Earlier this week, ex-Taking Back Sunday bassist Matt Rubano was featured on the What Else? podcast, hosted by comedians Shannon O’Neill and Keaton Patti. The musician-turned-comedian discusses, in-depth, his eight year stint with the band—recording, touring and the “tumultuous relationship” between the members. He also reveals that he was kicked out in 2010. We have it all transcribed for you below.
Early in the show, Rubano talks about how he got interested in music and playing bass, his college experience and recording on a Lauryn Hill album. At about 37 minutes in, he starts to tell the Taking Back Sunday story.
Drummer Mark O’Connell asked Rubano to audition for bass when Taking Back Sunday lost two members after their first album, Tell All Your Friends. “I wasn’t really interested in that genre of music [emo] at the time because it was decidedly younger kids that were into it,” Rubano says in the interview. “They had been touring on their first record when a couple of the band members left over a personal dispute with one of the other band members.”
O’Connell told Rubano to pick up the band’s record and listen. “I did, and I did not like it, but I had also spoken to a younger cousin of mine, just kind of randomly, we were talking about something else, and I ran the name of the band by him, and he flipped out,” Rubano says.
“So, they were known?” asks one of the hosts. “Huge, yeah. That was when they were kind of having their moment; they were coming up. But my cousin then showed me pictures on his bedroom wall, he had like posters everywhere,” Rubano answers. “And I was like ‘Oh, it’s a real thing,’ and he was like, ‘Yeah, they’re incredible,’ and I was like, ‘This record I’m listening to, though, I don’t… it’s not… it doesn’t so—it’s not incredible.’”
Rubano then tells how he went on to audition. “There would be sports cars parked out front [of the audition space], because they were starting to make it. It was kind of funny because they were in this weird thing where they felt their band grow and have a moment, and then dudes left, and they felt it being jeopardized, so they were looking for people to fill these holes and write music and continue going on,” Rubano says.
“In this situation, what I never read as like a curious thing was that they were offering instant partnership. And I was like ‘Oh, why would anyone give this to a stranger.’ And they certainly needed people. They had already found this other guy [Fred Mascherino], and they didn’t want to show us any of the music they had been working on beforehand because— they were just like ‘Oh, it sucks,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, no, don’t be shy, it would be helpful to know what the creative direction is, so I can add to it and not throw leftfield ideas that aren’t going to hit with you guys,’” Rubano says. “And they were really weird about it; they were like, ‘We’ll do whatever you want to do.’”
“The way I rephrased that to not sound so dumb and desperate was like ‘Oh, they wanted us to have creative freedom’ but it was really like they needed help making music.”
“But it was very cool—and I wasn’t in that scene, I didn’t have hardcore, punk-rock cred, I went to jazz college, and the other guy that had joined [Mascherino], was very much of the scene, but had also gone to jazz college,” Rubano says. “I should mention, their spirit was very much ‘Let’s do something cool’—they just wanted to do cool shit; they just wanted to do music that got them excited.”
Rubano goes on to discuss recording the band’s second album, Where You Want To Be, and how it was a positive experience—a combination of influences that made the music satisfying to each member.
“We would find a way to make everyone feel like they were in their favorite band, even though we were not,” Rubano says.
The comedian/musician goes on to explain touring with Taking Back Sunday for the first time, how he was not familiar with that kind of audience/musician interaction and that level of energy while on stage.
“When I did my first show with them, it was almost frightening because it felt like—that’s when I beheld that there was some kind of responsibility to make this thing good; that there were a lot of people that were very invested in it. Then I felt a little bit like ‘Oh man, I don’t fully know what this is about,’” Rubano says.
After explaining how Taking Back Sunday are, in his opinion, a “rite of passage band,” one of the hosts asks Rubano if they are still together.
“I don’t know, they’ve had some weird stuff go down. I don’t know at the moment,” Rubano says.
“But you left?” asks a host.
“Yeah, I left TBS—Oh no. I got kicked out of Taking Back Sunday in 2010,” Rubano says.
“So, how long were you in it for?” asks a host. “Seven or eight years, three records, signed to Warner Brothers in the middle of that,” Rubano says. “It was a tumultuous relationship. I said this to someone the other day: It blew my mind we were ever able to get anything done because we were such a bunch of— not fuck-ups— but the chemistry, the human chemistry, of the five people that were in that band were, at any given moment, two were at three’s throats and vice versa. There was no consistent pairing of who would be upset with who over what,” Rubano says.
“It was like a reality show,” adds one of the hosts.
“It was insane how you would have like one guy come over and be like, ‘You know who is really pissing me off lately?’ and then he would be like, ‘Yo, we need to kick this other guy out, his shoes smell bad,’” Rubano says.
“Can you talk about why you got kicked out?” asks one of the hosts.
“Um, I can theorize why… The conversation we’re having right now is ten times longer than the conversation we had kicking me out of the band,” Rubano says.
Rubano answers by first discussing Mascherino’s departure. “… after that record [Louder Now], Fred had had his fill for whatever reason. Fred was also a lifetime, straight-edge vegan guy. As if you could be more diametrically opposed to guys who are really abusing and going crazy and stuff, Fred was always just like ‘I can’t be around these humans.’ So he left,” Rubano says. “At that point, we had like another period of ‘Oh, is this going to continue on anymore?’ and then they found a guy [Matthew Fazzi] that they liked. I remember being apprehensive at first, because he was this very nice, very talented, ambitious, happy guy, and I was like, ‘This guy isn’t going to last with us, this guy’s the wrong fit.’” Rubano also mentioned that he and Fazzi still are good friends and practice music together. Fazzi parted ways with Taking Back Sunday at the same time Rubano was kicked out.
Rubano talks about recording the band’s fourth record, New Again, which was an overall good time. “But eventually they sort of lost their taste for him and me, I guess, but it was on the heels of doing a record that when we made it and while we were writing it and recording it—it was the golden time where I was like ‘oh, we’re doing music, that we all really like, that we can’t wait to get out’ and things were going pretty good for a little while,” Rubano says. “And that record came out, it didn’t really hit, critics seemed to like it, but it didn’t really hit, and then when we started the touring cycle for it there was a very decisive mood turn in a band that already was insanely moody all the time. And it was like self-loathing. It was like ‘this record sucks, and our band sucks.’”
“And did you feel that way too?” asks a host.
“No, I was very confused by it all, because I wrote a lot on that record, I sang a lot on that record. We were very proud of it, right up until it came out,” Rubano says. “…so it got weird. I don’t know why.”
Taking Back Sunday had then finished touring in Australia. “I got home and I started writing new music for our next record. I started sending it out to the guys. And usually when [a member] would send music out, [the other members] would be so hungry to hear it and work on it, you would get responses right away and they would make suggestions,” Rubano says. “And I didn’t hear from anybody for like two weeks. No responses to like half a dozen songs being sent out. Just, very weird.”
Rubano then chronicles how Taking Back Sunday kicked him out of the band.
“Then, one night, we had a conference call where it was their manager and the three original members—only two of them speaking, one of them not saying a word. The guy who you would think would lead the conversation being [silent], and the other two speaking up. They were like attacking me and accusing me of things, and then I would ask them to substantiate [the claims], and I would be like ‘What are you talking about?’” Rubano says. “It was like, ‘You made business decisions without us,’ and I would be like, ‘Name one and then run it by our manager, or lawyer, or business manager or any number of checks and balances set up around our group that ensure that’s impossible.’”
“And then there were dumb things too. I was sort of, by default, the guy who did do a lot of business stuff and logistical stuff for the band, simply because the other guys just wouldn’t pick up their phones, or they would sleep through phone interviews and stuff, and I would end up doing it,” Rubano says. “Which sucked because then they interpreted that as, ‘You’re up to something,’ and I was like, ‘No, dude, you’re just not doing [what] we have to do.’”
“So that phone call was about five minutes long, and then the following morning, they were just like ‘We’re moving on without you,’ I was like ‘Okay.’ I went from being seething, furious when we got off the phone, to sublimely relieved because I never would have quit, because it was the best gig I ever had at that point, and I never would’ve given it up myself. But it was driving me crazy; I was not happy, and it was a very stressful situation to remain in. So when it got taken from me, I wanted to get in the car with a bat and go to their houses, and I then realized, ‘Oh my god, I don’t have to do this, I don’t have to do this anymore, and I can still play music, I’ll be fine,’” Rubano says.
“[To add] insult to injury, the following morning, they did a press release of a photo of the guys that we replaced coming back to the band,” Rubano says, referring to Taking Back Sunday’s Tell All Your Friends-era lineup announcement in 2010.
“It had been happening right under my nose, because they had a photo—they were ready to launch this thing,” Rubano says. “What I really think happened is they got wind of the fact that they could make some money doing a quote, un-quote ‘reunion show,’ and they did, and they put out a couple records.”
At the end of the podcast, one of the hosts asks, “if you could go back, you would not do Taking Back Sunday, you think?”
“It’s an interesting question. I don’t know—I almost didn’t do it. That was the thing, they had to— not to make me sound like I was ‘No, no, no’—I wasn’t convinced. We played together for the first time, and I didn’t think they were very good. I wasn’t that into it, but they were, and it took a couple days of convincing,” Rubano says. “‘I’m happy and lucky with how my career went so far… it was crazy. I always used to call it 65 percent of the dream coming through, because the context was right, and the experiences we got to have were right…”
“Your heart wasn’t there?” asks a host.
“At times it was because I had written a lot of music, and I was invested in it, but, at other times, I was just like ‘These guys are driving me fucking crazy,’” Rubano says.
“…I want someone, like a really objective, informed writer or somebody, to distill the true story of that band [from] beginning to end, because while we weren’t famous enough to warrant that intense of a story, that band’s story is un-fucking-believable and unlike any other group,” Rubano says. “The actual personal interactions and history of each of the band members and what they’re like—it’s so fucked. Like I said, it’s amazing that we ever got out the door because there was always a three-alarm-fire somewhere in our camp. We were destined not to succeed, but kind of kept having enough successes.”
“I say that as someone contributing to some of the craziness,” Rubano says.
Listen to the podcast in full here. Let us know what you think about Rubano’s Taking Back Sunday story in the comments.