Published Jul 06, 2011In the years since they burst onto the scene with 2002's Tell All Your Friends, Taking Back Sunday have gone through a range of sounds and what seems like an endless list of line-up changes. Now, nearly a decade since their pithy lyricism and two-pronged vocal approach captured the ears of a generation, they're back with their marquee line-up and a new self-titled album. We caught up with front-man Adam Lazzara to talk about falling outs, reunions and a nine-year career that's come full circle.
So how did the new, old line-up come about? You guy got back together a year ago, right?
Yeah, a little bit more than a year ago. Our drummer, Mark [O'Connell], it was all his brain child. He had remained friends with John and Shaun over all those years. The band, we were in kind of this weird spot. With the New Again line-up, I couldn't have seen us sitting down to actually write a record. Mark called me one day and was like, "Hey man, what do you think about John [Nolan] and Shaun [Cooper] being in the band again?" My first reaction was just to call him crazy, you know, I hadn't talked to John in seven years. He kept planting those seeds and then one day I got a call from John and everything just kind of took off from there.
You hadn't talked to him in seven years? Was there a period before working together became natural again?
Of course when you don't talk to somebody for that long the first conversation on the phone is a bit awkward, but there's also a lot to catch up on. John and I didn't really leave things off on good terms, so for me it was a chance to finally put some closure on those past years. Then to have my friend back. John and I, for years, we shared a bedroom. We were touring together all that time and then after we had that falling out, I just found it hard to get real close with anyone. To have him there again and be able to talk to him and bounce ideas off of him, I thought that was pretty awesome in itself. We went into this thing realistically knowing that there was a chance that we might all get in the same room together and that it just might not work. In the beginning, when we started talking again, it was mainly about rebuilding a friendship and then it turned into one of the best records we've made so far.
How does the songwriting change? It's been a while since you've all done an album together.
The big difference now, compared to back then, or even with writing in any incarnation of Taking Back Sunday, is that everybody now really trusts everybody else and has a lot of trust in their own abilities and their strengths. When you're writing and there's five very different opinions on one idea, if everybody is really trusting of the other person, they start to come together really quickly. That's what happened with a lot of these songs.
Did you ever feel pressure to do Tell All Your Friends 2.0 now that you've got that line-up back together? You were, what, 21 when that record came out?
Actually when that record came out I was 20. We didn't put that pressure on ourselves. We couldn't write that record again, we're not teenagers anymore. When we started writing we didn't say "okay, we're going to sit down and write songs that sound like this, or songs that feel like this." We just went in and started writing to see what would happen. I definitely saw on the internet a lot of people wanting it to be Tell All Your Friends: The Sequel, but I don't think anybody really wants that. I don't at least.
Is there anything that surprised you about the finished product?
That song, "El Paso," I didn't expect anything that heavy to come out of this. I was really shocked. I remember right when we finished writing that song, we went back and just listened to the recording of it, probably five or six times, all just looking at each other like, "holy shit, look what we just did." There are little things like that, I honestly think in every song on the record, but that one was the biggest surprise.
What was it that made you write such an aggressive song? You've joked in the past about your line-up changes, was that sort your catharsis to be back where you started?
Cathartic could work there. It's just real freeing and nice to know that when you go into rehearsal or when you go to meet up that it never once is gonna feel like you're having to argue your way through anything.
How did the decision come about to self-title the album? It's technically your second self-titled release (The Taking Back Sunday EP was released in early 2001).
That first demo we put out before Tell All Your Friends, we just called that the Tell All Your Friends demo. This will be the first full one. That was just five or six songs, more of an EP, and we burned all of those CDs ourselves, so it wasn't really official.
So is there a reason behind this one being self-titled? Does it signify anything?
It just feels like the definitive Taking Back Sunday record. It was for us, very early on in the writing process, when we decided to self-title it. Just because of how everything was coming together and how everyone was getting along. It felt like we were back on track.
For yourself, as a vocalist, how has the dynamic changed or even returned having John back.
It made the writing process a lot more fun and actually easier, just because I really trust John's opinions on music. To have somebody there that you can bounce ideas off of makes the process a lot more fun.
Have you noticed your fans growing with you?
It's actually pretty cool now. On this tour I'll go out in the crowd and watch Color Revolt or Thursday and there seems to be a mix of people that have been growing with us and then younger people that are just finding out about us now. It's cool to me to see that it's not just one very specific group of people. The shows are spanning from folks that are our age to early teens.
How is it touring with Shaun and John again? You started touring with them almost after they rejoined, right?
We did a couple one-off shows, but this is the first proper tour that we've done since we've gotten back together. It's funny because it used to be that any time that we had to ourselves, everyone would just go in their separate direction. Really we'd only hang out if there was something band related, whereas now, if there's any free time, everyone is always hanging out with one another, which is a very fun environment to be in. You start to feel more like a team, like a gang.
How would you contextualize this album in terms of what you've done in between this and the last time you guys were together?
That "Best Places to Be A Mom" song, that would be the closest to what people have come to expect as "the Taking Back Sunday" sound. The last song on the record is called "Call Me In the Morning," and it's one of the most gentle, beautiful songs that we've written. If I had to sum up the whole record I would just say that it's the most diverse record that we've ever put out and I'm really proud of that. We never wanted to be confined to a genre or anything and this record is right in line with that.
I think early on you were unfairly pigeonholed, but you've kind of outlasted that, does that give you some added freedom?
That's the way we like to look at it. It's always funny because often the way we look at it is much different than the way everyone else looks at it.
In what respect?
Like how people would pigeonhole us, things like that.
The album comes out on the same day as Limp Bizkit's Gold Cobra...so how does that feel?
[Laughs], I didn't even know they had a new record out. [Laughs], I think the Beyonce record comes out on the same day as well. It's awesome to me that we're in a position that where, when people look at the same day our record is coming out, there's these bigger records coming out. I feel like we're very fortunate to exist in the climate that the music industry is in right now.
How's the feedback from your peers been so far?
I don't know what a lot of people are saying on the internet or anything, but when I play it for friends of mine that I've known since I was 18, 19 years old, they seem kind of blown away by it, but in a real genuine sense. You know when you make something and you give it to a friend and they don't want to bum you out, so they just say it's good? That's kind of what happened with New Again, I felt like, but with this one you can tell it's just genuine excitement from everyone who's [heard] it.