TBS founder Eddie Reyes: “I started mentally falling apart”
The Taking Back Sunday founder has his sleeves rolled up—and his love for music renewed—with his new band, Fate’s Got A Driver. And he’s learned more than a couple of mental health lessons in the process.May 20, 2019
Everybody loves Eddie Reyes. Seriously. Reyes—known as the guitarist for scene stalwarts Taking Back Sunday—is a straight-up hero back in Long Island, New York, where it seems that everybody has got a story about him. Makes sense: He’s been doing the rock thing since he was 14, starring in a litany of legendary bands (Mind Over Matter, the Movielife) before forming TBS in 1998. It’s hard not to leave a mark in a community when you’ve been showing up, turning up and rockin’ out all of your adult life.
When it was mutually decided that Reyes and Taking Back Sunday would part ways in April 2018, it was for the betterment of both parties. Reyes was going through a series of personal travails ranging from the end of his marriage to being away from his kids for a prolonged time because of TBS’ touring schedule. He started to self-medicate with alcohol and, in his own words, “was completely over music.”
Fortunately for him (and listeners), Reyes has spent the last seven months focusing on Fate’s Got A Driver, his new outfit featuring vocalist Randy Schulz, guitarist/producer Michael Drum, bassist Adam Evans and drummer Javi Torres. They self-released a self-titled four-track EP last November, which boasts everything from charging rock to anthemic, atmospheric numbers. Although the members are scattered all over the place (Ohio, Michigan, New York and Florida), they’re determined to make it work. For Reyes, it’s been the jump-start he’s needed to get back into music with the same love and focus he had in his Taking Back Sunday days.
Reyes spoke with Jason Pettigrew about what Fate have in store and the brutal lessons he had to learn to get to where he is now. His work ethic is die-hard, and he isn’t going to be stopped by fake friends who won’t take his calls any longer. “I’ve always had this saying in the scene,” Reyes begins. “I’m 46 going on 47. I’ve been doing this since I was 14. A lot of people in Long Island know my saying: I’ll be here before you, and I’ll be here after you.”
Let’s go directly into the creation of Fate’s Got A Driver.
EDDIE REYES: Mike is a family member. We’ve known each other mostly all our lives. I always wanted to jam out with him, but I was always busy with Taking Back Sunday. When the opportunity came up, it literally took me 24 hours to call him. It took me one night to think about my life when I parted ways with Taking Back Sunday, and I decided, “No, I’m not going to sit back and let this shit happen. I’m going to keep doing what I do.” I called Mike and he was…boom! Right on it. He said, “Send me your stuff”—he records and produces music as well as playing drums and guitar—so I sent him a bunch of stuff that I had written. He put his [thing] on it, and next thing you know, he’s sending back recordings, and I’m sending his stuff, and we’re recording and mixing. I went up to Port Clinton, Ohio, and stayed with his family so we could record.
Adam the bassist is my cousin through marriage. He’s my ex-wife’s first cousin, and we’ve always talked about jamming. He plays bass and guitar, so he came up. The guys are from all over the place—Florida, New York—and they’re making the effort to come rehearse and record and get ready for shows and stuff. Randy is the singer, and he goes back and forth from Ohio to Detroit, so that’s only an hour away. Javi’s from Rochester, so he travels five hours when it’s [time] to get together to record or tour. Adam flies up from Florida when we need to work.
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What you’re telling me is that there’s a massive sense of commitment to Fate’s Got A Driver on behalf of the members.
Totally. We’re trying our best to do everything on our own, but it’s hard to get our name out there. People are constantly hitting me up like, “Are you guys still doing it?” We had to cancel two tours because one of the members had a personal issue, so we’re going to be writing until July. We’re doing our best.
What do you want to do in this band that you haven’t done in any of your previous bands?
I don’t know. I did so much when I was in Taking Back Sunday. I’ve been around the world a million times. I’ve played in front of thousands of people. Honestly, it just feels good to make music and play with a bunch of great dudes. Just play shows. Just be a band. It’s more of a play, enjoy what we’ve done first and then worry about anyone else getting it. I didn’t start Fate’s Got A Driver thinking, “I was in TBS. We’re going to be huge!” Some other dudes do that; some dudes succeed and some don’t. I don’t care about that. I want to play music. It’s what I’ve done all of my life. I was in hardcore bands since I was in high school—I don’t know anything else besides making sandwiches, you know? [Laughs.]
You’re doing some interesting stuff with a lot of guitar atmospheres and production, very layered shoegazer effects, such as the Verve or Swervedriver, but with anthemic songs on top of it.
We all listen to the same shit, but we all have different ideas. Mike is real into Incubus and older hardcore bands. I’m into Smashing Pumpkins, Quicksand and Deftones. We’ve been writing some new stuff, and we want to throw a lot of Lifetime-styled fast songs in there. Eventually we’re going to put out a six-song EP in a couple [of] months, but we want to mix it up. We want slow, heavy, driving ones, and we want fast ones. The band’s still growing. Shit, we’re seven months old!
It doesn’t sound like a case of finding your footing as much as it is enjoying the noise you make together.
That’s exactly what Fate’s Got a Driver are about. We’re older dudes that know how to tour and know how to play shows. Write some sick songs, do some tours and see what happens. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. It’s not the end of the world. I’ve come to the realization that what I’ve lost, I had to accept. Accept it, brush it off, move on and do what I love to do, which is play music. Accept you may never ever have that again. I still have that passion in my heart, you know?
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You’ve come to terms with everything, but you had to have stuff happen to get you to the place where you are now. Was the alcohol abuse to deal with the grind, or was it in response to the divorce?
It was a mixture of everything. I started mentally falling apart, spiritually, touring. Not that I didn’t appreciate it, but I started closing myself off, losing the passion for it and also dealing with a lot of stress at home, not being there for my kids. I just started losing it, man. I was never really a drinker, and then I just started. Personal relationships started to sour: I was becoming distant from the dudes I was in a band with, and it just happened that way. In the end, addiction took over. Instead of it just being me drinking, it became an actual addiction, and I started doing things that I normally never do…
What, like beer for breakfast kind of stuff?
Waking up and drinking a pint of whiskey and not getting anything done and not being responsible and not being a responsible father. Having too much animosity and anger inside instead of seeking help.
I went to rehab, and it was OK. I honestly didn’t think I got much from it. I just think they got a big paycheck. I’m not going to talk about personal shit with the band: They did what they did to help out.
If the grind was getting you down and making you crazy, why would you start another band?
It was other things. It wasn’t the music. It was other personal issues that made me become less passionate about music, less passionate about people and made me just want to curl up in a ball and pass out in an alcoholic bender instead of dealing with the issues.
I’ve gotten help. I’ve done everything in my power to be part of a program. I’ve been sober for a while now. It even goes as far as getting Vivitrol shots to further my fight against addiction and keeping my sobriety strong.
I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t [know] if those guys [in Taking Back Sunday] will ever turn around to me one day and go, “Hey, bud. We missed you. Come back.” That would be great. But at the same time, I can’t think about that. I’ve got to think about my sobriety, I’ve got to think about my family and I’ve got to concentrate a lot on this new band.
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When I went on the first [FGAD] tour, I was like, “I’m going to see what it’s like. If I hate it, I’m done.” But then I realized, “Wow, this is what it used to be like when it was awesome,” you know what I mean? You don’t have to deal with favoritism because that will undermine your confidence and your feelings. You don’t have to worry about sounding perfect.
I’ll be the first to say I miss my old band. I miss those guys. I love those guys: I don’t hate them. I don’t have any problems against anyone. But at the same time, I’m enjoying what I’m doing now. Financially, I’m not as comfortable as I used to be. I’m getting by, and I’m enjoying what I’m doing. I’m healthy. I literally almost died. Twice.
They found me on the floor of my apartment, and they rushed me in an ambulance [to the hospital]. They had to revive me twice. Two days later, I was in rehab for months. I gave up on life for a brief moment there.
My kids are older now. They’re teenagers. When they look you in the eye and say, “Dad, we love you. We support whatever. We don’t think you’re a failure. We don’t care what happens. We just want you alive, and we love you,” it just gave me so much fight to be like, “What the fuck am I doing?” It was like, “Stop the pity party. You’ve got a great bunch of guys that want to be in a band with you who will look out for you. You got kids slapping you in the face trying to get you straight.” My kids live with me now. They’ve been with me for the past two-and-a-half months: We’re a happy family. It just feels good to get fucking sober and know what I’m going to do for the day and to have that passion and that drive that Eddie Reyes used to have.
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In that If I Ruled The World podcast you did last year, George Reynolds was going on the track of Six Degrees Of Eddie Reyes. Hearing him talk about all those references to the bands you were in says something about the measure you left in Long Island.
It’s weird going back and having everyone remind you [of] what you did or who you are. ’Cause I don’t think of myself that way.
You inspire both good will and people who just want to do things.
I was blessed to grow up with a group of good friends with the right morals and the same dreams. We worked really hard to build that scene on Long Island. It just felt good. I’ve seen so many kids grow up and then grow out of it or become superstars and do their own thing. It’s cool.
Obviously, if you were a fucking dick, nobody would care. Instead of “Eddie, you did this for me,” it would be “Eddie, why isn’t he dead yet?”
I don’t have it in my heart to be a dick. I hate people with egos. I hate seeing people being dicks. I hate seeing people belittle people because they think they’re better. I grew up in the ghetto. I grew up in a really strong hardcore music scene that had good morals. Seeing what the genre became over all these years, you see these bands that didn’t come from anywhere. They didn’t start playing basements. You see that, and you start to get a little bummed out about it. So I’m like, “You know what? I’m going to keep it real.” It’s better to be a good person than a shithead. [Laughs.] It’s the only way to explain it. When I run into some super-angry, bitter hipster, I’m like, “OK dude, I get it. But you know what? You’re not better than anyone else. Chill out.” That’s my whole attitude.
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Technology has changed everything, though. I can’t help but think that more young bands starting are worried about “what their brand is going to be” than learning how to book a show.
[Laughs.] When I’m at the airport in New Jersey and I see the CBGB’s Cafe, I get a little tweaked. Like, how dare you? But you know, I used to jump on a train when I was my son’s age and went to Manhattan and go to St. Marks Place and go to all the record stores and clothing stores, all those family-owned mom and pop Hot Topics. It was a lot cooler back then.
My son and daughter know their shit. My son will school you any day on hardcore and punk rock. He knows every band, what scene—and I’ve never pushed that on him. It’s just natural. It’s in his blood. It’s cool to see him be the next generation, and I’m glad I came from the generation that squashed a lot of the bullshit that happened to us when we were growing up. Way more positive, you know?
Fate’s Got A Drive have a handful of dates this summer. You can check out the full list and grab tickets here.