“Sometimes it takes some time to remember where you were headed in the first place and the people you intended to go there with…” —Taking Back Sunday
This is the record that a lot of people never thought would happen: A brand new Taking Back Sunday album that features the same line-up as the band’s platinum-selling 2002 debut Tell All Your Friends. Although the players here—frontman Adam Lazzara, guitarists and vocalist John Nolan, guitarist Eddie Reyes, drummer Mark O’Connell and bassist Shaun Cooper—are the same, it’s important to point out that this album isn’t a sequel to this band’s debut as much as it is the beginning of a new chapter of innovation and productivity from this celebrated Long Island rock act.
“When I listen to a song like ‘Sad Savior’ or ‘Who Are You Anyway?’ it’s evident that this record isn’t true to any scene or genre,” Lazzara responds when asked what aspect of Taking Back Sunday he’s most proud of. Nolan—who left Taking Back Sunday alongside Cooper in 2003—echoes this sentiment, adding “I can’t imagine us having written this album after Tell All Your Friends,” explains Nolan. “It doesn’t feel like the follow-up up to that album and we definitely wouldn’t have been able to bring these songs to life if we hadn’t gone through all the experiences that we’ve all been through during the past seven years.”
Since the release of Tell All Your Friends, Taking Back Sunday has released three more studio albums, which have sold over two million copies, headlined arenas, toured multiple times in amphitheaters with bands such as Linkin Park, Weezer and Blink-182, and shared Festival Stages with the likes of The Police, The Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead and Phoenix. In August of 2011 they will perform on the main stage at Reading and Leeds festivals for the fourth time. Cooper and Nolan, meanwhile, went on to form critically-acclaimed band Straylight Run, who in 2007 released The Needles The Space on Universal Republic Records, headlined Warped Tour and performed on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. However, all of the members admit that there is a certain chemistry that only exists when these five musicians are together in the same room.
What began with the simple idea of all five members coming together at the Sonic Ranch in the border town of Tornillo, Texas (near El Paso), last year quickly resulted in a sonic windfall that saw the band writing nearly a dozen songs—and from there Taking Back Sunday never looked back. “The whole experience of us getting back together was really freeing,” Lazzara explains. “We went into all of this knowing that our music didn’t have to sound a certain way, so we just decided to see what happens and this is what came of it.” Nolan adds, “I think we all knew that we had to take this band to a place where it hadn’t been before for it to really work; it couldn’t all be about nostalgia.”
After two more writing sessions at the Sonic Ranch and a stint in Seattle at the Robert Lang Studios, the band reconvened in Los Angeles with Eric Valentine (who produced their 2006 album Louder Now as well as albums by Queens Of The Stone Age and The All-American Rejects) in late August to begin work on the band’s self-titled album, taking periodic breaks to incorporate the new songs that continued to pour out of their collaborative efforts. “I like to think of Eric as a rocket scientist because he’s so skilled when it comes to production,” Lazzara explains. “He spent so much time making sure everything sounded perfect and each track’s personality really got to shine.”
Undeniably Taking Back Sunday’s most varied record, Taking Back Sunday is also their most ambitious, and it showcases the band’s music in ways that you might not expect judging from their previous efforts. This is stridently evident on the album’s opener “El Paso,” a raging post-hardcore anthem that is by far the heaviest thing Taking Back Sunday have ever put onto tape. “That song came from a riff that Mark had that had gotten the snub in the past, which I’m glad about because I don’t think it would have been as awesome as it is now,” Lazzara explains. “I feel like that song really embodies the mood and environment we were all in when we first when down to the Sonic Ranch.”
Another track Lazzara is especially proud of is the album’s first single “Faith (When I Let You Down),” a song that’s equally as cathartic in a more pop-oriented context. “I tried a lot of new things on this record and the fact that there’s a lot of space in the verses is something we had never done before,” he explains. Ultimately Taking Back Sunday is full of sonic firsts, from the atmospheric album closer “Call Me In The Morning” to the energetic rocker “Best Places To Be A Mom,” but Valentine’s specialty is making sure that the disc exists as a cohesive whole. “Even though times have changed, we haven’t, and none of us are the kind of music listeners who just want to own a few singles,” Nolan explains. “We all like to listen to our favorite albums from start to finish and naturally we wanted to make a record that sounds like that.”
Lyrically Taking Back Sunday sees Lazzara and Nolan exploring relationships, a theme they focused on last time they worked together as well. However, instead of singing about the insular Long Island hardcore scene, that landscape has broadened to include the band members’ respective relationships with their wives, kids and God. “John and I are both teetering on real adulthood, so with this record we both wanted to experiment with how straight-forward we could be lyrically,” Lazzara says. Instead of being cloaked in metaphor, the lyrics on Taking Back Sunday show the band questioning their relationships as much as they embrace them, resulting in the most honest Taking Back Sunday album to date.
Lazzara is also quick to point out that adding Nolan back into the mix helped him expand his own range and gave these songs a life of their own. “I’ve found that I write better when there are two perspectives on the same subject; there are some songs on this record where John was coming from a totally different place than I was but when we put the two things together this whole new idea grew from it,” he explains. “All of our tastes have changed over time but everyone was so trusting during the writing process and I think that allowed us to go certain places we hadn’t visited in the past.”
Let’s face it, it would be simple for Taking Back Sunday to get back together solely in order to embark on an anniversary tour for Tell All Your Friends, but despite their previous successes they are quick to point out this record is a brand new beast that is ushering in a different era for the band. “This album isn’t us trying to be something we’re not,” Lazzara summarizes, “it’s just us and I’m really proud of that.” If you listen to Taking Back Sunday with an open mind, you’ll agree that it is an important record that marks a giant leap forward for a band that truly defies categorization.