Artist Interview: Taking Back Sunday
For the first time since Tell All Your Friends, Shaun Cooper and John Nolan are back in the band, and the new album sounds as if they have been ignited with fresh passion and creativity. While in San Diego for their tour with Thursday to support the new album, I sat down and talked with Adam Lazzara and Mark O’Connell about getting the original line-up back, the new album, and making a music video with Flavor Flav.
In recent interviews, it has been said that Eddie Reyes was committed to making this band work no matter what. If he had ever left the band, would you guys still be together?
Adam: No way. I mean, Eddie’s who let Mark join the band, and let me join the band, and who said “Okay, you’re singing now” and really got me to this point. So there’s just no way, it’s his band.
Mark: There was a whole joke going on in the Long Island scene, like Eddie was in so many band. He got kicked out, he left, got kicked out… and there was one time I heard this kid, and I’m not gonna say his name, but he was like “Yeah I started that whole thing, like kicking Eddie out of the band thing hahaha,” and in my head I was like well look at you now. You’re talking about how back then you did this and that, and Eddie’s doing it now. It made me so mad because he had to deal with a lot of stuff like that and then for this guy to brag about it, it’s like well f— you, ya know?
Adam: And too, none of those bands ever really got off the ground, and those other guys he was in bands with just weren’t that awesome all the time.
Mark: And if they hadn’t kicked him out then where would we be?
Adam: Psh… dead.
Mark: Somewhere else, other than here, which would not be cool.
With all the issues that were brewing between the members of the band back then, and all of the personal drama, do you think the time apart was necessary? If you had tried to push through it together and force it to work, would the band have imploded and fallen apart?
Adam: Yeah man… And like I said before, I think they needed to go through what they went through to get to here, and we definitely needed to go through what we went through to end up here. Yeah, that wouldn’t have worked if we had all tried to write songs together back then. It just wouldn’t have worked.
Moving on to the new album, how does Taking Back Sunday compare to Tell All Your Friends in terms of lyrical content and what you’re trying to express?
Adam: Well we’re always trying to write about just where we’re at in life and what we’re dealing with, and our music is just an extension of that. So with this new record… you just have a different set of struggles and problems when you’re 18 than when you’re older.
In support of the album, you’re touring with Thursday now…
Adam: Yeah, finally!
Is that something you’ve been wanting to do for a while now?
Adam: Yeah, well I’m just surprised it’s taken so long to do a tour with them. Well I mean we did an Australian tour with them, but as far as here… We’ve just known them for so long and yeah, it seems pretty crazy.
Mark: Yeah it was a long time coming. So this time we were just like, lets do it.
Adam: And it’s been awesome so far. I think the whole package is just really cool.
Mark: Not only are they a great band, they’re just awesome guys. We’ve known them for so long, so it’s like every day you get to see people that you know and trust, your friends.
Thursday just had their 10th anniversary tour for Full Collapse, and the 10th anniversary for TAYF is coming up for you guys. Are there any plans to do a tour for that, or anything special?
Adam: Well we’ve talked about it for sure, but the thing I worry about is I don’t want anybody to get the wrong impression about what we’re doing here, like it’s a gimmick or something. Like right now people are saying, oh you’re doing a reunion tour. And yes, in a way it’s a reunion, we’re all back together, but we’re not just doing this and then moving on. This is our line-up, and we plan to make more songs, and more records and do a lot more tours. So the only thing I’m worried about with that is that it would come across as gimmicky. Had we gotten back together sooner and done an album or two then it would be different. We would have to be really careful about what we do if we do that.
Mark: I just don’t wanna do that. There’s no part of me that only wants to play those songs.
Adam: And when we play those songs it’s only like a half hour. Shortest tour ever (laughs).
You guys actually did play the whole album start to finish for Bamboozle. How was it, seeing fans react to you guys being back together, and hearing the whole album? What was that experience like?
Adam: Well, Shaun called that show our big coming out party, because it was our first time playing in front of all those people with that line-up. At first we weren’t really sure about playing that whole record all the way through, but so many people had asked about it, and it was such a big show that we knew we had to do something special. We couldn’t just go up there and do what we always do. I was actually surprised at how many people reacted to the songs we just haven’t played, like “Head Club” or “Blue Channel” because we don’t really even like those songs, so to see so many people connecting with it and enjoying it was awesome.
You also compiled some footage from that performance, and from the studio sessions for “Faith (When I Let You Down).” What was the idea behind doing that? Was it a thank you to fans or something else?
Adam: Well it was that, and it was also that we were trying to raise awareness for a new album we had coming out. With now, like how the internet is and everything, it’s like the more content the better. So we had that footage that our buddy had shot and we just kinda put it together.
The footage looks amazing, too.
Adam: And dude he did it on just like… well it was a pro camera of course, but it’s just like a regular camera you take photos with and stuff. Technology is crazy.
That footage wasn’t actually the video for the song though, because you just finished filming the music video for it right?
Adam: Yeah, it’s getting finalized now, so it should be up soon.
Mark: I will say that I have never been more excited about a Taking Back Sunday video ever. It’s a really cool video.
Adam: Yeah, it looks great, and too I think that… I like to think we’re all pretty funny guys, and I think that this really showcases that sense of humor, whereas our videos in the past haven’t really done that. But not in an over-the-top way.
Mark: Yeah, it’s subtle funny, not corny or anything.
Speaking of videos, the video for “You’re So Last Summer” features Flavor Flav… how did that happen? I’ve always been curious.
Adam: That was his idea (laughs).
Mark: (Lauging) Man that question’s gonna happen, forever. Always comes up. I used to get mad but now it’s just really funny.
Adam: Because it’s hilarious!
I mean, it’s amazing, I think it’s hilarious, but I was always just like, how did they come up with that?
Mark: Well he was always just around. Like, we’re from Long Island, and he’s from the same area, so I’d always see him. And that was before his whole big comeback…
Adam: Yeah his whole career… relaunching.
Mark: So he was just like, a hood rat guy, riding around on his bike all high on crack and s—, and it’s like oh hey, Flavor Flav, what’s up? So one day we just talked to him and that’s how it happened.
Back to the new album, I think that all the songs are so unique and they’re own story and experience, but they all work together so well as an album. What are some of the experiences that went into the songs on this album?
Adam: Well as far as the lyrics go, the songs are about… just a lot of different things that were going on. There’s songs on there about getting married, songs on there about trying to hold a relationship together, songs that deal with questions of faith… So there wasn’t one specific place I was in where it’s like oh man I gotta write about all this stuff. With John too, we collaborated on all this stuff, so it was stuff from both our experiences, and our everyday lives for the couple years leading up to actually writing it down.
What are the songs that you’re most proud of on the new album, or the most personal, or stand out to you guys the most?
Mark: Well John and Adam, they do the lyrics, but the thing about a song is that you can really make it your own story. So like, “Since You’re Gone,” “This Is All Now,” I really like that one.
Yeah I think that’s gonna be a definite favorite for the album.
Adam: Yeah the kids really seem to be liking it.
Mark: And I mean, I really love the whole album. Not to pat ourselves on the back or anything.
Adam: For us, it’s just so hard to name just one, because we’re really proud of the whole thing. When I listen to it, there are times when I’ll gravitate towards one song or the other. There’s not one song though that I’m like ugggh I don’t like it, which isn’t the case for, say, New Again, because there were a couple songs on there that were like…. yeah.
I feel like on this album you guys are also taking new steps creatively in terms of musical style. Is that something you’ve made an effort to do?
Adam: Yeah, it’s a definite creative process. Like, when we write songs, and they’re first written, it’s just the blueprint. Real bare bones. Then we take it and disect it from there. Also, we’re working with Eric Valentine, and he’ll listen back and be like, okay that could be better, that could be better. So it gets us in the mindset where we always know it could be better, so it gives us the motivation to keep working on it.
Mark: Yeah it’s kinda like “What would Eric do?”
Adam: Yeah, like “Oh, he wouldn’t stop writing this song.”
Mark: And he’s just really great. So it’s like, “Man I know Eric would do something better than this, but I can’t figure it out!” (Laughs)
Adam: So that’s where a lot of the tears and frustration of the recording process come in, because it’s like I know I can do it, but where is it?
Mark: Good times.
When you guys went to El Paso to write the record, what did it feel like when you guys all came back together for the first time?
Adam: When [John and I] got there, the other guys were there sitting on the porch, and we all just kinda looked at each other and laughed. Like who would have thought this was gonna happen? It was just a surprise to us.
Mark: Yeah, that was a nice feeling.
Adam: It really was.
Mark, you were the one actually campaigning hardest to make it happen. Did you ever think that it would actually happen?
Mark: There was always an inkling, like we’re gonna get through this s— time because this just has to happen. So man, when it finally did, it was just awesome.
You guys actually wrote 26 or 28 songs for the album while you were there right?
Adam: Yeah, like over three weeks.
Mark: Yeah, we went for like two weeks the first time, then came back for another week or something?
Adam: The first time we went for a week and a half, then we came back for two weeks, then we went to Seattle. So after that whole four weeks, then we had 28 songs. Some of them were more rough than others, and the ones that made the record are the ones that were kinda poking their heads out the most. Then like on the special package there are 6 B-sides, some straight from the El Paso sessions, and then a couple when we went to L.A. for pre-production.
What would have happened to Taking Back Sunday if John and Shaun hadn’t come back?
Adam: I don’t think we would have been a band still. There was no way, with how things were, that we could have written another record together. It was too weird.
Yeah that was the vibe I was getting just reading about everything. I mean, on the surface I knew that there were some personal conflicts and all that, but I didn’t really know how bad it was until the AP article.
Adam: What’s crazy about that article is that there’s a whole other version, a much longer version. There’s so much more that’s in the context that it just paints a way better picture too. Hopefully we’ll be able to release that one day. But yeah, we did the Soundwave tour in Australia a month or two before we first met up with John and Shaun. Mark, Eddie and I all hung out, but I don’t think I said more than a couple words to Matt Fazzi the whole time. I just couldn’t even be in the same room as him.
Mark: It was so s—y, like after the shows it was straight to the hotel.
Adam: Nights when we didn’t go out we were just sitting in the hotel rooms, hating life. It sucks too because we’re in Australia, just hating it.
Mark: Not enjoying Australia at all. Couldn’t wait to leave.
Adam: Couldn’t wait to go home where it’s safe.
And it seems like the guys finally have come back home, re-united for what is sure to be a new classic with their new self-titled album, and hopefully more to come in the near future. Whatever they do next, it sure feels good to have them back now.