When the song “Misery Business” hit airwaves in 2007, the alternative world paused to take notice of the poppy yet powerful sound coming from a young Tennessee band named Paramore. Jeremy Davis and his bandmates spent the next few years cutting their teeth on the road, all while churning out records that documented their sonic evolution.
Following the departure of the band’s original drummer and lead guitarist, Paramore entered the studio as a trio in early 2012. Davis felt immense pressure to raise the bar, but he knew that his outfit needed to find a new identity in order to survive. “Our band isn’t a wall-of-guitar sound anymore,” says Davis. “We have a different formation now where the bass has a high importance on every song. A lot is required of me.”
Fortunately, the band brought in bassist/producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen to help develop Davis’ tone. JMJ came though, and Jeremy’s presence on Paramore’s self-titled album is his most commanding yet, featuring masterfully crafted distorted lines, big-bodied clean tones, and even a rare pinch of slap bass.
What was it like working with Justin, a fellow bass player?
It was amazing to work with JMJ. I feel like a lot of producers have so much digital equipment nowadays that they want to do everything through the computer. Some spend minimal time on bass, but JMJ would really get down and dirty with me, trying different pedals and amps. I couldn’t even tell you some of the things we did, because we had so many channels running; it was like a confusing fantasyland.
Can you recall any of his methods?
Sometimes we’d have two DIs going; one would go to one of my Ashdown heads and the other would go into an old-school Traynor guitar amp for nasty, gritty sounds. It made me realize how much you can put into customizing bass tone.
You get some serious distorted tone on “Fast in My Car.”
We wanted the bass and its tone to carry that song. For that, we had a signal going to my head, another to a Traynor amp, and another through an octave pedal and an Ampeg B-15—on top of all the distortions and fuzz pedals we used. That is my favorite tone I’ve ever gotten, and I’m so happy that that’s the first song on the album.
The funky slap bass on “Ain’t It Fun” is something new for Paramore.
Part of my personality as a bassist is that I started in funk music. For years I neglected the funky side of my playing, but for this song I rediscovered it. When we got to the end section I said, “Guys, you know I’m going to rip up some slap bass on this part.” And JMJ told me that if I was going to do it, I needed to come correct. So I kicked the chair away, the groove of the song took me, and I just played what I needed to play.
Do you feel that you matured as a player in this process?
I would definitely pinpoint this record as a major place of growth as a bass player. I used to think my stage presence was the most important element; I would go wild and jump all over the place because I thought that was my identity. But this record was a rediscovery for me, and now I’m focusing on my playing and knowing that it is what defines me.
Paramore, Paramore [Fueled By Ramen, 2013]
Basses 1980s Gibson Grabber Basses
Rig Ashdown ABM 900 EVO III heads, custom Ashdown 8x10 cabinet, Ashdown ABM-215EVO3 2x15 cabinet
Effects Tech 21 SansAmp Bass Driver DI, Russian-made Big Muff
Strings Ernie Ball Super Slinky (.065–.130)