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The Young Veins find a new direction 

With two hit records under its belt, the pop-punk band Panic at the Disco was poised for longevity and success in 2009 as they headed into the studio to work on its third album. However, when guitarist Ryan Ross and bassist Jon Walker began writing, they started to see themselves going in a new direction — one that didn't fit with Panic. So, in July of that year, Ross and Walker left Panic citing "creative differences" and have since formed their own band, The Young Veins.

Gone are the days of bodyguards and large venues, as Walker and Ross reacquaint themselves to life in a van and performing in smaller clubs. After a recent stint at Bonnaroo, the band is now on the road with Rooney and Black Gold, touring in support of its debut album, Take a Vacation! -- an 11-song, 29-minute retro rock record released on June 8.

"We've got a good history with both of those bands," Walker says by phone during a day-off travel stop in Montana. "Black Gold -- the drummer and keyboard player were on The Young Veins album -- before we had a band."

The Young Veins are drawing fans from their Panic days to the shows this year, but Walker knows most people have no idea who they are -- which works to their advantage, given the change in musical styles. He says plenty of people who aren't familiar with the group or its music have approached them after shows to say they enjoy it. A new band has also provided Ross and Walker with opportunities -- such as Bonnaroo -- that Panic wouldn't have provided.

"We kind of expected everything to change for us, and it's really been eye-opening," Walker says. "[Bonnaroo] was great -- it was our first show after the album came out. We had to go up against Conan O'Brien but there was a decent crowd and a lot of them already knew the words to the songs, which was unexpected."

When Walker and Ross first started writing together, they had Panic at the Disco in mind. When the songs didn't fit with the band, but did fit with what Walker and Ross wanted to create, they decided to leave. "Our focus was completely on songwriting and keeping the momentum going," Walker says. "We followed our gut instincts with what we wanted to do to continue that. It was a few years of things happening in the band that put us in different directions for what kind of music we wanted to make. We were doing what we love for a living, but not really enjoying it."

Walker says it was tough to walk away from the experience and their friends, usually equating it to a divorce in previous interviews. It also helps that the band members are in their early 20s and young enough to figure out what they want to do and put forth all the effort toward it.

The album was recorded and finished by late 2009; then it became a battle with labels -- the band signed to One Haven Music -- and deciding the best way to move forward. "It wound up being for the best because it's a summer album," Walker says. "It's coming out at the perfect time, right as people are taking vacations and out of school and the weather is getting nicer."

The band's sound pulls from the style of 1960s garage rock, and Walker says it happened organically. They appreciated the songwriting and style of that time period, so it came through in their songs, he adds.

Ross and Walker wrote the songs with the intention of putting them on a single album, though it is a short one. Walker says they are constantly writing and working on new ideas, so a new album won't be too far off. As for the live show, the band plays most of the songs on the album, leaving out a few to replace them with a few select cover songs. "We're opening up on tours, so we don't have to play for too long," Walker says. "It's working out well for us so far."

Walker, who originally worked as a guitar technician for the band The Academy Is..., joined Panic at the Disco in 2006 as its bass player. "I played bass because that's what they needed," he says, "but I definitely have a lot more fun on guitar."

With Walker and Ross now content with the new band and music they're creating, they're looking forward and keeping the Panic behind them. "It's been a great experience all around," Walker says. "I feel like it's definitely made me a better person."

The Young Veins, along with Black Gold, will open for Rooney at Amos' Southend on July 11. Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 on the day of show.

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