After the last few years the Tennessee-based rockers have been through, the maturity is hard-earned.

Many bands start young – rock’n’roll is not a profession for the elderly. Such is true for Paramore, which was founded before frontwoman Hayley Williams was even old enough to (legally) drive a car. So when one considers that it’s now nine years later, it makes sense that the most striking thing about Paramore’s new album is that it perfectly captures the sound of a band growing up and, after some struggles, finding itself.

Line after line of the self-titled release, out this week on Fueled By Ramen, tackles the themes of adulthood head-on – and why wouldn’t it? After the last few years the Tennessee-based rockers have been through, the maturity is hard-earned, following the messy departure of the original band members, Zac and Josh Farro in 2010. The first words spoken on the record are literally, “Been through the ringer a couple times/Came out callous and cruel.” Lead single “Now” is up next, which seems to surmise Millenials in one tight chorus: “If there’s a future, we want it now.” What follows is an impressive collection of fighting words for the early twenty-something; one could mentally compile a “20 best lines about growing up from Paramore” list without even blinking an eye. (One more for good measure: “I don’t even know myself at all/I thought I would be happy by now,” from “Last Hope.”)

The personal growth exhibited within the album’s lyrics would mean less if the whole thing were set against the pop-punk punch of Paramore’s past. The guitars on those first three Paramore records just sound youthful, but the new album veers into proper alt-rock territory. There’s still no shortage of fun-sounding songs (ukelele interludes, hello), but there’s some heavy weight here, too, not to mention slight electronic experimentation.

Clearly, there’s a lot here to delve into, so we sat down with the band to discuss it all on tape for a special Essentials package. On top of that, we tapped music experts — Entertainment Weekly‘s Leah Greenblatt, Rolling Stone‘s Simon‘s own Courtney E. Smith and music writer/Aritzia Music Director Sarah Lewitinn (aka, Ultragrrrl) — to discuss where Paramore’s been and where they’re going. Watch below.


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