Before and After Laughter: Hayley Williams Opens Up
Three years ago, Paramore was unstoppable.
“Still Into You” and “Ain’t It Fun” controlled the airwaves. They made it as one of the few bands to successfully crossover from their pop-punk roots to mainstream success. Self-Titled era came to an end with Parahoy II, two powerhouse tours, and a Grammy to crown it. Singer Hayley Williams was engaged to her then-boyfriend of nearly ten years, former bassist Jeremy Davis had his first child, and outwardly, it looked like they had every reason to be happy. Album number five was still a ways away but surely it would carry the bombast and bouncing enthusiasm of their self-titled album?
After Laughter certainly challenged those expectations.
Hayley recently penned an op-ed for PAPER where she discussed depression and anxiety, inadequacy, and learning to laugh again.
She touches on much of those expectations for post-2015 Paramore. “In the summer of 2015, I was an engaged, yellow-haired 26-year-old. There was a Grammy sitting on my kitchen counter and boxes everywhere from the move I’d made back home to Nashville after a few weird years in LA. I was going to get married that September, slow down some, plant a garden, have a kid, make another Paramore record. Everything was finally going to be perfect and I was going to live happily ever afte— Oh.
Just threw up a little bit.”
Hayley has spoken before about her depression before, the lens of endless despair that she slogged through for years, even through the lead up to After Laughter‘s release in 2017. In June 2017, Fader interviewed Paramore and it became apparent that for Hayley, the hurt was still fresh: “‘I don’t feel as hopeful as I did as a teenager.'”
After Laughter is laden with ’80s-flavored summer bops about hitting rock bottom and not wanting to get back up (“Rose-Colored Boy,” “Hard Times”), to say nothing of the tracks that don’t pretend to be anything but melancholic (“26,” “Tell Me How”).
But in the PAPER essay, time seems to be doing it’s job. Well, time, good friends, and perspective. “I’m noticing similar movement in my friends’ lives too. More presence and awareness. More tenderness. I’m alive to both pain and joy now. I have my old laugh back, as my mom says. The one that takes over my body and sends me out of myself for a few seconds. And only a couple years ago, I had hoped I’d die.”