By: Corey Deiterman
Tomorrow Taking Back Sunday will grace the stage at the Observatory. Unlike their retrospective jaunt two years ago in celebration of their classic 2002 album Tell All Your Friends, this is in honor of the re-release of their newest album, Happiness Is. Though many might view them through the lens of nostalgia, Taking Back Sunday is always looking forward.
We recently spoke with front man Adam Lazzara about the reissue of Happiness Is, a deluxe edition of their 2014 record containing bonus tracks which was released this past Tuesday, the touring life, and, of course, Tell All Your Friends, in advance of the show.
The biggest question burning on the tips of everyone's tongues regarding the tour and the reissue is, “why so soon?” I mean, Happiness Is only came out in March 2014. Lazzara admits it was the label's idea, especially considering how quickly the album cycle moves these days. However, he stands by the bonus tracks.
“We wanted to think of a way to make it a little more exciting, just so fans won't have to buy the same thing twice, cause that's shitty to do to anybody,” he explains. “So this is a seven-inch collection. Of course, it's the record, and all these B-sides, and then there's these acoustic songs that John and I recorded a few months ago. Just different takes on the songs.”
Exclusively for the set, each seven-inch included with the record comes with different artwork. Mentioning how other bands will release deluxe editions that are essentially the same album with a different cover, Lazzara says Taking Back Sunday didn't want to do that, and so designed this elaborate product.
But regardless of release or packaging, Happiness Is is a solid record, all things considered. Taking Back Sunday have come a long way in this game, and their music reflects that. It's both contemporary and modern, while eschewing the experimental desires of their emo compatriots. Taking Back Sunday haven't made a “weird” record yet, but that's okay. It's partially the reason for their longevity.
Lazzara explained that this is because it's just the five of them. Even as they get older and their musical tastes broaden, they are still who they are. He did say that those other bands are sort of following a cliche, (“at a certain point, any band's gonna get weird,”) but that they haven't hit that point yet.
Without “heading for the ditch,” as Neil Young would say, Taking Back Sunday have remained an integral part of the emo movement of the early 2000's. For his own part though, Lazzara doesn't buy the hype.
“I never thought we were part of the emo scene,” he says. “I always thought of us as a rock band and that's it.”
And on the whole emo revival that credits Taking Back Sunday as a vital influence? Lazzara doesn't listen to it, and has no opinion. How have they adjusted to being elder statesmen in that scene, then?
“Kicking and screaming,” Lazzara says. “It's very strange for us. Like we have tenure or something. I guess some of the younger bands, at some point in the night, will come up and say, 'Man, I've loved your band for this long, blah, blah, blah.' It's such a strange thing. You never know what to think about it.”
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Of course, even a forward-looking band has to revisit their past at some point. Though the years may have passed without Lazzara really understanding how he ended up a scene legend, they did go on that aforementioned tour celebrating the tenth anniversary of their defining debut album, Tell All Your Friends, back in 2012. With a reunited original lineup, it all seemed fitting to celebrate. But how did the older, wiser Taking Back Sunday approach those songs from all those years ago?
“We knew for us that it was a big deal because it was that record that changed the course of our lives, but I guess we didn't quite fully grasp how much those songs meant to folk,” Lazzara says. “That's one of the biggest things we noticed.
“I feel like a lot of those songs are bigger than me,” he continues. “When you get in front of a crowd and you get that kind of reaction, it takes on this new form. It becomes something else. It's like when Voltron forms. It comes together as this all-powerful guardian of the galaxy.”
Although, he confesses, they skip those songs during rehearsal these days; they already know them like the back of their hands. At the same time, even the older Lazzara still holds some grudges from back in those days.
When asked about playing a song like “There's No 'I' In Team,” which directly references a longstanding feud with the band Brand New (specifically front man/former Taking Back Sunday bassist Jesse Lacey), Lazzara continues to add fuel to the old fire.
“I think Jesse Lacey is just a dick,” he says. “He just sucks. He's not a good person.”
Lazzarra goes on
“Who am I to say?”, he says. “There's somebody out there that's gonna say I'm not a good person. I don't know.”
Old punk habits die hard, I guess. Nowhere is that more evident than the heaviest track on Happiness Is, “They Don't Have Any Friends.” It wasn't a calculated attempt at aggression, according to Lazzara, but just how the song turned out. Either way, it bodes well for the future of a band who could have, like so many of their contemporaries, let the flame die and started writing nothing but balladry.
When they do hit Houston tonight, expect that same fire to be lit under their asses in their performance. Lazzara promises both new songs and deep cuts alike, especially in the wake of their reflection on their history with the Tell All Your Friends tour. This is guaranteed to be a great time for longtime fans, but it could just usher in a new era for a band who refuses to settle into the mediocrity that often comes with being a long-established band in a scene full of young imitators.
Expect them to blow the roof off the place, and, like Lazzara says, go down “kicking and screaming.”
Taking Back Sunday performs at Observatory on Saturday with special guests letlive. and the Menzingers. Doors open at 7 p.m. For full info, click here.