It’s hard to believe it’s been twenty entire years since the original formation of Taking Back Sunday way back in 1999, but with the release of their greatest hits compilation ‘Twenty’ this year followed by the subsequent Twenty Tour, a lot of 2000s emo kids were made to feel very old indeed. The setlist for the recent tour involves them playing the entirety of pivotal debut album ‘Tell All Your Friends’ followed by a bunch of other hits and as the band explained when we caught up with them recently, the making of that record was an important milestone and one which they remember with fondness.
“When I joined the band, I just wanted to be part of something, to be part of a band that was working and playing shows” lead vocalist Adam Lazzara reflected. “Then we just really wanted to have a record out so we could tour and have a record in stores.”
“When we recorded at Big Blue Meanie in New Jersey for ‘Tell All Your Friends’, I had this moment of like, ‘I’m in a studio, oh my God,’ said drummer Mark O’Connell. After their initial EPs in 2000 and 2001 respectively, things were finally starting to happen for them. He recalled the band playing “to a bartender in St Louis” once in their early days, because no one else had turned up to the gig, but he also remembered there being a strong work ethic within the group, and an innate passion and drive for what they were doing which ensured they would get there eventually, one way or another. “Everyone wanted it to be a successful band,” he told us. “You didn’t have to try and convince anybody. No one was backing out of anything. And that was the first time that had happened in my life so I was really pumped.”
“When you’re in bands growing up it’s really hard to find other people as serious as you are about it,” Adam agreed. “A big goal was to have a record out and we’ve done that six times now.” At this point he pauses to correct himself, mentally counting up their discography. “Seven times now!” Prompting laughter from both he and Mark as he continues, “And each time feels new. It’s equally as scary and exciting so hopefully we can continue to do that.”
“TAKING BACK SUNDAY IS ITS OWN ENTITY…WE DO WHATEVER WE WANT TO DO…”
Seven albums into their career though, they’re still managing to keep things fresh which is mostly down to their attitude and ethic of staying true to themselves and to “what we believed was good and what we wanted to put out into the world not what we thought people would expect of us,” said Adam. “And that’s something when I look back over all this time I’m really proud of. Each album was the perfect snapshot of who we were at that time. As we’ve changed as people that sound has changed also. If you listen to ‘Tell All Your Friends’ that’s who we were then, we lived and breathed that. Same as if you listen to ‘Tidal Wave’, that’s who we are now.”
“Taking Back Sunday is its own entity,” Mark added. “We do whatever we want to do.”
That might be so, but they’ve also managed to retain their humility and keep their feet on the ground despite the longevity and success of the band’s career, which Adam says is down to “if anybody gets out of line, everyone else is really quick to jump right on em and put em back in their place” but also the fact that “this is the only thing we really know how to do.”
“It didn’t hit me until fairly recently,” said Mark. “Within the last few years…when you get to think about it and go ‘look at everything we’ve got to do. We’ve sold albums, we’ve played in front of so many people.’ When you’re young, you’re just doing it and that’s what your life is. But all of a sudden, y’know, here we are and it’s like, I can’t believe that we’ve been lucky enough to do this.”
Adam agreed. “Yeah, we’re the luckiest guys…No matter how bad things have gotten, we always keep in mind how fortunate and lucky we are to be here and be able to do this. We always keep that in mind because not many people get the opportunity that we have.”
“we’re the luckiest guys…No matter how bad things have gotten, we always keep in mind how fortunate and lucky we are”
And things did get bad for a while, at least in terms of inter-band friendships, but as many people following the TBS story will already know, the original line-up was reunited in 2010 with guitarist John Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper rejoining the ranks. “It didn’t feel like Taking Back Sunday,” said Mark of the pre-reunion line-up.
“And not everybody’s heads were in the same place,” Adam reflected. “With John and Shaun, we started in the same place and we still have the same goals we had then. There’s a kindred line of thinking and a kindred spirit there. And when you’re travelling and away from your families, doing things that demand a lot of your attention and time, if you’re not all on the same page it’s really hard to keep things together or even just keep yourself happy and content. That’s easier now.”
Mark agreed. “Knowing where we started and what it became, that’s a special thing, everybody remembers that. That’s a special thing we have with John and Shaun.”
With the band in such a good place at the moment, musically and mentally, it’s safe to say we can expect them to stick around for a good while longer. In fact, there’s a strong possibility of Taking Back Sunday clones somewhere in the distant future. “Take a little bit of each of our DNA and save it…then they could harvest it, make clones of us, and then they’ll keep making records,” said Adam.
“Yeah, I wanna do that!” agreed Mark. “Cause I don’t wanna go away, I wanna be here, I wanna live.”
Is this then…dare we say it…’where you want to be?’ (get it?)
“Yes!” Adam laughed. “And I hope we can stay here.”