"Brendon," I say brightly. "I was a bit disappointed not to hear from you, but it's certainly smashing of you to fly in from Cincinnati after the show for an in-person chat."
"Actually, you're dreaming," he clarifies in a youthful, slightly whiny voice. "Also, while I've assumed the appearance of Brendon, the only band member you recognize, I'll be speaking as Ryan Ross, the guitarist who writes all the lyrics and does most of the press."
"To answer your first question, yes, it's a bit disappointing that ..."
"Wait, you're reading my mind?"
"I'm in your subconscious. It's not hard from here."
"Well, could you please humor me by doing this the old-fashioned way?"
"OK, well, I was wondering if you found it disillusioning that writers, even at major magazines, seemed to review your record without listening to it in its entirety. The first seven songs are primarily guitar-driven emo with some electronic squiggles and big-beat techno interludes, then there's a piano-instrumental intermission, and then the final five songs delve into classic chamber pop with accordion, string sections and a theatrical, almost vaudevillian feel. Yet Rolling Stone boiled the album down to "two pop-friendly musical trends '80s keyboard nostalgia and angry-boy pop-punk," and Entertainment Weekly included the same incomplete ingredients list. Does the fact that the write-ups were largely positive make it irrelevant that they mischaracterize the music?"
Urie bites pensively into one of those balloon-dachshund lips, which quickly reinflates when he starts to speak.
"I think people expect a young band signed to Pete Wentz's label to sound exactly like Fall Out Boy, and when they hear a few songs that confirm that hypothesis, they might tune out the rest of the record. That might change now that we're releasing some of those latter-half songs as singles, like 'But It's Better If You Do' and 'I Write Sins Not Tragedies.' Also, there might be some record-industry resentment because of how we got our start. We were signed after posting the first two songs we ever wrote to Pete's LiveJournal page, and because of buzz from our MySpace page, we already had a sizable following by the time we played our first-ever show, at home in Las Vegas."
"Fully formed, like an adult Athena springing from the head of Zeus, with devout followers already waiting in worship pose."
"Yeah, dude. Anyway, we didn't 'pay our dues,' so some people will look at us like a manufactured boy band."
"Well, those high-pitched squeals at shows don't help you escape that categorization. Ryan told MTV News that it's 'disappointing and disgusting how people are focusing on the way we look,' and you told Synthesis, 'We get some kids who like our band for the wrong reasons.' Of course, even the Beatles started out with hysterical fainting fans who obsessed about their haircuts."
"But the Beatles started out playing R&B covers at unheralded gigs, and it took them years to attempt anything as ambitious as our first album," Urie sneers. "We're better than the Beatles. That's right, I say things in dream interviews that I'd never say on the record in waking life. The Beatles played up their attractiveness by putting their faces on early album covers we didn't do that. And we're de-emphasizing our looks in videos, too, like the new one in which we all have fish tanks on our heads. It's very surreal. Speaking of which, a walrus and a kaleidoscope-eyed girl just sat down beside me, and they're freaking me out. Could you please focus?"
"Sorry. Given that you've played for receptive crowds since your first concert, you haven't had to convert any audiences. Some fans of the Dresden Dolls, your handpicked opener on your current tour, aren't crazy about you, but the anti-Panic people will probably leave early rather than stay to heckle. Excepting those upbeat yet not altogether accurate reviews and fawning teenage girls who care more about your cuteness than your content, has anything negative ever happened to your band?"
"Well, it was tough splitting with Brent Wilson, our old bassist. But like our drummer, Spencer Smith, told MTV News, 'He wasn't progressing musically with the band.' Between Brendon and me Ryan, remember we wrote and played all the bass parts on the record, and he couldn't reproduce a lot of it live. Some people acted like it was just teenage drama, but fuck that it was all business. We might all be under-21, but we're not into kid stuff. Our favorite groups are Queen and Fleetwood Mac."
"No drama with those bands, none at all. High-quality role models for impressionable acts. So what can we expect from Panic in Kansas City?"
"Well, like I posted on our Web site, this is not an ordinary Panic show. We spent most of the money we've made on elaborate stage props and guest performers, like the Los Angeles vaudeville troupe Lucent Dossier. You'll love them burlesque dancers, sword swallowers, bearded ladies, contortionists, clowns ..."
"I hate clowns. Get them the hell out of my dream."
"Sorry, guys. You heard the mean man."
"Why were you so late for our phone interview, anyway?"
"Well, we were doing a meet-and-greet that ran a little long, and then I got caught up playing Xbox with the roadies."
"Oh, I'm sure you were a bastion of professional decorum at my age. Or were you a 'zine-writing kid with a mohawk blasting bands for not being punk enough? I'm not sure, but there's a door over there marked 'Memories' that might clear this ... glug, glug."
Urie suddenly sports a fish tank over his head, just as in Panic's "Lying Is the Most Fun" video. He puffs his cheeks and angrily blows bubbles.
"Well, thank you so much for your time, Brendon, Ryan. Could you let the Royals in on your way out? Those boys have a World Series to win."