Panic! At the DiscoAh, Las Vegas—home of male Cher impersonators, faux world wonders, and $1.49 shrimp cocktails. Not exactly up there with Memphis, SoHo, Seattle, or even Cincinnati on the radar of pop pundits and assiduous rock scene chroniclers.

Yet the town that Bugsy Siegel built is indeed the unlikely hometown of Panic! At the Disco, the young band whose A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out debut willfully mulched alt, emo, and punk-pop—along with most of the trappings of an American rock scene that seems to have traded one tired set of clichés for another. But while the September, 2005 release initially garnered little exposure or sales via traditional outlets and media, it built a muscular following on the web via MySpace and other music sites.

Within a year Panic! At the Disco and Fever had cracked the Billboard top 20 and sold a million units, while their deliciously macabre video for the single “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” beat out such established megastars like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Madonna, and Christina Aguilera to be named Video of the Year at MTV’s Video Music Awards. Mushrooming 2006 successes also saw them bumped up from third on the bill to headliner of the Truckstops & Statelines Winter Tour.

Not bad for an outfit whose origins included guitarist/lyricist Ryan Ross and drummer Spencer Smith spending much of their teens playing blink-182 covers for indifferent suburban audiences. Another band incarnation soon followed with (now ex-) bass player Brent Wilson, who would introduce fellow Palo Verde High School student Brendon Urie to Ross and Smith, initially to audition him as guitarist. But Urie’s vocal prowess soon inspired the band to hand off Ross’ lead singer position to the newcomer, then take a lyric from Name Taken’s  song “Panic” as their new moniker. 

Ryan Ross of Panic! At the DiscoRoss admitted that despite Las Vegas’ reputation as a world class entertainment destination, the music scene ranged from ephemeral to non-existent. “It’s really hard there because things just open and close so often; there’s no real rock clubs or anywhere for bands to play,” he said in a U.K. interview shortly before a successful Reading Festival appearance. “It’s like either the dice bars, or the House of Blues which is like a 2000 person venue—there’s nothing really in between.”

“That’s probably the reason why our band just stuck to writing songs and recording demos rather than trying to play out,” the 21-year-old Ross added, explaining in part how the band’s cloistered existence in the neon kingdom led to such a unique, accomplished sound. Panic! At the Disco have focused a dizzying array of influences that range from pop and dance-beat to electronica and nouveau prog into songs bristling with self-awareness and sporting such razor-witted titles as “The Only Difference Between Martydom and Suicide Is Press Coverage,” “London Beckoned Songs about Money Written by Machines,” and “Lying Is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off.”

But, says Ross, the band has a personal favorite: “Everyone in the band all love the last song on the record, ‘Build God, Then We’ll Talk,’ because it was the last song we wrote before we started recording, and I guess that it’s probably the best indication of where the songs are going in the future.”

That future will be here soon; after a brief flirtation with producer Danny Elfman, they’ve since moved on to producer Rob Mathes, with whom they worked on a cover for the deluxe reissue of The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtack. Panic! At the Disco's much-anticipated sophomore album is expected to be released in Spring, 2008.