Paramore’s Hayley Williams Reflects On Changing Emo Scene: “I’ve Had My Fill Of Older Men Telling Me What Punk Rock Is”
Paramore performed at the nostalgia-heavy punk and emo festival When We Were Young in Las Vegas on Sunday, after the first day was canceled due to dangerous winds. Bandleader Hayley Williams addressed the progress made in the MySpace and Warped Tour-adjacent scene that birthed many of these bands in a letter that was shared on her social media a few hours before Paramore performed, and again onstage at the fest.
“To grow up in this scene was not a simple thing,” Williams wrote in that handwritten note. “To be celebrating it (and to be celebrated by it) is not a simple thing. Nothing about this life — for you, me, or anyone — is simple. We fell in love with this subset of post-punk + hardcore likely because nothing else moved us. We didn’t fit in other places.” She continued:
To grow up in this scene was not a simple thing.
To be celebrating it (and to be celebrated by it) is not a simple thing.
Nothing about this life — for you, me, or anyone — is simple.
We fell in love with this subset of post-punk + hardcore likely because nothing else moved us. We didn’t fit in other places.
To be a young girl in love with this scene was to have the hope that I might find my own way to belong.
It took years to find that belonging. It’s taken a lot of unlearning. A lot of untangling knots I didn’t even know were there.
What I did know was that for every, “Take off your top,” or snarky punchline review… for every dramatic headline pinned on my name, or any season of self doubt… no one was going to define Paramore but Paramore.
Nearly 20 years later, we find ourselves a pillar of the very scene that threatened to reject us. And me.
I do my best to stay humble. What good is a bloated ego? But beyond the intense devotion of Paramore fans around the world, the reason we made it this far is us. What I really mean to say is — we never banked on trends. Or nostalgia. Or even me, alone. We only did exactly what we knew was real for us.
(And sure, I leaned into spite as needed.)
Tonight, while we’re running through the lengths of our discography and I’m refraining from singing the word “whore,” know that, inside, I’m celebrating the fact that, as a scene, we’ve come a long way. With much further to go.
Fuck the ones who doubted! Hugs to the ones who watched on and even sort of believed. Young girls, queer kids, and anybody of any color… WE have shifted this scene together. Messily, angrily, heartbroken, and determined.
Tonight, for me at least, is about celebrating ALL the facets of what punk music actually represents. All the things it wasn’t allowed to be when we were young.
Can’t wait to see everyone tonight.
During Paramore’s set, Williams gave a speech about the history of emo and how it became more inclusive:
“You had Minor Threat, you had Fugazi, you had a lot of that shit. Revolution Summer. But, we got lost along the way. And in the early 2000s when Paramore came onto the scene, roughly around 2005, the scene was not always a safe place to be if you were different — if you were a young women, if you were a person of color, if you were queer — and that’s really fucked up if you think about it. Because this was supposed to be the safe place, wasn’t it? Yeah. Yes. So, we’ve been around for almost 20 years, and I’ve had my fill of letting older people — especially older men — tell me what punk rock is and tell me what punk rock is not. Just today, there was a crusty old fuck on the internet saying that punk was supposed to be anti-establishment. Well it is. And actually, I can think of nothing more anti-establishment than young women, than people of color, and the queer community.”
At the fest, Paramore performed Brand New Eyes track “All I Wanted” live for the first time. Here’s that too: