Last week, TAKING BACK SUNDAY made heads swoon (and altpress.com crash) when they announced that original members John Nolan and Shaun Cooper were rejoining the ranks. While the band's fanbase is certainly stoked, lead singer ADAM LAZZARA is looking forward to the future with an admittedly newfound interest that's so infectious, he probably regrets using the title “New Again” for the band's recent album. He checked in with AP editor in chief Jason Pettigrew to discuss timelines, why cynics don't matter, how the cultivation of rekindled friendships is making for some inspired songwriting and whether he'll be getting a fruit basket from Brand New any time soon.
INTERVIEW: Jason Pettigrew
Nobody except maybe your close bros saw John Nolan [guitar/vocals] and Shaun Cooper [bass] coming back into the fold. What’s the timeline on this?
When we first got together, we were all sitting in a room and everybody just started laughing. It was like, “Who would’ve thought?” We didn’t see this coming. Mark O’Connell [drums] has some crazy ideas sometimes and sometimes he’s 100 percent right.
So it was Mark who engineered this thing?
He planted the seed. He and Shaun have been friends since they were kids and they still hang out all the time. Then when John would be in town, he’d hang out with him, too. We were at a place where everybody was really unhappy. Nobody was feeling fulfilled or satisfied or just happy being together or around one another. I remember the first time Mark told me [about the idea]. He called me and was like, “Hey man, what do you think if we went back to all the original members?” and I was like, “Man, you’re out of you’re damn mind because there’s no way that’s gonna happen.” I hadn’t talked to John or Shaun in, like, seven years. Mark kind of kept talking about because if things had stayed the way they were [in TBS], there wouldn’t be a next record. So then, Mark just kept talking to me about it and then I got a call from John. We started talking on the phone as if no time had passed. It [seemed like] it could’ve been a day or two since we last talked, and I think there’s something to be said for that.
So when did this all take place?
When I first talked to John it was probably early in the year--around January. For me, I generally missed having him be a part of my life. At first, we were just playing catch-up. We didn’t really talk a whole lot about, “Hey, let’s try to make music.” It was more like, “Aw man, I missed ya, buddy. Sorry I was a dick back then.” [Laughs.]
So you were working on the friendship more than anything music-related.
Yeah, and then even when we started talking about the music and were sending ideas back and forth, there was always this thing like, “Look, there’s a chance this just isn’t gonna work. I could write something you’re gonna think is awful or you could write something I could think is awful. Or this could just not work.” It wasn’t something we were trying to force or make happen. We were really cautious going back into that part of it.
It’s often been inferred, but never stated plainly: Why did Shaun and John leave TBS in the first place?
Well, I think it had a lot to do with where everybody was at during that point of their lives. I got so ahead of myself and made so many mistakes. John’s head was kind of going in a different direction. Everything happened really fast. Right when that first record came out, we went from opening the Victory [Records] tour to headlining these shows that were sold out at what we thought at the time were the biggest venues ever. That affects you. It can change a person. So everyone was going through this change at the same time and everyone was dealing with it differently.
You said that TBS couldn’t go on the way it was going. Were Matt Rubano [bass] and Matt Fazzi [guitar/vocals] fired or was it a “you can’t fire me, I quit” scenario?
I wouldn’t use the word “fired.” It was more like “let go.” We were all on the phone saying, “Look, this isn’t working.” It wasn’t an easy thing to do. With Matt Rubano, it was one the toughest decisions that I’ve made and it didn’t come about quickly or easily. My stomach starts to knot up just thinking about that conversation. He was a perfect gentleman. There wasn’t any, “No, fuck you,” or anything like that.
Why did you guys make the announcement in a video where you’re at a shooting range?
Actually, we were outside of Juarez, Mexico, on the U.S. side. That’s kind of where we met up. Everybody went into it like, “Okay, look. There’s a great chance this could not work. So let’s just go someplace where there’s no distraction in the middle of nowhere and just, like, see if we could even be in a room together. So in the video, the house you see in the background was the house we were staying in, then on the other side, there was another house that was gutted out and in the back there was a live room and in the front, there was a console room. So we would hang out at the house and then walk over to this other house and work on tunes. But being that we were in the middle of nowhere, you can just walk outside and shoot a gun, so we thought, “Why not?”
A lot of people would be cynical and say this is a pandering situation, but you’re choosing to make a new album instead of going out on tour. I’m sure it’d be very easy to go out on tour, play all of Tell All Your Friends and go for the cash-grab. But it seems like you’re more interested in creating new work together.
Everything has been in the spirit of why we wanted to start a band in the first place and, like, why we made music together at all. It’s keeping that in mind. It was in no way, “Let’s go get paid.” It was, “This is what I love to do and I know you love doing it, too. Together, the combination of the five of us--I really believe in what that combination can do. So let’s play some music.” I kind of want to let people think what they want. Who cares what people say? I wanna be happy. I want to be happy doing what I’m doing and proud of it. If doing this is going to allow me to feel that, then I don’t care what anybody says.
Whose new album will be out first: TBS or Blink-182?
[Laughs.] I don’t know. We’ve been talking with [producer] Eric Valentine. That’s who we wanted to go with on New Again but the timing didn’t work. So we’re really stoked to be able to hang with him. There hasn’t been a date set yet [for the beginning of recording], but in a perfect world, we’d be going into record in mid-summer.
Do you have a bunch of tracks done already?
Yeah, it was this crazy thing. Writing was fun, man. It hasn’t been fun for a while. That’s kind of at the heart of what we do. It sounds kind of Peter Pan-ish, but we have a blast. I don’t remember laughing so much in such a short amount of time ever--maybe with my family at Christmas. We all went into it thinking there’s a chance it might not work, then next thing we knew we had this collection of songs. Typically with Taking Back Sunday, we’d spend two months coming up with four songs--two of which were okay, one that would need a lot of work and one that we would love. But we were only together for that first session for a week and what we did in that week would’ve taken us close to a year to do in the past--or, like, six months at least. It was almost like the songs were already there, we just had to put the pens down. It’s like there were songs floating around and we just had to catch them.
How many songs have you written thus far?
Eighty-seven. That’s a total lie. [Laughs.] There’s seven that are done that came out of that week. We’d just sit in a room and record, so I have like five or six hours of, like, the seeds for the other tunes. We’re getting back together on Wednesday and hopefully we’ll get that next batch of songs done. We’ll be more than ready for recording a rock record.
What’s the vibe of the music?
When I listen to the songs, there’s almost this urgency to them. It’s something you can’t fake. You can’t just produce it. I’m trying to think of a way to describe it without sounding like a total cheese ball. There are all these bands that say, “Oh, this is our best stuff ever, blah blah blah,” but when I listen to it, there’s this certain energy engrained in it that you just can’t fake. It’s almost like [the songs] have minds of their own and they’re these living, breathing things.
Seems like everything is going well with the friendship and the music. Has this traveled into other realms? What’s the response from your friends?
At first, they thought we were joking. My friends that have known me know the history, and they were like, “No way that would happen.” But everybody’s really excited. When I talk to my dad about it, he’s like, “So can I come down and hear the songs?” He’s just as excited about it as I am. He’s a cool guy, and I’m a lucky guy.
What’s the big plan?
We’ll go into record within the next couple months. We haven’t really talked about [playing shows] yet, but I’d imagine before we go into the studio, there’ll probably be something. Because now that I think about it, that’s gonna be really fun--playing with John and Shaun in front of people again. It just feels good to be friends again. I really miss that. There’s nothing more fun than playing music with your friends. Things before this had gotten to the point that when I would talk to people [about TBS], I would embellish things to the point where everything always seemed like it was going great. Now that I’m actually at a point where things are going great, I look back and I’m like, “Man, I wish I hadn’t said all that stuff. I should’ve just said it like it was.” But everything’s really good now. I can honestly say that.
Does this mean you can be friends with Brand New and Jesse Lacey again?
I’m not sure if he’s still talking mountains of shit about me, but from what I remember, I would imagine he would talk mountains of shit about me from all that he’s said in the press. John was always closer to [Lacey] than I was. Hey, man, if Taking Back Sunday have their original lineup back, I’m pretty sure anything can happen. [Laughs.] alt