Hayley Williams Explains Why Hair Is a “Very Emotional Thing,” and Why She’d Never Wear This Hair Color

When Paramore burst onto the music scene with their hit second album Riot! back in 2007, the alt-rock band was as known for its catchy and cutting lyrics as it was for lead singer Hayley Williams’s fiery orange locks. The group quickly became a staple on the pop punk scene, and it was only a matter of time before fans around the globe replicated Williams’s signature ‘do, dyeing their hair bright shades while singing along to “Misery Business.”

A decade later, Paramore is still going strong. The band just released a well-received fifth studio album, After Laughter, in May—and along with a new and more mature sound, Williams debuted a brand new platinum look. But while she’s toned down her formerly bright locks, Williams is still open to throwing in a pop of color every now and then. And thanks to her latest project, she can do that easily.

Back in 2016, Williams and her personal beauty guru, Brian O’Conner, launched goodDYEyoung, a line of vegan and cruelty-free semi-permanent hair dyes. Now, the duo is taking their hair-coloring game to new heights with the reveal of their latest product, Poser Paste. The wear-and-wash styling paste launches Oct. 16th on poserpaste.com (it's currently available to pre-order at $17.99 a pop), and it's easy to consistently switch up your hair look with the four bold shades available: Steal My Sunshine (bright yellow), Blue Ruin (cobalt), Riot (neon orange) and Ex-Girl (hot pink). Frankly, it’s the stuff that former (or current) emo kids’ dreams are made of.

“I feel like hair is a very emotional thing,” Williams told InStyle when we chatted with her and O’Conner earlier this week. “Changing your hair is like a good reset—whether that's a new color, haircut, or style.” With her own new look, Williams recently hit the reset button herself. “When I came to Brian and asked him to bleach my hair, I couldn't believe I was asking for it—but I needed it,” she said. “Emotionally, I needed to look in the mirror and not just see what people expected of me, or what I expected of me. It's kind of like wearing your heart on your sleeve, but you're wearing it on your hair instead of your sleeve.”

When they were coming up with the idea for Poser Paste, Williams and O’Conner had clear goals in mind. “It was important to give people the option of just trying it out, having a good time, and changing up their look more often,” said Williams. “In the past, Brian and I have dyed my hair a billion different colors within a short period of time. This is so nice because I can go home, wash it right out, and be ready for a totally different color tomorrow.” The best part of Poser Paste’s temporary nature? “There’s no commitment,” said O’Conner. “So people who have 9-to-5 office jobs can play around on the weekend and then go back to work without having to bleach or dye their hair right back.”

Scroll down for our full chat with the duo.

InStyle: How often do you guys switch up the hair look?

BO: In the last tour cycle, we changed it almost nine times, which was a lot. So this go-around, I'm really rooting for her to make it through a whole album cycle with the same hair color. I think it's really fitting, because she's older and more mature. When I look at old pictures, I miss that because obviously it's part of what made Paramore a brand—which is really weird to say, because it’s just hair. But other than being exceptional [musicians], it's just one of those things that people know. So I think it's nice for it not to be there right now, because to me personally, it's their best work that they've done … What's great is that [her hair is] a blank space right now, so we can play a lot right now and have fun experimenting with Poser Paste.

HW: I think it's a testament to really having to be where you're at and just kind of showing yourself the person that you really want to be and believe that you are. So this is today. It's crazy because when we start talking about hair color in this way, it really exposes the emotional side of it, which is so important.

Brian, is there one color that you would never dye Hayley’s hair?

BO: Anything dark. I just wouldn't. I would fight you for it.

HW: No, I wouldn't do it. As a teenager, I dyed my hair black along with every other member of the band. We just had a black dye party. And it was a nightmare. My first photo shoot that we ever did, my hair was, like, brown because I tried to dye red over black and it was bad.

Do you ever miss your former emo punk-rock look, or are you over it?

HW: It's not that I'm over it. It's just that I think how I experienced it is different than [seeing] photos of it and people experiencing it that way. When I see that, I think “Oh, I remember that year, that was great.” But I'm not nostalgic about going back and being that person, which I think is a positive thing. I definitely loved it. And I look at early “Misery Business” photos and Riot! photos when we really got creative for the first time, and that was such a good time. But we'll have more of those times and Still Into You is I think, just as much a risk for us a that point in the career. [...] And sometimes it isn't even just color. We've shaved underneath my head. I've cut it short. It's all expression. I'm grateful we don't look back that often—we kind of just keep trying to figure out what's next for us.

What hair color has made you feel most confident?

HW: Well, actually, bleaching my hair has been a big confidence booster at a time when I felt very vulnerable and not like myself. I needed to do something way outside myself to see that I could still be me, even if I didn't look like the girl in all the pictures. So that's been a huge help, but orange will always be my comfort. It's like a big cozy blanket, so someday it'll come back.

Brian, who inspires the looks that you create for Hayley?

BO: We do, together. I think one of the funniest things that she and I still talk about it is, if you go back and look at her hair during Riot!, there was moment when we were looking up Cyndi Lauper and we came across a photo of her with bright orange and red hair with yellow bangs. We were like, “Oh my god, we totally stole her style.”

HW: We did. We just ripped it off.

BO: And we didn't mean to. It wasn't purposeful. It wasn't like, “How can we make you look like her?” It just happened. Debbie Harry has been a huge inspiration this go around.

HW: Yeah. Especially with all of the blonde. We were like okay, who are these iconic sort of punk-rock females that we can look at and see what they were wearing, how they did their makeup, and what their hair looked like? Debbie Harry’s always just so effortless. A lot of women now are so heavily contoured—everything's a line and defined. But if Debbie Harry was on stage and she sweated it out, she came off and still looked cool. And I love her, too, because she's not afraid of a T-shirt. I love a T-shirt and jeans. My favorite thing is to feel a little bit like one of the guys, but yet you've got a smoked-out cat eye. It's still glamorous and sexy, very feminine.

Who's your all-time style icon?

HW: It might be Debbie Harry, but certain eras. When I look up photos of her, it's very much her late '70s all-denim look while drinking a beer on stage. Just being so tough-looking, but again very feminine. She owned both that masculinity and that femininity on the CBGB stage. I look at her and I think, "I get that." Growing up, I also looked up to Karen O from Yeah Yeah Yeahs. If you go back to the end of Paramore's catalogue, you'll see like me wearing crazy colored tights—that was all very Karen O for me.

What’s your beauty routine like when you’re on tour?

HW: I’m so simple. I put concealer where I need it and then some powder. I don't like to wear mascara much on off days, so I use this blue Wet 'n' Wild eyeliner to draw shapes around my eyes—maybe a cat eye one day and some dots. If I'm with Brian, he can beat this face in 30 minutes if he has to.

Brian, is there one skincare product that you encourage Hayley to use every day?

BO: Hayley takes really, really good care of herself and her skin is very much a priority. She goes to a great esthetician in Nashville who makes her own skincare products.

HW: We've also been using Milk makeup lately. It's incredible.

BO: I love the holographic highlighters and their new Blur full coverage foundation.

HW: It's great for the stage. I break out, so I don't like to wear thick makeup even if I know we're gonna be on camera. I feel like it's just clogging my pores.

What are your all-time favorite memories from touring with Paramore?

HW: We have a lot.

BO: Some of the best times are when we get a random off-day in the city, or just goofing off back stage. We love to turn on music in her room right before getting ready, and we'll literally have a dance off. We can ruin a song in a heartbeat.

HW: Yeah, we call it “ruining a song,” because we just dance disgustingly.

BO: It could be the sweetest love song ever and all of a sudden we will be twerking and I'll have a leg up on the sofa. When you’re on the road working and you're so far from home, it’s nice to have that one moment of normalcy when you can just be goofy and carefree.

Speaking of other songs, Hayley, your Twitter bio reads “former member of the official NSYNC fan club.” Which N*SYNC guy did you have a crush on back in the day?

HW: It’s very funny when I think about it, because the span of time that I liked them was actually so short. It was from when I was 9 right around to my 11th birthday. That's a very short amount of time, but it feels like it was my life because those were big years. I was a huge fan of their self-titled album. I saw them on tour for that, and then I saw the No Strings Attached tour. I never saw anything after that, which is interesting because they only got bigger. Justin [Timberlake] was always my favorite. I loved dancing and I was a very weird kid. My dad and my granddad both were musicians, so I loved harmony. I loved the fact that my dad and I could listen to N*SYNC and sing different harmonies. I learned harmony to N*SYNC! It's just weird—like, no other 9-year-old was like “Oh, I love N*SYNC. Five-part harmony, right?” But that was my way of discovering something musical.

What made the N*SYNC harmony superior to the Backstreet Boys harmony?

HW: Everything. When I listen to Backstreet Boys, I hear a lot of singing in unison, I'm just gonna put that out there. I felt like later on in life, once I became a musician and didn't even listen to that kind of music anymore, I actually learned so much more about N*SYNC and Justin Timberlake. Recently, I learned that he arranged all the vocals for most of their albums when he was just 16. If you're an N*SYNC fan, you know that Chris was the oldest member—he was 10 years older than Justin. So imagine being 16 and arranging vocals for a 26-year-old. He's a genius. He doesn't even have to be cute, he's just a genius. It's crazy.

Who are some of your current musical inspirations?

HW: Oh my god. SZA is brilliant.

BO: And gorgeous! The effortless thing—like the cargo pants and the bra, and that big hair.

HW: We are loving her. And then around the time that the guys and I started writing and making After Laughter, we really got deep into discovering a lot 1970's and 1980’s—not necessarily new-wave, but stuff like Talking Heads and how they fused funk and afro beat with punk rock. I'm definitely still listening to a lot of old records, but there are so many great new albums, too. War on Drugs' new album, Phoebe Bridgers' new album, a lot of sad stuff. But that's okay. There's time to be sad. Gotta let it out. It's a really heavy world.