Reimagining Business: Hayley Williams On Entrepreneurship, Paramore, and Finding Balance Between the Two
In the current digital era, there are many worlds in which we observe, perceive, and obtain access to every detail of someone else’s life. In fact, we have grown so familiar with this practice that we willingly convince ourselves that strangers on the internet are an important part of our daily lives. And actually, maybe they are? It’s possible that during a time in which we feel the systems created to guide us are actually failing us, we’re turning to each other for inspiration, motivation, and education. In the history of music, this is a cycle that we’ve experienced many times over.
Arguably created in the mid 70s, Punk was born for this exact purpose: coming together to disrupt, to voice change, and to inspire a new way of life outside of the systems that we’re born into through capitalism. Although built on vastly opposite values, the underground music and social media landscapes are survived by the need for people to connect. What I may offer is missing in these scenarios of culture (music), vs. connection (social media), vs. capitalism (business) is balance—not only embodying it, but understanding, studying, and living it. So, what is the balance between being a part of the current systems and actively aiming to incite change within them?
“What’s hard about loving punk music, being a part of any sub set of punk culture, we’re trying to spread this word somehow, whether that be anti-capitalism or whether that be fucking anything,” says Hayley Williams, the singer-songwriter, beloved member of Paramore, and co-founder of Good Dye Young, when asked about the tension between selling something as a business, and offering something as a community member.
“I don’t know what it’s like to be a mother, but to be some sort of a caretaker, you have to know it’s part of the job to not know all the answers, and to be able to admit that I think is powerful. So for me, whether it’s been Paramore, whether it’s been Good Dye Young, certainly, there’s a lot of missteps just as there have been a lot of good moments. It’s just like you’re not human without those mistakes, those flaws. And you’re not a great leader if you can’t be like, ‘Yeah. Shit, I didn’t mean to do that.’ Or, ‘Okay. We did this this time and it didn’t work the way we thought, so let’s try it this way.’ That’s the burden of leadership, is that you’re going to go the wrong way sometimes and you’ve got to turn around.”
Ironically enough, almost to the point of humor, this is exactly what Williams had to face three weeks after our conversation occurred. On November 1st, a Good Dye Young employee was called out for turning to their personal Twitter account to make jokes that accused the Brazilian Paramore fan base of hacking into the company’s social media accounts—a generalization that perpetuates harmful stereotypes. It makes sense that, for a company whose mission practices community first, many people were surprised and hurt by this. Like Williams said, you’re not always going to have the answers and you will make mistakes, what she might not have known when we spoke—and possibly the only silver lining to what is everyone’s worst digital nightmare—is that the weight is in your actions, not only your words. Amidst recording Paramore’s sixth studio album, we spoke in length with Williams and her team about what those action items look like, and in the end we got to witness the words, emotions, and dedication to protecting her community.
The thing is, there’s no written manual titled what to do when you fuck up on the internet because until now the power has never been so vocally on the people, while simultaneously so emotionally immersed by the business. It’s just simply not how capitalism intended it to be. And so what do you do? When do you care? When do you move on and how do you juggle the multiplicity of it all?
“It takes a really long time to build a business. So I’m totally fine with us making a few mistakes and growing and learning. And then again, me being able to have moments where I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m going to let this go a little bit more and see how it blossoms without me or with me standing back a little further.’ Like, I would love for business people to talk about that more because I just am like, ‘There’s no right way.’ It’s the same as any relationship, right? They don’t give you a manual for it. You just sort of have to go by feel and I’m more of a gut person.”
Dare I say that in 2021 punk is not dead, but it does look radically different. In one way, it’s the merging and coexisting of two worlds, both using one another to transform each other from the inside out. What I perceived through my own digital, and sonic immersion of Williams is that being punk in 2021 isn’t only to scream your anger, but also to face it in silence, tenderness, care, and a strategic understanding of yourself and your abilities to give back to this world. What I confirmed in this interview while speaking with Williams about these various worlds, is that it is possible to utilize the tools of capitalism to advance culture and connection, but not without experimenting with the rules, accepting mistakes, and acknowledging the boundaries and expectations within yourself.
This summer I had the honor of being invited by Good Dye Young to participate in their first ever music and hair dye campaign collaboration: METALHEADS. In speaking with Williams, I realized my own experience with hair dye, at six years-old, was also my first experience experimenting with the boundaries of our ability to express ourselves within a capitalist-fronted system.
“Part of the reason why I was excited to be in the METALHEADS campaign was because I have this memory with hair dye from when I was a kid, very specifically dying my hair. And going to school and getting kicked out for it. Looking back, I feel like that was one of those key moments where I realized that I was anti-system, and I was six. I was like, ‘Fuck them.’ And I kept dying my hair. But it is that. It is, I think for a lot of people, the introduction to ‘Oh, you’re different. You want to exist in a different world.’ ”
Founded in 2016, Brian O’Conner and Hayley Williams created Good Dye Young, a hair dye company with the intention of ‘break[ing] down that wall of just being a company’ while promoting ‘community around self expression.’
“This is the first time that we’ve really been able to dig into music and culture in this way, which is a world that I’m very personally connected to and professionally connected to,” says Williams while discussing the concept behind METALHEADS.
“Now, I feel like the two can stand alone. That took five years to be able to get there. I don’t get people who aren’t super emotional about their business, because for me, if I didn’t have an emotional tie to both sides, I really don’t think I would have a compass. I just wouldn’t be able to follow that gut feeling that says, ‘Okay, keep Paramore separate. Keep music separate from Good Dye Young.’ And then one day wake up and be like, ‘It’s okay for me to get off of social media and just trust and believe that they’re going to be, both these entities, are going to be fine without me talking into it all the time publicly.”
Following the release of METALHEADS, and just one day after her official break up with social media, Williams and I sat down to talk about creating balance between music and business, while reimagining those structures through a lens of community, culture, and change.
“It’s not about standing out. It’s about what you stand for. And I think no matter where you come from, there’s a reason to disrupt something. At the end of the day, only you know your cause and what you wake up to every morning and what that tension feels like, and how you’re the only person that knows how to move in it because you’re you, but it’s exciting.”
— Hayley Williams
Hayley Williams: Hi! I’m in a white abyss.
Fabi Reyna: You are!!
HW: It’s so weird, there’s nothing here.
FR: You’re just like, in a cloud.
HW: It looks like one of those shots with the Disney people where they’re like [signals wand motion].
FR: It’s incredible.