“We’re Free Agents Now:” In The Studio with Taking Back Sunday

July 26, 2013 by Philip Obenschain

“We’re Free Agents Now:” In The Studio with Taking Back Sunday

In 2010, Taking Back Sunday shocked fans by announcing the return of guitarist/co-vocalist John Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper, restoring the group to their original Tell All Your Friends-era lineup. Soon after, the quintet found themselves holed up in Texas, writing and recording with Eric Valentine, who had previously produced 2006’s Louder Now. The result, 2011’s Taking Back Sunday, showcased not only a logical turn in style and influence, but also the sound of five men learning, once again, how to be a band. Indeed, when we last spoke to Taking Back Sunday, about the history of their classic “Cute Without The ‘E,’” Nolan admitted, when touching on their upcoming sixth full-length: “It feels like we’re a new band, and this is our second record.”

Album six will be a significant turn for the group. With more than three years spent writing, recording and touring together once again with this lineup, their increased sense of comfort and confidence is obvious, as is the passion and enthusiasm for what they’re creating. Currently free agents, Taking Back Sunday are recording free of label oversight, and have reached into their past to bring a producer into the mix to help shape the sound of their future: Mike Sapone.

Philip Obenschain caught up with Nolan and frontman Adam Lazzara during their final days of recording the first part of the new album in Michigan, with producer Marc Hudson. The band have now finished that session, which yielded eight new tracks, and will take a short break, before heading to Long Island to work with Sapone. We spoke with them about the process, fan expectations and plans for the future.

Stylistically how are these songs coming together? Are they similar to the last record, as heavy as parts of the last record, or something different this time around?
ADAM LAZZARA
: There’s a good mix of everything. We don’t really compare the stuff we’re currently working on to anything we’ve done in the past. We like to think we’re always moving forward. But I’m really stoked with how everything is sounding.

Is it coming together how you were thinking? Did you get going with a distinct idea of how you wanted it to sound?
LAZZARA
: It’s actually turning out way better than I was thinking, so that’s always a really great sign. Yesterday, we were all sitting on the porch, just to do a listen through to see if we missed anything or if there were any small last minute changes we needed to make, and I was really, really happy with everything.

When you’re writing, are you still consciously drawing from influences, or are you just settled into how to write as Taking Back Sunday, and automatically flowing as a unit at this point?
JOHN NOLAN
: Certain songs on this record are a little more directly influenced by things than on the last record, but it’s just a few specifics. There’s one song we have where you really can’t miss the Nirvana influence; it’s pretty direct. But it wasn’t necessarily a conscious thing. We didn’t go into it thinking, “Hey, we’re going to write a song that sounds like Nirvana,” but as it was developing, I think we just kind of embraced it rather than fought it. There are some other songs—I’m not sure of the band I would compare them to—but there’s a little bit of an alt-country rock vibe that has crept in. Not over the top, but definitely a little bit into that territory.

LAZZARA: That’s really funny, because there are going to be kids that read this, and they’re going to go on the internet and say, “Taking Back Sunday wrote an alt-country record.”

NOLAN: [Jokingly.] We should probably tell everyone about the dubstep songs we’re working on as well. We’ve gotten pretty heavy into dubstep on this record.

Alt-country sounds like you’re experimenting with different instrumentation. Are you using more acoustic instruments this time, or is it still a mix of everything?
LAZZARA: It’s really cool because Hudson and our buddy Ray Jeffrey, who is here with us too, have this really eclectic collection of gear, so we’ve been playing with it all. I’ve been sitting off and on with this little vocoder, which is so much fun to play with. I highly suggest anyone that knows a little bit about piano to go get a vocoder. It’s been more about just having access to all of these different instruments, especially the guitars. Each one has its own unique sound, and Hudson’s really good at capturing that.

Thematically, is there anything you’ve noticed recurring on this album? Is it about anything central so far, or does it differ from song to song?
LAZZARA: There hasn’t been one [central] theme that’s come to light. It’s all just been more autobiographical, I think. For both John and I. >>>

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