Two Decades Under the Influence: Poetic and punchy, Taking Back Sunday fight on
With the overt commercialism of pop music, the traditional notion of a band has, in many ways, become obsolete. Unlike a solo act, a band is comprised of the same fragile fibers that tie a family together. If the holidays have taught us anything, it’s that familial bonds are prone to strain. So, when a band—particularly a popular one—reaches its 20th anniversary, reverence must be paid.
Founded in New York at the precipice of emo music’s foray into the mainstream, Taking Back Sunday burst onto the scene in 1999 following the release of a five-song demo. At the time, some critics likely saw a year-long world tour anchored by a five-song demo as a foolhardy move for new band. But what is emo if not ballsy? Taking Back Sunday released their debut album—‘Tell All Your Friends’—in 2002 and climbed the charts with such hits as “Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut From the Team)” and “You’re So Last Summer” the helped the band reach number 183 on the Billboard 200. With time, the album would reach RIAA certified gold and become referred to as one of emo’s most influential albums.
With success comes touring and with touring comes fatigue. After spending the majority of 2002 and 2003 on the road, Taking Back Sunday’s original lineup suffered a hit. Citing extensive touring, guitarist John Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper parted ways with the band leaving Taking Back Sunday’s future uncertain. However, guitarist/vocalist Fred Mascherino and bassist Matt Rubano stepped up to fill out the lineup just in time for the band’s sophomore album—‘Where You Want to Be’.
Whereas their debut album was released to a generous splash of enthusiasm, their sophomore album was released to a tsunami. It debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 and Taking Back Sunday had officially cemented their place as a forerunner in the wave of commercial emo bands by 2004. Their next two releases—‘Louder Now’ and ‘New Again’—continued to bring the band success; however, the Taking Back Sunday roster was about to take another hit.
In 2007, Mascherino left the band to focus on a solo effort. In a later interview with Newsday, Mascherino was quoted as saying, "there were just problems between the five of us about writing, who was going to do it and how we were going to do it, we weren't being very productive because we were fighting too much about that stuff. The band was more about cooking food than making music.” In response, the band dropped a clap-back in the form of a track called ‘Capital M-E’ which featured lyrical references to Mascherino’s departure and subsequent comments.
Three years later in 2010, Taking Back Sunday went through their third and final major shake-up as they said goodbye to guitarist Matthew Fazzi and bassist Matt Rubano. In their stead, original members Shaun Cooper and John Nolan rejoined the band.
Although Cooper and Nolan didn’t reap the benefits of Taking Back Sunday’s early successes, Cooper feels that things played out exactly how they were meant to.
“I’m a big believer in everything happening for a reason. I’m so happy where we are right now that I wouldn’t change a thing,” he said in an interview with the Anchorage Press.
Where Cooper and his bandmates are now, is on the road—or more fittingly, on a plane. By the end of this month, Taking Back Sunday will have racked up over 30,000 travel miles as they crisscross continents on a world tour celebration of—you guessed it—their 20th anniversary.
To commemorate the tour, on January 11 the band released ‘Twenty’—a career retrospective album, featuring 19 tracks from all seven of their full-length albums. The album also has two new bonus tracks recorded by the band’s original lineup. “All Ready to Go” is full of the rhythmic, hard-hitting guitars and exquisitely raw vocals of lead singer Adam Lazzara while “A Song for Dan” is a piano-based departure from their typical sound. Nonetheless, the entire album is both the perfect anthology for long-time fans and newbs alike.
“We’ve never consciously tried to evolve our sound. The songs always come from our gut, not a preconceived idea of where we think we should take things. I honestly don’t know what direction new songs will take,” said Cooper of the band’s newest releases.
For at least the next seven months producing new music is taking a backseat to surviving a grueling touring schedule.
“[A day in the life of the tour is] waking up confused as to where I am, what day it is, and what time zone I’m in. Calling home to talk to the wife and kids. Tracking down a spot for coffee or coffee on the bus. Eating something. Handling press obligations. Soundcheck. Dinner. Meet and greets. Getting warmed up. Maybe some tequila if I’m feeling saucy. Ripping a killer gig. Post show meal. Shower. Bed,” said a slightly disoriented, but nonetheless content Cooper.
While Cooper and his compatriots will have already circumvented the world in the 29 days prior to their Anchorage performance, Cooper says he is stoked to be coming to Alaska for the first time.
“We’ve never been to Alaska before, but the show sold out quickly, so I think that’s a good indication there will be awesome energy in that room. I’m really excited to play,” he said.
If you weren’t one of the lucky souls who scored tickets to the gig, fear not, for Cooper is confident that a 40th anniversary tour will be in the cards.
“[We’ll be] older and grayer [in 20 years]. I really can’t lose any more hair, so that will be the same,” joked Cooper. “We might move a little slower in 2039 but the passion should still be there.”