By Steve Brennan
By Ashley Zimmerman
By Michele Eve Sandberg
By Abel Folgar
By Ashley Zimmerman
By New Times Staff
By Abel Folgar
By Laurie Charles
Taking Back Sunday is looking more like Turning Back Sunday these days. After myriad personnel changes and a growing level of discontent within the decade-old alt-punk group at the end of 2009, it was time for a fresh start. Now, the Long Island, New York, natives, led by singer Adam Lazzara, have returned with a fierce, "back to basics," self-titled album created by a lineup that had spent seven years apart.
Not long after TBS released its mighty 2002 full-length debut, Tell All Your Friends, guitarist John Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper left and formed the more staid Americana-based Straylight Run. After two albums and a handful of EPs, that band decided it had run its course in late 2009, and free agents Nolan and Cooper were eventually invited to reteam with Lazzara and company.
"I think all of us felt reinvigorated," Cooper says of the re-formation. "We've had so many ups and downs separately that getting back together and feeling that energy again that we have within the five of us was a great thing. We all get along now, which is nice. [A decade ago,] we were just five very different personalities, and we didn't understand where each other was coming from or why we did things the way we did. We were thrust into this life living like sardines in our van for two years straight, and that can really freak you out."
Cooper and drummer Mark O'Connell are the only two members of the band who still live on Long Island, and their undying friendship through the intervening years helped make this reunion possible. Band discussions began early last year, and the official re-formation was announced that April. In the fall, Taking Back Sunday convened to record in Los Angeles and spent several months with producer/engineer Eric Valentine, who produced 2006's Louder Now.
"Hopefully it will be a phenomenal-sounding record," Cooper says. "We think it is, but, yeah, that process of refining and writing and figuring out took a really long time. The label [Warner Bros.] wanted to hear a few more songs, so we had to go back and write a few more and make the record as strong as we could. We were pulling at least ten-hour days, as the days wore on for months and months and months, but we couldn't be happier with how it turned out."
Set for release in late June, Taking Back Sunday features one of the band's most hard-core, explosive blasts in "El Paso." It also showcases "Faith (When I Let You Down)," a meticulously crafted pop-punk track of anthemic proportions. Cooper says the latter's lyrics and melodies were reworked by Lazzara and Nolan about ten times and owe a great debt to one of the group's favorite artists, Tom Petty.
"He just nails something in the head by saying something in as few words as possible that's really accessible," he explains. "Adam and John have been really studying, and 'Faith' is a prime example. [Petty's] been so prolific over the past 40 years, and he keeps putting out great singles. That's the type of career we'd like to achieve."
On Taking Back Sunday's current tour, which includes Friday's performance at SunFest with pals Anberlin and Circa Survive, expect to hear songs from every era of the band and for an experience tailored to giving fans what they want.
"If we all had our way, we'd just play all the new songs," Cooper says. "We love them so much and we're so proud of them and we worked so hard, but we know a whole evening of new shit that they don't care about is not what people want to hear. We're not trying to fix what isn't broken."