After John Nolan and Shaun Cooper left Taking Back Sunday in 2003, the band was reeling. Vocalist Adam Lazzara was torn up about the departures and about the end of his relationship with Nolan’s sister, Michelle. Meanwhile, drummer Mark O’Connell faced the toughest decision of his career. Should he join his close pals Nolan and Cooper in their new band, Straylight Run—or stay with the act that he was familiar with, Taking Back Sunday? Check out this exclusive peek into the brains of Camp TBS during that time. And, of course, pick up AP 276 with the complete Oral History of Taking Back Sunday for more juicy details.
INTERVIEWS COMPILED BY: Brendan Manley
ANGEL JUARBE, FORMER SALES/A&R, VICTORY RECORDS: Before the band got going again, Adam spent a tremendous amount of time in our apartment just drinking. He’d sit around by himself, just drinking a bottle of Jack. He barely went out; he’d just get completely wasted. We’d have conversations, and he’d talk about how shitty he’s acted with John and Michelle and [how] he wished he could change this or that. But then he’d blame John, and say John wanted to control things in the band, and he didn’t want it…But there did become a point where him, Mark [O’Connell] and Eddie [Reyes] got together and said they wanted to keep the band going.
RANDY NICHOLS, FOUNDER, FORCE MEDIA MANAGEMENT:John [Nolan] and Michelle ended up living with me in a house in Rockville Centre after the split…It was this mix of emotions daily: “Holy crap, I can’t believe this has happened” to “Yeah, this makes perfect sense” to “This band’s done” to “There’s no way they’re gonna stop.”
MARK O’CONNELL: I started writing with John and Shaun. John had “Existentialism On Prom Night” already, but I put all the drums together. The first Straylight Run demo was me playing drums on it. John went away to England with Brand New, and when he was away, I made the decision to stay with Taking Back Sunday. It was weird; I called him and was like, “I’m gonna stay, dude. Why don’t you fucking work this out?” And he just didn’t want anything to do with it. I never blamed John for quitting, though. He’s such an awesome, nice person that I feel everything he does is for a reason.
SHAUN COOPER: I kind of always knew [Mark’s] heart was in Taking Back Sunday. I remember we were doing some [Straylight Run] demos right away, and he didn’t like a lot of the weird sounds John and I thought were awesome. I think the Straylight stuff would have made him miserable, especially the more experimental we got later on. I think I kind of knew in the back of my mind that he wasn’t going to love everything John and I wanted to do with the band.
O’CONNELL: I was so confused. I had John and Shaun going, “Come be in the band with us. Come be with your friends,” but I was torn, because I had Eddie [Reyes]. In my mind, I’m going, “If it wasn’t for Eddie, where would I be in my life?” That man is such a good person and good friend, I felt bad about leaving that. I think at first they said to Eddie to come with them, too, but he didn’t want to. Eddie had been in so many bands and he finally did it—he finally fucking made it, and he’s like, “These guys are quitting and I’m going to start over again?” The guy was, like 33, and didn’t want to leave. He wanted to keep Taking Back Sunday going. So I was torn.
EDDIE REYES: Thank God I talked Mark into coming back, or helping him decide whether he was going to stay. Other drummers were already hitting us up, but I said I wanted to be in the band with Mark. He’s one of my best friends, and one of the best drummers ever. He’s an amazing guy, and definitely one of the hardest-hitting, monster drummers on the planet.
NEIL RUBENSTEIN, TOUR MANAGER 2002-2003: It was a shock that Taking Back Sunday continued on without John and Sean. Maybe that’s where some backlash came in. Up until that point, people had given Eddie a lot of grief. But from that point on, it was like, “It’s cool for Eddie, because he’s persevering, but it’s fucked up for Adam,” because Adam was just the bad guy. I feel like a lot of people didn’t talk for a long time.
ADAM LAZZARA: At first I felt kind of lost. Jesse [Lacey]’s being very vocal [about how terrible I am], and I was like, “Why’s he doing this? Why’s he trying to get all these people mad at me?” I guess what he was trying to do was make it to where I’d just go away. At the time, I didn’t know what to do or what else to do. I didn’t have a lot of friends at that point—I’d pissed a lot of people off at that point—so I just tried to hide. alt