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Panic! at the Disco was inspired by Sin City on its latest album

21st Century Media/Digital First Meda, @GraffonMus

Posted: Wednesday, December 11, 2013

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What goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas, they say.

Unless Brendon Urie is writing about it.

The Panic! at the Disco frontman says his group's fourth album, "Too Weird To Live, Too Rare to Die!" -- which came out during October and debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 -- was more than a little inspired by excursions around his home town that showed him a decidedly different side of Sin City than he experienced during his youth.

"Growing up in Vegas I spent a lot of time with family and other things because there were a lot of things I couldn't do because I was too young," says Urie, 26, who co-founded Panic! during 2004. "So I went on this kind of learning adventure where I was going to clubs and seeing how people reacted without the cynicism, without worrying if they're cool or having that hipster mentality. I wanted to observe, be a fly on the wall and also participate in stuff -- but mostly just observe.

"It was an awesome, eye-opening experience. I just saw the way people can kind of let loose and drop their guard and lose inhibitions and have a good time and no regrets. Vegas is really that town, and I wanted to write songs influenced by that, where I saw people dancing like no one's watching, celebrating life, having a good time in a sea of strangers.

"I guess that's a long way of saying I wanted to make a party record," Urie -- who wrote very directly about his experiences in the song "Vegas Lights" -- adds with laugh. "There are moments where it gets sincere and a little bit quieter, but overall I wanted to make, like, a celebratory record."

Urie had reason to be in a celebratory mood, too.

With 2011's "Vices & Virtues," Urie and drummer Spencer Smith had weathered the surprising and acrimonious departure of guitarist and chief songwriter Ryan Ross and bassist Jon Walker. That enabled the remaining duo to walk into "Too Weird To Live..." with a degree of confidence. But the bonhomme was sidetracked a bit by Smith's ongoing substance abuse issues, which came to a head when he took a leave from the group during late summer to go into rehab, informing fans via a written statement.

Urie wrote the new album's opening track, "This is Gospel," about Smith's battle and says the drummer gave his blessing to include the song. "I was so proud of my friend that he wanted to be that honest, 'cause that's one of the hardest things to do, to be that open and that confessional." Urie says Smith has been "doing really well" in rehab. "He's killing it, in fact. Before we left for (the group's fall) tour we had a birthday dinner and just talked and hung out as friends, which is something we weren't able to do having the band in the back of our minds the whole time. So to jsut go and have a nice friend hangout was a breath of fresh air. We all just needed to hang out and be able to laugh again."

Urie is optimistic about Smith's eventual return to Panic!, hopefully for the group's 2014 tour slate. Meanwhile the frontman says he's staying focused on the task at hand, including live shows and making more videos and making sure "Too Weird to Live..." enjoys a the kind of life he wants it to have.

"If I keep looking back in the past I get depressed, and if I keep looking towards the future I get really, really anxious," Urie acknowledges. "But when I'm living in the present and dealing with what comes to me, I kind of feel a little more tranquil and peaceful. That's something I've been learning as I go along.

"But I have no regrets about the past and I look forward to the future -- without concentrating on either too much. I think focusing on the present and what you have now is very important to being happy -- and right now I can say I'm really happy."

Panic! at the Disco, Switchfoot, the Unlikely Candidates and Strange Talk perform at the 89x Nutrocker concert Thursday, Dec. 12, at the Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $29.50-$45. Call 313-961-5450 or visit www.livenation.com.

Web Site: www.livenation.com

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