A First Date in a (Sort of) Boat with Paramore’s Zac Farro
I, a massive Paramore fan, got into a fake boat in a restaurant and drank cocktails with the drummer and man behind HALFNOISE.
During every memorable first date I’ve found myself tactfully pulling at the others’ loose threads to see where we’re attached. Interests, hobbies, ways of seeing the world, the fact you both use ‘like’ as a pointless placeholder too much when you speak and wrote Lord of the Rings fanfic in your teens. That kind of thing.
Paramore’s Brand New Eyes is one of my all-time favourite albums. I was obsessed with it during the start of one teen relationship and by the time another one ended messily during an awkward period of growth when I was 20, it had been duct-taped onto my internal landscape. This alone was a strong basis from which to assume that me and their drummer, Zac Farro, would get on.
For someone who has been in and out of an astronomically successful band for years – he and his brother Josh Farro, lead guitarist, left Paramore in 2010 and Zac rejoined last year – oddly, there are only scraps online to find about him. Being a member of a band, he’s not a focal point in Paramore interviews, and he doesn’t share much on social media, preferring print photography and The Real World.
That said, I do have some info: Zac Farro currently lives in Franklin, Tennessee where Paramore began (he recently spent some time in New Zealand too). He was the youngest in the band and started touring with them when he was only 14. He loves The National and Radiohead. Post-Paramore, he started his own project, HALFNOISE, a fusion of indie rock that’s part sunny and fruity, part trippy and psychedelic – different but complementary to Paramore’s most recent album. It’s Tame Impala and The Beach Boys making synth-pop hooks, over a retro visual aesthetic that’s very much Zac’s taste. Despite having officially joined Paramore again – he’s been clear from the start that reigniting their friendship was of tantamount importance to him – he’s also touring and writing with HALFNOISE. That might sound intense, but after speaking to him, I sense this creative juggling is clearly making him happy.
We arrange to meet at an Italian restaurant called Bunga Bunga in Covent Garden because the Farros are Italian-American. Apparently downstairs there’s a boat and I’m pretty sure he loves The Life Aquatic so it’s all coming together. I enjoyed meeting and talking to Zac; he’s upbeat and forward moving even if we’re talking about something miserable. He gives lengthy and interesting answers that go off in tangents and it’s fun to let someone else steer the ship completely.
Don’t ask me what led to this because it was before I switched the dictaphone on but we started off talking about stag dos.
Noisey: Have you been on many stag dos?
Zac Farro: I’ve been on actual stag dos in New Zealand where I used to live, but we call them bachelor parties in America. My brothers went to one and they made the groom put on a… what are those things Borat wears?
Yeah. They filled the crotch area with Icy Hot or Tiger Balm, or whatever you call it, that relaxes your muscles but makes you really cold at first yet hot. They filled up the whole crotch part of it. He had to wear it and walk around in front of everybody. The typical stag do in America, I think, is people go to strip clubs. Which I think is so awful. Shall we share a big cocktail or get two of them?
Let’s get two each, it’s a Monday night.
Is it Monday?
It is. Did you see that leaning tower of pisa cocktail for ten people? This is an Italian place and you are Italian-American, right?
Ah, yeah, this is sweet. This is such a cool place. There’s a place in Nashville that looks like this. It probably hasn’t been updated since the 80s – it looks like this place is trying to. It sucks they’re selling it because Nashville is just getting overrun with buildings and apartments and condos.
How is Nashville? I have this really picturesque image of it in my mind from reading Paramore interviews.
If you were to go to Nashville on your own, just packed your bags, you would be like, this is the worst place I’ve ever been. It keeps growing though and it’s one of the hottest cities of the US right now. People from New York, LA, Chicago are moving there because it has this rough edge around it that I think New York and LA used to have. When I go home I feel like I jump into like the movie set of Dazed and Confused. And you go to a honky-tonk bar and you’re sitting there getting a drink and people are swinging each other around.
That’s what I want to see.
You will see that but then you’ll think: is there anything else to this city? It seems like a brown building set-up with kind of no purpose. If you come you have to hit one of us up or I’ll put you in contact with people because you need people to show you around.
I like to be the sheep on holidays. My friends are serial planners and I went with them to New York and Chicago last year to see Riot Fest.
Oh cool, yeah. Sweet. Did you see us play?
The show was really nice but the festival itself felt like going back to Warped Tour. That whole scene we used to play in with Paramore… I have this love/hate thing with it. I was seeing old people around – not in a bad way – but I feel like especially stepping away from the band and then rejoining... it’s still the same band, but [that scene] feels like a lifetime ago. It’s a blast from the past.
And you were a baby when you knew these people as well. Thirteen when you joined the band, right? I wouldn’t want to hang out with all the same people.
The thing now is I’m still my goofy self that I always have been – but besides that, I’m a completely different person. So it's almost like you have to catch people up on you.
I can imagine. So, it’s nearly Valentine’s Day.
In America, Valentine’s Day is so hyped up.
If you’re dating someone, you better show up and do something immaculate. A few years ago when I was 19, I felt so trapped and I was cooking dinner and I just felt I had to do it because it was part of society, I have to enjoy it. We tasted dinner and it was really bad and I had to say it tasted good. I just wanted to go do something else, like hang with my friends or something. I loved her, I think she was one of the only people in my life that I had loved, so it wasn’t that I was bummed to hang with her, I just felt like I had to do it. It's like when your mum makes you have a birthday party you don't want to have. I just felt a little trapped.
You’d rather a date was very chilled out.
I hate to be that person, but it has to happen naturally. That’s why that one was so bad. When it’s forced, you have to have a good date, and bring roses and chocolate. It's like this whole obligation. Not that I don’t do anything I don’t want to because that's also a part of being in a relationship, you try to be as selfless as you can. Hold on, I’ve lost my train of thought, sorry I have ADD, where are we?
That’s OK! Valentine’s Day, birthdays...
I think that's what I’m trying to do with my life in general: not set people up. I used to, especially in relationships. I say, ‘I’m so good at this, I’m so good at that’ and I’d talk myself into this corner just so the other person likes me then act like this caricature of myself. Then I’m just like ‘shit, I’m not that person, I’m just trying to impress you’. Now I’m just like, this is who I am, I’m kind of weird, I have ADD, I get sad sometimes’. That facade of I’m perfect. But they’re not really liking the real person.
[The cocktails arrive]
I have to take a photo. I know we just said about that but I’m actually taking a real photo. [Gets out a film camera] I’m so obsessed with film.
Your Instagram is really nice by the way, I know it’s a weird compliment to give...
No, that’s the only place I really post my film photos.
Tell me about your favourite films.
Obviously because of my hat [points to red fisherman’s hat] The Life Aquatic, love that movie, Wes Anderson is just incredible. I feel like he’s one movie to me. My favourite directors are Richard Linklater, Wes Anderson and Sofia Coppola. Then the Before Sunrise series, have you seen those?
Oh god, I love those.
They’re probably in my top five.
To go with your favourite movie: what kind of Italian food do your family make?
My dad is really good at making focaccia bread. He also makes this really good Stromboli. I haven’t been able to eat it because I'm vegetarian and he makes it with pepperoni. But I guess you can just make a vegetable one, I haven’t thought about that. Growing up, my dad would cook and it would be really epic. He would just go for meatballs and spaghetti back then, now he just doesn’t really care. It’s just all packaged stuff on paper plates now... what the hell, man! He used to make like wine reduction chicken masala and stuff, now it’s like 'here’s a cheeseburger'. I tell my friends he’s so good at cooking and then they come over and he’s just gone to Costco.
Someway between cocktails and Costco, the conversation makes its way to coffee and freelancers using coffee shops as work space.
So you want coffee shops to return to their original romantic origins. Creative people, artists having intellectual discussions and drinking coffee; this melding of minds type thing.
I want everything to be romantic. I romanticise everything. Look at my favourite movies. I think it’s almost a problem. That’s why I feel like I was born in the wrong time. With modern dating, you’re just texting all day, like ‘oh I just did this or did that’. There’s no magic in it anymore. I know I keep saying it, but that’s all I look for. That's why I love playing with HALFNOISE. I love Paramore too, I’m so thankful to be best friends again with them. But with this little band, we’re all staying at this Airbnb, bumping into each other, playing together, there’s no tour manager. There’s magic left in it.
Paramore fully frees you up for HALFNOISE to be what you want it to be?
Yeah. In the beginning of 2016 I had this talk with myself. I said, 'This is the last year I’m gonna do HALFNOISE because I have to like get a job and work.' It was six years after I left the band and I had been working so hard since I was 14 so saved up loads of my own money to get a house and travel and that was really cool for me to live in New Zealand. But at the end of that I was like, ‘cool, I need to start making money, start working’ and I don’t believe personally that starting a band in this day and age and touring and touring and touring and touring – like all the bands it sounds like you grew up listening to like Paramore did – works anymore.
But everything worked out great in the end.
It really is really special and I’ll never take it for granted.