When Panic! At the Disco split in half in 2009, it obviously wasn’t the best move for ensuring the continued popularity of the group.

And even though singer Brendan Urie and drummer Spencer Smith stayed together and decided to move forward (while guitarist Ryan Ross and bassist Jon Walker went off to form their own band), it was a big enough change that fans might no longer consider Panic! At the Disco to be the same band and turn away from the group.

But as Urie explained in a phone interview, creative issues meant the group basically had no choice but to split up.

“I don’t think anybody is the bad guy in this scenario. It happens sometimes,” he said. “You realize that if we would have stayed together and tried to do a record, we wouldn’t have been happy with it. We would have probably been at each other’s throats.”

Looking back, just the two CDs the original lineup made hinted that the days were numbered for that edition of Panic! At the Disco.

The band blasted onto the scene with its double-platinum-selling 2005 debut, “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out,” and a sound that mixed electronic and dance elements with riffy pop-rock. But the second CD, “Pretty. Odd.” (2008), marked a distinct turn toward a guitar-rock sound.

By the time the original lineup began talking about a third CD, it was apparent the contrasts between the two previous albums signaled a growing divide in the musical directions the members wanted to pursue.

“Honestly, it wasn’t an overnight thing,” Urie said. “It had kind of been working up over the course of a few months, especially on tour. We kind of noticed when we would go to write, we had such different mindsets of where we saw the band going and where we saw the music heading.

“So the reason that Ryan and John decided to leave was because they wanted to do something different musically from Spencer and I.”

When “Vices & Virtues” was finally released last March (debuting at No. 7 on the Billboard 200), it was obvious that Urie and Smith liked the electronic elements of “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out.” At the same time, they wanted to venture in new musical directions as well.

“We knew that we’ve always wanted to do something different so that our songs — a lot of songs, most of the record — are something new and exciting,” Urie said.

In the studio, Panic! At the Disco officially includes only Urie and Smith. But the touring lineup has included guitarist Ian Crawford and bassist Dallon Weekes since August 2009. Urie seems happy with how the new recruits have worked out.

“We’ve been playing with Dallon and Ian now for the past two years,” he said. “So it’s been good and really comfortable, and it just gets better and better. Honestly, for us, I think we sound better live than we ever have.” 

Alan Sculley is a freelance writer.