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Interviews, Music

Interview: Taking Back Sunday Talks “Tell All Your Friends”, 20th Anniversary Shows, and the Meaning of Legacy

By: Jessica Nakamoto –

Taking Back Sunday. (Photo: Natalie Escobedo)

With three gold albums, four Top 10 records, and ten Top 10 singles, Long Island Music Hall of Fame inductees, and acclaimed rock band, Taking Back Sunday, have clearly had many milestones to commemorate over the course of their impressive career.

And as vocalist Adam Lazzara, guitarist/vocalist John Nolan, drummer Mark O’Connell, and bassist Shaun Cooper, reach their twenty-year mark as a band, even the celebration appears to be an accomplishment within itself.

Having embarked on a year-long global tour that will have spanned five different continents by the time it wraps up in mid-November, Taking Back Sunday’s 20th Anniversary shows treat fans to a complete playthrough of the band’s debut album Tell All Your Friends, as well as either 2004’s Where You Want to Be, or 2006’s Louder Now, determined by the flip of a personalized coin each night.

Furthermore, the band has also released both a remaster of their iconic debut record, as well as a 21 song compilation album that not only spans each of the group’s seven full-length records, but includes two completely new tracks. In other words, while Taking Back Sunday has indisputably made their mark on the rock scene, they’re by no means done making hits.

So whether you’re traveling to catch a show or eagerly awaiting the band’s next breakthrough album, make sure to check out our interview with lead guitarist John Nolan as he gives us the inside scoop on Tell All Your Friends, his favourite moments from tour, the meaning of legacy, and more!

Back in the Fall of 2012, you did a ten-year anniversary tour for Tell All Your Friends. Did that give you any ideas or inspiration for this current run?

Yes! For that tour, we thought even if we were going to play the whole album, we’d still have to do a pretty full set along with it. Tell All Your Friends is only about a half an hour long, so we ended up doing another twelve-songs in addition to the ten from the record. I think at the time, it was also never played.

In a way, that prepared us for this tour. It kind of eased us into playing a full album plus some. We worked our way up to this idea of doing two full albums and also playing some more songs afterwards.

It’s always exciting for fans to hear the albums performed in full, especially with the coin toss the band’s doing now! Does your pre-show routine change any given the longer setlist and yearlong tour?

We’ve actually done more vocal warm-ups on this tour then in the past, and have gotten into a routine. Everybody has been warming up on their instrument before the show, and done more in general. I think that has really helped. It’s kind of one of those things that you just get through because you don’t have a choice. You make your way through it anyway you can.

After 20 years with the guys, are you still finding funny quirks or things you discover about each other on tour, or do you know one another like the back of your hand at this point?

I think it’s more of what you said. It’s like being married for twenty years! (laughs) Of course, your relationship is going to develop and there’ll be new things. But after a certain amount of time, you know the person. They’re not going to surprise you all that much. I think there’s an element like that, like a long-term marriage, where we know each other very, very, well. There’s a lot of things that we can even pick up on with each other without anyone having to say anything.

Like a sixth sense!

Exactly! (laughs)

Taking Back Sunday released a compilation album titled Twenty on January 11th, 2019.

It’s neat that not only has the band kept up momentum for twenty years, but you seem to have a great fan base that’s grown along with you. Have you heard any memorable or throwback stories from longtime fans during the meet and greets?

There’s been a lot of memorable interaction with the fans over the years! I’d say generally it’s always been good. Of course, there’s that five percent of time where somebody maybe makes you feel a little uncomfortable or does something kind of weird, but I think one nice thing with our fans getting older with us is that they don’t look at us like they did when they were teenagers. Younger fans would get so nervous and kind of freak out or be desperate to meet somebody in the band.

I feel like now, a lot of our audience is happy to come to the show, have a good time, watch it, and head back home. (Jokes) They’ve got to pay the babysitter and get up for work the next day! There’s more of an adult fan base that we have at this point, which is nice. It has a very different vibe now compared to our younger years as a band. 

Do you think that becoming a father has inspired you to reflect more about the legacy you’re creating with the band and the music you put out? Or has your idea of legacy changed now that you’re a dad?

It’s definitely been a change in perspective in certain ways. For me, there was a point after I first had kids where I started to reflect on songwriting. I wondered “what will our kids think about these lyrics when they get older?”

But after some thought, I came to the realization that, as a band, we’ve always expressed ourselves and where we’re at in our lives in that moment. We didn’t worry about what everything was going to mean in the future.

So, after really thinking it through, I believe that the best way to make something we’d be proud to show our kids, was to continue in that same vein. It’s all about expressing ourselves just the way we are now and not overthinking or trying to make it anything other than what it is.

I think about it a lot more, but in the end, you just kind of come around to approaching it the same way that we always have.

Are there any personal career goals that you’ve set for yourself, or was there any point in career where you felt that you had “made it” in the industry?

I think one of the things that’s kept us going is that we’ve never really felt like we’ve “made it”! (laughs) No matter how successful the band is, it always feels like we’re not quite there yet and we haven’t achieved what we see as our full potential as a band.

There’s that weird thing that drives us and keeps us going. It’s really just about making music. I think we always believe that we can do better and can make better records than ever before. We don’t really have the feeling that we’ve written the best music in our lives yet. It’s not necessarily that the band and I don’t have long-term career goals, but there’s just that constant drive to do better than we’ve done in the past.

I like that you’re constantly pushing yourselves and trying new things, even going back to the remasters and compilation records! You released the album, Twenty, back in January which included older hits as well as two new tracks. Are these songs any indication of what’s to come as far as new material goes?

Honestly, even we don’t know right now! (laughs) Generally, we don’t plan out where we’re going to go stylistically with our music. That just happened to be where we were at when we wrote those two songs. But I think it’s likely that it will have something to do with where we go next.

Really, what we’ve always done is simply show up in the studio and start working on the ideas that everyone has. We see where it takes us and then see where we want to go as we’re doing it. We never really know until we get into the studio and start working on the album.

In addition to the compilation album, the band also released a remaster of Tell All Your Friends earlier this month Has the meaning of some of these songs changed over the years for you or would you adapt anything about the record if given the chance?

It definitely changes as you listen to it at this age versus when we were younger. We were in our twenties when it first came out. For me, certainly one of the biggest things is that it almost feels as if I’m listening to an album by different people. I can connect with it and can still feel the things that I felt back then, but I think we all feel like very different people now compared to when we recorded that album.

Also, because of that, I don’t think we would really change anything either. It seems like it was exactly what it was meant to be at that time. I don’t think there’s any reason to second guess it or to try to go back and change anything about it. We captured what we wanted to at that particular moment in our lives and there’s something really great about that.

Taking Back Sunday. (Photo: Natalie Escobedo)

Are there any songs off of Tell All Your Friends or another one of the albums, that’s a favorite of yours to play on tour right now?

Yeah! There’s a lot of songs that have been great. There are a few where we’ve kind of added these moments where we’ll improvise or stretch a part out. We’ve been doing that on “Head Club”, the last song on Tell All Your Friends and a bit on “Divine Intervention” from Louder Now. There are also a few other different ones where we’ll decide to change some things up in a new way.

It’s really fun for us and I hope it’s fun for people watching to see a slightly different take on a part of a song or a little bit of improvisation. Those times we go off script a bit and change things up have really been some of my favorite moments!

I agree! It’s always a great experience for fans to see and hear new things versus something identical to the record. (Jokes) It’s a memory they can “tell all their friends” about!

I hope so! (laughs) You never know! They could say to themselves, “that’s not the way it was on the record. Why didn’t they do it like they did on there?” But I think we do it tastefully enough so that we’re not ruining the song and changing what they loved about it. It’s these little tweaks here and there as well as the nuances that are different and fun!

Now that you’re reaching the final leg of the 20 Year Anniversary Tour, does the band have any goals or plans for the rest of the year?

After closing out this tour, we also have some Christmas shows at the Starland Ballroom. Those are our last planned shows for the year. Following that, we’ll start working on the next record. We’ll get into that process as soon as possible in 2020!

Has all the touring across the globe provided any inspiration for when you get back in the studio?

(Jokes) I think at the moment, it’s inspired us to go home and rest for a while! (laughs) I know that for myself, I have tons of notes and little bits of music that I’ve recorded here and there throughout the year. Just little ideas that have come up throughout the entire world tour that I’m really excited to sit down and show the other guys.

So, in that sense, yes! It has inspired some things that are going to come into play in the next record. I’m guessing everybody has that same kind of thing. It’s been our technique to just put these ideas down when it hits us on the road. But then, we don’t really know where those ideas are going to go until we actually sit down in the studio together and start sharing with one another.

Some R & R and new music sounds like a great plan!

To wrap things up, I have a few fun fill-in-the-blank questions. Would you like to give it a go

Sure!

On my days off I love to…

Sleep as much as possible! (laughs)

(Laughs) That’s on my list too!

One song on my current playlist is…

There’s a couple. I’ve been really liking the band Idles recently. That whole album is great! The big one I’ve been listening to is “I’m Scum”. 

If I could collaborate with anyone past or present, I would pick…

Bob Dylan.

If I wasn’t a musician, I’d probably be a…

Janitor! (laughs)

Last one for you! Something you may not know about me is…

(Jokes) I have no skills other than playing music!

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