Bassist Jeremy Davis provides insight into what life is like in the limelight, how he’s learned to handle the added scrutiny, Paramore’s musical and Nashville roots, and the time when he quit the band.
You’re on tour right now with a little band called Jimmy Eat World, who I understand are something like heroes to you guys. What’s that been like so far?
It’s unbelievable. They’ve been the nicest, coolest, most accepting guys on the planet. It’s cool because I was talking with Zach, the drummer, two nights ago. He was talking about how he had heard about them being one of our biggest inspirations since the band started, and he was really interested to show us their biggest inspirations to inspire us even more, which was really cool. They’ve been all about hanging out. It’s funny because Zach brought his daughter out to a show because she loves Hayley and Hayley’s one of her biggest inspirations. It’s really funny how that kind of works, you know? It’s awesome. They’re amazing.
In addition to Jimmy, I’ve heard you cite everything from Sunny Day Real Estate and Death Cab to Thrice and mewithoutYou as some of your influences, which is a pretty diverse lineup. What do you think that has brought to the band?
I think it’s kind of worked in more ways than we thought it would. Before this, I used to listen to funk and R&B stuff, and so did Hayley. Josh and Zac really got us into the more alternative. I guess the indie scene, the real rock scene, and stuff like that. So especially with some of the new stuff that we’ve been starting to write, it’s all been coming out. It’s been really cool, man. It’s kind of a cool twist.
You tour as a five-piece but technically it remains just the four of you. Are there plans to add a permanent fifth member?
We love Taylor out playing with us and he’s been one of my best friends for a long time. In fact, he was in a band with Josh and Zac before the band even started. We love Taylor. We wouldn’t have anyone else out here with us but him. Hopefully one day soon Taylor will join the band. We’re just kind of waiting and feeling out this album cycle and stuff.
We’re trying not to confuse people. It’s always really weird when you add or lose a member, and especially being so fresh as far like in the media and stuff like that, we don’t want to confuse anyone or anything like that. So hopefully, yes, one day we’ll add Taylor.
Over the last year, it’s been a crazy rise to stardom that happened very quickly. Where you prepared for that at all?
I really don’t think there’s any way to be prepared for it, you know? When we released the album Riot!, we had no idea. Our main goal from the entire record was to maybe have it go gold. After it being out for only a couple months, it went gold. That’s the highest expectation we had ever even planned on.
Our first album, when we released Riot!, was only at like sixty or seventy thousand records, so that was our highest expectation for the record. We had no idea what it was going to be. You really can’t plan for that kind of thing. As far as how we’re taking it and stuff like that, we just feel like we’re the same kids. We’re just kids playing music, the same kids we’ve always been, and we’re loving every minute of it. We’re very blessed.
Do you find yourselves getting recognized a lot when you’re out and about?
It really depends on where you are but a lot more these days than ever before, especially with Hayley with her hair and stuff like that. I mean, yeah. It really just depends on where you are.
You’re all over the media these days and it seems they like to only focus on a couple aspects of the band, whether it is how you’re fronted by a girl, your almost “breakup,” or even your looks and stuff. As a huge fan, I kind of get annoyed by that. How do you handle all that?
We really had to learn. That’s been one of the biggest challenges for us. You really have to just let people talk. No matter what you say, they’re going to say whatever they want to say, whether it’s the truth or not. It was really hard for us at first to learn to just blow it off. But to save yourself tons of stress and just unneeded, I guess stress, learn to blow it off and find something funny about it and laugh it off. We kind of learn to do that pretty well now.
As you’ve become more and more popular, it seems they’ve been digging around in your personal lives a little bit more. What is that like to go through?
It’s kind of weird. We started dealing with stalkers and just, I don’t know, weird things, like having to sit down with your tour manager to come up with alias names for whenever you stay at a hotel so that people can’t find out. It’s kind of weird, man. I know that we definitely haven’t seen the worst of it at all yet.
I think the weirdest thing about it is that I feel like I’m just a normal, average guy who just enjoys playing music. I wonder why in the world do people really care exactly what I’m doing and stuff? It’s really not that bad yet. I believe that there’s a lot more of that kind of stuff to come.
Another thing I’ve noticed, especially online, is that there seems to be a lot of derogatory comments aimed at Hayley. How do you guys go about dealing with that?
It used to frustrate us when dudes, like older guys, would be yelling all kinds of dirty stuff to this girl, who at the time was like sixteen or seventeen. That was really hard for us. It’s all gotten better, you know? Like I said, we’ve learned to just throw all that stuff away. People are going to say whatever it is they want to say, and you really can’t do anything about it. All it’s going to do is be a waste of time if you try.
During the recording process for All We Know Is Falling, you ended up leaving the band for a little while. What led to that happening?
At the time we had been in the band for I guess a year. I was super devoted. All the other kids were still in school. I didn’t go to college, and it was unbelievably impossible for me to find a job that I could work that would cater to the band’s hours and everything, like our practice times and stuff like that.
It became very hard for me because I got really in debt, not having any money. I was still living at home with my parents and getting really bummed about my life. I was stoked on the band, and I loved everything we were doing as a band, and the music and everything, but it was just really hard for me. I felt like I didn’t live the life of a normal kid. I didn’t go to college, so I didn’t move out of my house into a dorm. There’s a lot of things that I felt like I was missing out on.
At the same time, we had moved to Florida as a band to record the record. Halfway in, I just really felt the need to go home. As soon as I got home, actually as soon as I got on the plane, I was like, “Oh, I just made a big mistake.” I don’t know. I think it was more of a spur of the moment, like I just had to get home. I had a girlfriend I’d been with for two years and everything, and am I really just throwing my life away? Then as soon as I got on the plane, I got my reality check. You’ve been working your whole life to be in this situation, and now you’re in this situation and you’re running.
I wouldn’t take all that back because I learned a lot of stuff that I consider pretty valuable in my life, as far as not giving up on things. I don’t know, man. I learned a lot of things. Really, I was only gone a month and a half, so that was the good part about it. I did get to go home and get a job and move out of the parent’s place. I kind of got to experience that when I wanted to, but at the same time I had to come back a month and a half later. I learned a lot of lessons too, so it was a win-win situation for me.
Do you think that experience made the band stronger?
Yeah, it really did. You never realize how much you love something until you lose it. I felt that way about the band, and they felt that way about me. The bass player who took my place, John, called me and said, “Hey man, I need to go be at a wedding. Can you take my place for two weeks on Warped Tour.” I was so stoked, especially the Warped Tour, you know? So I went and played those two weeks of Warped Tour.
While I was doing that, me and the band started to have our friendships come back. We were just having so much fun and it felt like I had never even left. So we were really hoping that it would all work out and stuff. Then I got a call from management a week later telling me that John has other goals that he’s wanting to do that have nothing to do with music. They heard that the band wanted me back. I was so stoked. I tried to act like I wasn’t. I tried to be like, “Yeah, I’ll look into it.” But I was so excited [laughs].
I understand your dad is a pastor. How was that experience growing up?
It was kind of different, you know? You’re automatically labeled as the pastor’s son, as a pastor’s kid. He’s done full time travel, so he was always gone a lot. It wasn’t bad. I did some of his traveling with him, and he was the one that got me into playing music and stuff like that. I initially started playing bass for him. It was a good thing. There’s nothing bad that came out of my dad being a pastor, you know? Not at all.
What does he think of Paramore?
He loves it. He’s so stoked and so proud of all of us. Before this, me and Hayley were in a funk cover band, and he used to come and watch us play all of our shows. I have videos from us back in the day playing these old shows, and ever since then my dad has just loved Hayley like she was his daughter as well. I’m really close to her family.
It’s just very cool because my family and her family back in those days just knew we had something going and knew that we were going to make it work. I guess we had the same goals and we were both very driven. Our parents are so stoked to see that it’s all worked out. We had that feeling like something was going to happen, and we were worry free about it not working out. It’s kind of really hard to explain because we were just in a funk cover band. It’s very satisfying to look back to then and be like, wow, we really made something out of all this.
It’s so cool because we’re young and we’re getting to experience and see the coolest places that this world has to offer. Just getting to experience things that most people don’t get to and still be young and get to play music. Just being in control of a company this big is so cool. All the clothes that we sell, almost anything we sell, is approved by us. It’s really cool to have that, especially because we have such a close connection with our fans. Most of what we do is inspired by our fans. I don’t know. It’s really cool, man. I couldn’t be more proud of where we are and how things have turned out.
One of things I really admire about your band is that you seem to do an excellent job of living out the faith. As you’ve gotten older and more popular, has it become more of a challenge to maintain?
No, it really hasn’t. But it does get difficult whenever we go to other countries and stuff like that and do a lot of international stuff where it’s not as common, especially in the music business, to be a Christian and to have faith in that kind of stuff. The only time it gets hard is when people are really picking on it, you know?
I think we’ve done well about it because our whole thing is we don’t like to shove it down anyone’s throats. We don’t feel like we should be the ones that should be preaching to them. Kill someone with kindness. You know what I’m saying? Even if it’s just a smile and being nice to someone, letting them see through you. That’s more of what we’re about.
I’ve noticed that a lot of the lyrics can kind of have a simplistic interpretation on the surface but underneath there’s a lot more going on. Do you view that dualistic nature of the lyrics as sort of a backbone of the band?
I’d have to agree with you that a lot of the songs sound like they have a very simple meaning, but some of them are actually a lot more deep than people think they are. I really don’t know. Since I don’t write all the lyrics, I don’t have the best answer possible for that question.
But I do know that whenever we write, the way we write is to basically just jam on what we’re playing over and over and over until you can really feel it. You can feel the emotions in it, and then who knows? Words just come out. Do you understand what I’m saying? You just play, and you’re not really paying attention to anything. You can just feel the music. You can feel the words coming out and the melodies. It’s kind of weird, but it’s awesome.
I interviewed Jamie from To Write Love on Her Arms last month, and I know you’ve done a lot of stuff with them. How did you first get involved with the organization?
We’ve been involved with Jamie, To Write Love on Her Arms, Renee and everything for a very long time, almost since it pretty much started, I believe. We love that. We’ve always really wanted to be involved with stuff, whether it is a charity or a nonprofit organization or whatever. We’ve always wanted to do that.
To Write Love on Her Arms just seemed to us at the time like the perfect situation. It wasn’t like a charity where we’d just give a bunch of money and say, “Hey, da da da da da.” It was really a friendship, and a relationship was built. It was in the same scene as us, as far as the music scene and stuff like that, so we’ve really supported it for a long time. I think it’s a great company.
Tennessee seems to be an area known more for country and southern rock type stuff. How did you end up on this side of the fence?
You know, Nashville’s really changed a lot. Before this, I was a studio musician in downtown Nashville, so I played a lot of country, indie, hardcore – all different kinds of music and stuff. Nashville’s really changed a lot. There’s a street, Broadway, where you go and 24/7 they have country music. But other than that, it’s a very cool scene. Hardcore was huge for a little while, and then indie music and a lot of experimental stuff.
If I was an A&R guy looking for good music, I would just go home and stay in Nashville because there’s constantly great musicians. Everyone’s there all the time, so it’s really kind of astonishing to me that there’s not a lot more out of Nashville then what there is out. I’ll go out to Nashville and I’ve seen some of the best musicians in the world play, just from going to shows and going to see like Victor Wooten and bass players. There’s all kinds of different people. I’ll go to Nashville to a show and I’ll see some of the most creative stuff I’ve ever seen in my life.
It’s kind of sad because some of these bands won’t ever go anywhere. To me, it’s like one band needs to be an A&R guy and really just help bands get out there, help them to start touring and get their foot in the door. Their personal nudge out into the world. I’m telling you, man, there’s some great stuff that comes out of Nashville, and it’s not country.
How did you first end up getting the attention of Fueled By Ramen?
When we first started playing shows and stuff, we knew that we needed to get management. So, we got management out of Orlando. They had a previous relationship with John Janick and Fueled By Ramen, so basically we just met up and did a showcase for them. John liked it and decided he wanted to sign us. Next thing we know, we’re going out and touring. It was pretty cool and it all happened pretty fast.
You did a cover story for Alternative Press a couple months ago, and they said they heard a couple new songs during soundcheck that sounded “remarkably more mature.” Can you elaborate on that?
I think that that’s probably the best way to describe it. From All We Know Is Falling to Riot!, there was a big mature step that was taken there. It just sounds a lot more mature, I think is the best way to describe that. The new stuff that we’ve been working on is just I guess a lot more mature than Riot! We’re not going to stray too far from the path that we’re on, but we definitely feel like we’re heading in the right direction.
Since you’re all still really young, do you feel like the sky’s the limit for what you can accomplish?
I think that’s what I’m most excited about, the fact that we are so young and there is so much more life in the band. There’s a lot of stuff that we haven’t gotten to do and that’s exactly how I feel. The sky’s the limit. I’m really excited with the way things are going right now because I feel like if we progress from here, who knows where it’s going? Like I said earlier, you can’t really prepare for things.
Originally appeared on Mammoth Press