In the next installment of our “An Essential Guide To…” feature, we take an indepth look into the career of Long Island rockers Taking Back Sunday.
As always we give you a detailed history on the band, rate three of their albums; For Beginners, For The Experts, and For The Bin.
Who are Taking Back Sunday?
Taking Back Sunday are alternative rock band based out of Long Island, New York. Since forming in 1999, the band has undergone numerous lineup changes and currently the band consist of what most fans consider the “classic” lineup of vocalist Adam Lazzara, guitarist John Nolan, bassist Shaun Cooper, drummer Mark O’Connell and founding member bassist Eddie Reyes.
The foundations of Taking Back Sunday heavily lay in the Long Island music scene. Prior to forming TBS, Eddie Reyes was part of several local hardcore bands with the most notable being The Movielife. In 1999 Reyes began a new, unnamed band and recruited guitarist Jesse Lacey and vocalist Antonio Longo to be involved. They had both been part of other locals bands; The Rookie Lot and One True Thing respectively. Soon after Lacey bought guitarist John Nolan on board whilst Lacey took over bass. In addition Steven DeJoseph became the bands first drummer. After playing several local shows, the band settled on the name Taking Back Sunday.
In 2001 the band began recording their eponymous titled EP however the final result showcased two different line-ups of the band. After recording the tracks ‘Go On’ and ‘Summer Stars,’ Jesse Lacey departed the band to form Brand New and drummer Steven DeJoseph reunited with his former band Prescott C. North Carolina native Adam Lazzara joined on bass after John Nolan asked him to move to Long Island and join the band, whilst Mark O’Connell replaced DeJoseph.
However after finishing the EP, arguments between Longo and Reyes led to the vocalist leaving the band and Lazzara becoming the bands new vocalist with Shaun Cooper coming in to takeover bass duties.
With a new, solid line-up in place, the band began working on new material which would become the ‘Tell All Your Friends’ demo and would be sent to an array of labels. In late 2001 the quintet joined Victory Records with their debut LP begin released the following March.
Since its release, ‘Tell All Your Friends’ has become a landmark record and put Taking Back Sunday at the forefront of the new “emo rock” movement that gathered pace during the early 2000’s. The record sold over 2,300 copies in it’s first week and was well received by critics for being genuine with Lazzara’s and Nolan’s rapid back-and-forth adding to the bands raw emotion.
In the months that followed, they toured relentlessly playing shows with acts such as Boxcar Racer, The Used and Jimmy Eat World and went out on their first Warped Tour in 2002. However the inner-band troubles would arise again the following year as Nolan and Cooper left the band “to pursue a different musical direction”. The duo would go on to form Straylight Run, a more stripped down, indie rock band with various levels of success.
With no guitarist or bassist, the follow up to the overwhelming ‘TAYF’ was put on hold whilst the band search for replacements. These would come in the form of guitarist Fred Mascherino, a friend of the band who had previously supported them and Matt Rubano, a childhood friend of Mark O’Connell’s came in on bass.
By the summer of 2004, anticipation for the bands second LP, ‘Where You Want to Be’ was high, having opened for Blink-182 that summer and made their US network television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live, the album dropped in late July and entered the Billboard chart number 3 selling 163,000 copies in its first week. Whilst lead single, ‘A Decade Under the Influence’ received plenty of airplay on a national level.
The album itself built upon the duel-vocal dynamic of its predecessor with a more solid alt-rock sound at its core, something that was more persistent on its 2006 follow-up.
Having received overwhelming commercial and critical success, and with “emo rock” being the “in thing” in 2005, major label interest soon came calling with Warner Bros. snapping up the band. The following Spring saw the release of ‘Louder Now’, a more energetic album that was spearheaded by ‘MakeDamnSure’ and showcased a more radio-friendly direction. Although reviews were generally favourable with some stating the record lacked growth. Nevertheless the LP still entered at number two on the Billboard chart.
Following its release, the band once again hit the road playing the Give It A Name and Slam Dunk Festivals in UK before supporting Linkin Park’s Projekt Revolution tour in the States. The end of the year would see ‘Louder Now’ repackaged with ‘Part One’ adding a live DVD and documentary. A year later ‘Louder Now: Part Two’ was released and included live songs and b-sides. Whilst the bands former label, Victory, released a retrospective CD titled ‘Notes From The Past’ consisting of songs both of the bands first LP’s along with two b-sides.
Having toured ‘Louder Now’ for the best part of eighteen months, October 2007 saw another departure from the band as Fred Mascherino left the band to concentrate on his solo project – The Color Fred. Mascherino’s replacement would be Matthew Fazzi, who’s former band, Facing New York supported Taking Back Sunday during the summer of 2004. Fazzi struck up a friendship with Eddie Reyes who asked him to auditioned followed Mascherino’s departure.
Fazzi’s first material band would not see the light of day until 2009. The bands fourth LP, ‘New Again’ was released of June of that year and once again received favourable reviews although until it still a record that divides opinion amongst fans. It’s title track, lead single ‘Sink Into Me’ and ‘Everything Must Go’ are stand out tracks yet at times the bands lack of progress is clearly evident. Just months after its release, Lazzara stated the album was “was a gigantic step backwards” with Reyes adding “this album was the worst album we’ve ever created”.
In March 2010, Matt Rubano and Matthew Fazzi announced they were amicably leaving the band whilst rumours of the bands ‘TAYF’ lineup gathered momentum online. The following month the band confirmed John Nolan and Shaun Cooper would be re-joining and work on the bands fifth LP was underway. Having reconvened and reconnected together in El Paso, Texas, the band released ‘Taking Back Sunday’ in June 2011 to positive reviews.
It is a focused rock record from a band that are reinvigorated from its line-up change with the songwriting partnership of Lazzara and Nolan picking up where it left off.
The summer of 2011 saw the band return to the UK for the Reading and Leeds Festival followed by an Autumn US headline with The Maine and Bad Rabbits supporting.
2012 marked the tenth anniversary of ‘Tell All Your Friends’ and to coincide with it, the band toured the album in full in the US. A live acoustic version of the album was released digitally the following summer as the band started work on their sixth album.
Having ended the relationship with Warner, the band returned to their independent roots and joined Hopeless Records this March and announced the release of ‘Happiness Is’.
What they say:
“Taking Back Sunday was one of the first bands we ever covered back in highschool. I remember playing "You’re so last summer” and “Cute Without The E” in the basement and playing the songs horrible. It’s crazy we aren’t in that genre anymore but great to see where we started.“ – Levin Benton – Miss May I
"Growing up, Taking Back Sunday were a band we all grew up listening to. From the moment I heard ‘Cute Without the E’, I was a fan of their punky and unique sound. The videos of Adam Lazzara and his stage charisma made me even more interested in the band and I loved not only the way he owned the stage but also the mic skills he had which was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. When ‘Louder Now’ was released everything took a step up for TBS, and they were thrown into the limelight along with the likes of My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy and the music got even better, ‘Liar’, ‘MakeDamnSure’ and ‘Spin’ are all huge, huge songs and despite the fact that ‘Louder Now’ was released 7 years ago, they still sound fresh and are absolute hits. The newer songs like ‘El Paso’ and ‘Faith (When I Let You Down)’ are huge songs and the band continue to put out these huge songs. Although I’m yet to see them live, I know that they are a favorite in all our CD collections and I’m sure to check them out the next time they play over here.” – Toby Leonard – Forever Can Wait
“Taking Back Sunday are one of those bands that we all have a mutual love for, we grew up on that band and we still to this day take inspiration from them. They have an incredible talent to churn out flawless rock songs over and over and that’s definitely something to look up to.” – Wil – Morain
“’Spin’ on the album, ‘Louder Now’, makes me want to lose my shit whenever I hear it. That has to be a good thing.” – Karl – The Valiant
“TBS are a band that I get nostalgic about. They soundtracked much of my late teens in those rose-tinted ‘best days or your life’ moments, through college and into the world of a struggling and ultimately failed musician. I still enjoy those early albums as much today as I did when they were released. Admittedly, they lost me for a while, but 2011’s self-titled album brought me back around. I also bloody love a good ballad which they’re partial to.” – Dave Hanley – Invictus PR
“I am a HUGE fan of TBS. Louder Now in particular is an album cemented in my life timeline. It changed the way I write music and taught me a valuable lesson in how audibly convey your emotions. A lot of bands lose pace or dilute the potency of their sound as they get older but TBS seem to mature yet retain their kick and conviction. They are my ‘long-motorway-drive’ band and my ‘drunk-by-the-jukebox’ band, not many can tick both those boxes!” – Paul – Nightlife
“I can honestly say that Taking Back Sunday was the band that got me started in this music. Without them, I don’t know what I would be listening to.” – Lou Miceli – Palisades
For Beginners… ‘Tell All Your Friends’
Sure it’s an obvious pick but in our so-called “scene”, it is a bonafide classic! From the opening lines of ‘You Know How I Do’ to tumbling conclusion of ‘Head Club’, you’ll find yourself hooked by the bands tales of late teens/early twenties adolescents. Whilst ‘Cute Without The E (Cut from the Team)’ and ‘You’re So Last Summer’ are destined to be sung along loud and proud. Adored by longtime fans and influenced by many, ‘Tell All Your Friends’ is still as warming to listen to as it was over 10 years ago.
For The Experts… ‘Louder Now’
The bands major label debut has an admirable and accessible quality that is missing on its processor (‘Where You Want To Be’) and follow-up (‘New Again’). ‘Louder Now’ combines the bands alt-rock edge with their ever-present hook-y choruses and presents in a “radio-friendly” manner. Its highlights include ‘Divine Intervention’ a soft, charming number and ‘Error: Operator’, a rip-roaring energetic rock onslaught that deserves a place on any future ‘Greatest Hits’ releases.
For The Bin… ‘New Again’
Loved by the critics, liked by some fans and marked with regret from the band themselves, ‘New Again’ for the most part isn’t the bands best work. With few notable tracks (‘Everything Must Go’ and ‘New Again’), it is a record that lacks the energy and passion we had come to know TBS for. And with Lazzara lacking a songwriting partner, tracks like ‘Swing’ and ‘Where My Mouth Is’ have little direction and come off as somewhat routine.
‘Happiness Is’ by Taking Back Sunday is out now on Hopeless Records.
Words by Sean Reid (@SeanReid86)