dunno!’ And then you get to checkout counter and think, ‘What the hell am I doing?
But the city of Las Vegas itself played the biggest role on the album, right?
Yeah. Definitely. I mean, when we left Vegas, we were 17 years old, so we had a bitter attitude. We didn’t have the opportunity to play any shows there because you had to be 21 and over to play any gig, because most of the venues were in bars. So when we left, we were like ‘What the hell?’ We didn’t really get to do anything that we wanted to do. But having gone back now, and getting to be of age and participate in things, you see the world in a different light. So taking the time to experience those things really changed the way I see it now. Now I’ve found the wonder of it, and it’s kind of amazing. I spent time just going to clubs, doing stuff I never had done in the past. And it wasn’t my scene, but going there and seeing people dancing and cutting loose? It was kind of amazing, and that’s what influenced me to make the music that we did for this album. I wanted to make music to party to, so people could let loose and really have a good time.
You emerged with a vintage Pet Shop Boys album.
Ha! I love it! I love the Pet Shop Boys! (He breaks into a rendition of “West End Girls.”) And it’s definitely a character album, for sure. I think all the songs are different in their own way, but when they fit together as a whole, they become this spontaneous, eclectic record, which is kind of crazy.
What was it like, growing up in a Mormon household so close to all that decadence?
It was very strict. I couldn’t watch certain movies, I never was allowed to go outside and play with friends on Sundays, because that was always the day to rest and worship. And Monday nights, we’d always have a thing called Family Home Evening, where you would spend the whole night with your family, which was kind of sweet, actually. We’d just play board games or watch movies together or just hang out. But when I started getting older, like 12 or 13, I wanted to branch out. Puberty was hitting and I wanted to go out with friends and stuff. That’s when I started to rebel quite a bit—I started questioning everything and trying to figure out who in the hell I was. So I definitely didn’t make it easy on my parents – I was kind of the black sheep, going, ‘Fuck you! I’m not gong to do this and I don’t care!’ So I definitely participated in the decadent nature of partying with friends: sneaking out late at night to go to a party that would end a few hours before school, and then show up sleeping in class.
But that’s what your late teens and 20s are for: pursuing the carnal. But in your late 20s, early 30s, the spiritual starts to creep in.
Yeah. I’ve always considered myself to be a spiritual person. I’ve always looked for deeper meaning in everything I’ve done. We have these discussions on the bus, where we share stories and stuff. And sharing some of my stories now, I realize that not everybody did the things I did. So it’s kind of nice to reflect on the past and share experiences, because then you start to learn, ‘Oh yeah. I’ve always been a spiritual person.' But I have a different way of going about it, to the point where I can finally share these experiences with other people now. And I have no regrets.
Well, Las Vegas is one of the only cities where you can walk down the strip and be offered catalogs—or cards full—of women, promising to be in your room in 20 minutes.
And it’s never the girl on the cards. You never get the girl that you see on the picture. And I know Vegas looks glamorous. But there’s this whole other side that people don’t really think about, unless you’ve been there and experienced it for yourself. Unless you’ve had a three-day bender there, and you leave with your dreams just dashed into the dirt, buried out in the desert. It’s so brutal. It looks glitzy and awesome, but by the time you’re leaving, it’s so dingey and seedy. So there’s both sides. Sometimes you come away a winner. But most times, you come away losing something, which means that you’ve probably lost a lot of shit. Luckily, I was never a gambler!