Taking Back Sunday

Interview: Taking Back Sunday – Adam Lazzara and John Nolan

Earlier this year the classic Taking Back Sunday line-up that recorded their 2002 million-selling debut album ‘Tell All Your Friends’ returned with their new self-titled album after reuniting back in 2010.

The album, the band’s fifth, was produced by Eric Valentine (Queens of the Stone Age, Lostprophets) who also helmed Taking Back Sunday’s biggest album to date ‘Louder Now’ which topped Kerrang!’s 2006 Album of the Year poll. Writing for the album commenced at the Sonic Ranch, a studio based in a pecan ranch in El Paso, Texas shortly after the five members reunited last year and continued at Robert Lang Studios in Seattle, while the recording took place at Barefoot Recording in Hollywood.

Re-joining long term members Adam Lazzara (vocals), Eddie Reyes (guitar) and Mark O’Connell (drums) are John Nolan (guitar/vocals) and Shaun Cooper (bass), who left the band in 2003 to form Straylight Run.

On the opening night of their UK tour I had the opportunity to briefly sit down with lead vocalist Adam Lazzara and returning guitarist/vocalist John Nolan to talk about their new album, headless pregnant mannequins, a future covers EP/album, Inception with the OMGWTFTBS cat and more before they left to meet fans for a special signing.

Track: El Paso

How are you guys doing?

Adam Lazzara: Doing good man.

John Nolan: Yeah we’re doing great.

You’re not looking so comfortable Adam?

Adam Lazzara: My leg is a little sore and so is my ankle but nothing serious.

I heard you were out partying last night at the Garage?

John Nolan: A little bit.

Adam Lazzara: Yeah we weren’t so much partying just more so hanging out.

Enjoy your night out?

Adam Lazzara: Yeah that place we were at was pretty cool.

John Nolan: Nice N Sleazy I think it was called.

Looking forward to meeting some fans later on at the signing?

Adam Lazzara: Yeah at a place called Pulp is that right?

Yeah it is. Just about a fifteen to twenty minute walk down the road.

Adam Lazzara: Cool but yeah it should be fun.

Have you ever encountered any crazy fans at signings?

Adam Lazzara: [Laughs] You can get the odd one who is a little over excited.

John Nolan: Or they have this look in their eye like “I want you to be mine”.

You said that in a rather poetic tone.

John Nolan: [Laughs]. You now and then get some odd gifts or things to sign but it is always fun.

While I’m not saying anything against any Taking Back Sunday fan but you never know what surprises will be in store for you in Glasgow.

Adam Lazzara: I’ll sit sideways ready to run away if that is the case [laughs].

So are you finally glad to be finally getting this tour going after you had to re-schedule?

Adam Lazzara: Yeah it just all came down to timing with everything to do with the record coming out. We didn’t want to cancel the tour or anything so we felt moving it back a little bit to now was the best move instead of waiting like another year to get over here.

I think it is one of the most unanswered questions regarding the tour as no-one really knew what had happened.

Adam Lazzara: You’re spread so thin with everything that is happening around the time of an album release but we’re glad to finally be back and making up the shows.

It is a stupid question I know but as this was the return of the original line-up and there were a lot of expectations are you glad with how well the album was received by the press and the fans?

Adam Lazzara: Oh yeah man and it is cool too because it came out half-way or maybe a week or two into the last tour back home so you could start to see people respond to the new material live which is a great feeling.

It did chart pretty well in the US though not as good as the last three albums.

Adam Lazzara: Yeah it did do pretty well which is good to see when you consider the level of sales now.

I read the UK chart number but I just can’t remember what it was now.

John Nolan: I don’t even know how well it did over here.

I know it did break the top 100 but it was similar to the US release in that it didn’t chart as well as the last three albums because I know that ‘Louder Now’ was the highest charting album that the band had.

Adam Lazzara: It’s a tough time for rock ‘n’ roll music everywhere.

You chose to go self-titled with this release which I suppose was the perfect choice considering it was back to the original line-up and sort of a refresh but did you consider any other titles before you settled on that?

Adam Lazzara: Well we actually decided very early on that we would self-title the record. I mean we had settled on it way before we had even finished writing the record.

John Nolan: I don’t think we even threw around many ideas for a title to be honest with you, that just seemed the perfect choice.

Taking Back Sunday band picture

Considering there was a seven/eight year gap between you performing together did you ever struggle to get back into the rhythm considering how you change as people and artists?

Adam Lazzara: No not really man, the songs came together really quickly compared to the past where it felt like we were pulling teeth during those writing sessions. Everything just came together so well.

John Nolan: It was kind of surprising actually as from the moment we got back together it just clicked and I know I wasn’t expecting it to be as easy as that.

How long did it take to get the songs written and other pieces put together if it felt so natural to be in the same room together again?

Adam Lazzara: We spread it out over a couple of months as we didn’t see a point in us just trying to rush through the process. We got together for about two weeks at a time and we would start work on all of that. I think we worked on the album for about a year but it was a consistent process, we would just come in, work, take a few weeks off then resume again.

We all know the story of how you got back together and basically sat down and talked everything out between you and then it was game on after that but during the writing and recording process was there ever a point you thought “oh fuck this, why did I agree to do this. There was a reason I left these guys in the first place”.

Adam Lazzara: [Laughs]. It hasn’t happened….yet.

John Nolan: [Laughs]. Yeah it hasn’t got to that yet but there is still time for us to decide we can’t be bothered with one another again.

Most bands these days are looking at a shelf life of around ten years so do you think, before John and Shaun [Cooper, bassist] returned to the band that Taking Back Sunday were heading for the end especially when you mentioned that writing had become more like pulling teeth?

Adam Lazzara: Oh yeah man it really was; things were just not going good. Eddie [Reyes, guitar], Mark [O’Connell, drums] and I were still talking but during the last tour we did which was Soundwave in Australia, with the old line-up [Matt Rubano (bass) and Matthew Fazzi (guitar/vocals)], I don’t think I said more than two words to them the full time. It feels nice now.

I think one of the things that some fans were worried about when you announced the return of the original line-up is that this would just a reunion album and tour before fading away but you are actually plotting for the future.

Adam Lazzara: Oh yeah it is full steam ahead now for us.

One of the first things I want to touch on with this album is to do with the artwork. I know it was done by a friend of the band.

Adam Lazzara: Yeah Brad [Filip].

It’s not so much the front cover that interests me it’s when you look inside at the inlay and you have a headless pregnant mannequin standing there.

John Nolan: [Laughs]

When I got the album and I pulled out the CD and that was behind it I just thinking “what the fuck is going on here”.

Adam Lazzara: Well that’s where it is funny because that was originally going to be the front cover but we couldn’t just get it quite right with the extra stuff on the front. We were throwing a couple of ideas around but that cover was part of the special packaging were we had a different piece of artwork for each song. What became the cover was the artwork that was submitted for the song ‘Sad Savior’ and it was just one of those things were we couldn’t keep our eyes off it so we had to change it.

So what was the direction or meaning behind the use of the mannequin body parts for the rest of the artwork we see in the regular booklet?

Adam Lazzara: There is definitely symbolism there but that was just worked with the whole theme so we just had to work that into the rest of it.

When you look at songs which will be considered the stand out songs on the album, opener ‘El Paso’ is easily one of those but it stands out amongst the rest of the album as nothing really challenges it in terms of the sound.

Adam Lazzara: It was really just what came out of us. We never sat down and said that we need a song like this or a song like this and this is just what came out of one of those writing sessions. ‘El Paso’ is this riff that Mark had for a long time and it just never really worked before so we started working on it and the next thing you know we have one of the heaviest songs we have ever written.

You shot the video for that also so how long did it take to get that down as you performed it a couple of times during the set didn’t you?

Adam Lazzara: Yeah we played it a couple of times during the show. The band called Thursday, who you have probably heard of, the guitarist for them Steve [Pedulla] also does video shoots and he recorded that for us.

John Nolan: I think we shot it something like five or six takes.

Adam Lazzara: Yeah I think so.

John Nolan: We did a few without the crowd there with him filming the band and then I think we did another three with the crowd.

The general consensus from some of the reviews I saw of the album seemed to pick out ‘Since You’re Gone’ as another one of the stand out songs from the album. This was a little piano driven which we would assume had you [John] a lot more focussed on that song.

Adam Lazzara: That was one of those again that just happened. We wrote that song very late into the process, it was one of the last songs we came up with right at the end and the bridge is sort of like “hey, we like The Beatles!” [Laughs]

John Nolan: I don’t even remember how that came about. I kind of felt like we were working on the song and we needed a bridge and then it was just there. There must have been a point where we said that it was going to be a piano part and it was going to sound like The Beatles [laughs]. I don’t remember how it happened at all.

Track: Faith (When I Let You Down)

Now I have to ask about the idea behind the OMGWTFTBS (Oh My God What The Fuck Taking Back Sunday) Cat which is in your latest video for ‘Faith (When I Let You Down)’.

Adam Lazzara: It was sort of like a social commentary that our buddy Chris who directed the video came up with. He’s been our friend for years but we’ve never had the chance to work on a proper video with him so that was another one of those things that we decided early on that we would do is work with him on a video. A lot of the videos we’ve done in the past have been pretty serious and all that and I like to think we’ve all got a pretty good sense of humour so we wanted to showcase that as well and I think Chris did a really great job with it.

John Nolan: I think it’s a pretty silly video but also I think it is a good commentary on that fifteen minutes of fame cycle that you see a lot with people getting famous for nothing basically.

I’ve seen a few people commenting on the video comparing it to Inception because it has a YouTube video inside a YouTube video.

John Nolan: [Laughs]

Adam Lazzara: [Laughs]

John Nolan: That is brilliant, a YouTube video inside a YouTube video.

Now I’m going to ask you this question and I don’t want the clichéd response of “every song is as strong as the other one” but do you have any key favourites from the album?

Adam Lazzara: For me it changes all the time. For a while, for me, it was ‘Sad Savior’ then I switched to ‘Call Me In The Morning’ but it still varies depending on the mood or what we play live.

John Nolan: I’m not too sure so I’ll just be a cliché [laughs].

I haven’t looked at any of your recent set lists but how much of the material from the other line-up will you be playing? Is it a good mix or have you focussed the set list on the new album and ‘Tell All Your Friends’ because those are the songs which belong to this line-up?

Adam Lazzara: We’ll play a fair share of the full catalogue. Things change time to time with the set depending on what we want to do but we won’t stop playing certain songs because of who the line-up is.

Building off what we said earlier about the future of the band, there have been comments that writing is under way for a new album. Is this just a case of that you are writing on the road or have you already dedicated some real time to working on new material?

Adam Lazzara: We’ve thrown around some ideas about the new material but as we’re on the road we haven’t went into a room or anything like that yet but when we have a little downtime I think one of the first things we will do is get into a room together.

With the response you received do you think a quick release is something that may cross your mind to take advantage of the current high or because you have that loyal fanbase worldwide that you can structure it out over time?

John Nolan: I think it will depend on what touring opportunities we have but I think it will ultimately come down to when we feel touring has run its course for this record and then we will switch and get back into writing to have something new.

It seems to becoming somewhat popular now to release a covers EP or album and recently you have covered Kanye West and Tom Petty to name two. Do you think a covers release is in the near future as it can be done relatively quickly compared to a normal album?

John Nolan: We’ve talked about it.

Adam Lazzara: Yeah we’ve talked about it were each person will pick a song and we’ll go from there but we’ve not actually done anything since we brought it up so whether it will happen or not is to be seen.

John Nolan: I think we should put out another album of original songs before we do a covers thing. I don’t know, I think it would be weird to follow up our first album back together with an album of cover songs [laughs]. But it is definitely something we’ll do at some point.

Taking Back Sunday Artwork

Don’t know why covers made me think of this directly but I’m guessing you’ve heard about the Lou Reed and Metallica collaboration?

John Nolan: I’ve just heard about that, that’s weird. That’s weird man. I can’t even imagine what that is going to sound like. The whole album is the both of them on every song together?

Yeah it is, a full on proper collaboration, all new material. The album is called ‘Lulu’.

John Nolan: ‘Lulu’? [Laughs]

If I remember the website correctly it is based on a German writers plays which tell a story about a young abused dancers life.

John Nolan: This is going to be so fucking weird.

Based on that idea who would you like to do a collaboration with?

Adam Lazzara: Kanye West I would say.

John Nolan: That would be great yeah. I’d like to do something with The Flaming Lips. That would be really awesome to me. I don’t think there is any possibility of that ever happening but if I was going to pick someone to collaborate with they put be at the top of that list.

There was a question that I was asking band’s at Sonisphere this year as a way to end all interviews but now that the band are back together and you’ve all went through a lot to get back to this place, if you could have given yourself one piece of advice back then what would you give yourself?

Adam Lazzara: Don’t be weird.

John Nolan: [Laughs]. I would probably tell myself to be grateful for everything that was happening and to try be a lot more positive instead of focussing on the negative and difficult side of everything that comes with being successful in a band.

I think that is us guys thank you very much.

Adam Lazzara: Thank you man.

John Nolan: Thanks for wanting to talk to us. I have to ask is that a photo booth in the corner?

Yeah they put it in so when everyone is drunk they can come in and get photos taken. I’m not sure if it prints the photos but I think they are saved to a hard drive and they can put them online.

John Nolan: I’m definitely going into this when we get back from Pulp.


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Michael is the owner and creator of EspyRock. He is your general all round geek; sports fan; TV show fanatic. You can find him sharing his thoughts on his personal Twitter account. Contact Michael on Twitter or via Email.

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