Taking Back Sunday at 20: Adam Lazzara on emo nostalgia, “embarrassing” US politics, and remembering Chester Bennington

As they kick off their 20th anniversary tour, the band look to their past, present and future

Taking Back Sunday frontman Adam Lazzara has spoken out about the band’s legacy and what’s yet to come as they celebrate their 20th anniversary. Check out our full interview below.

The band have enjoyed two decades as stalwarts of the US emo scene. ‘Cute Without The ‘E’ (Cut From The Team)’, ‘A Decade Under the Influence’, and ‘Makedamsure’ are firm staples of any ’00 alt-rock teen’s record collection. Like their contemporaries My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy, the band influenced an entire generation of music fans.

The New York four-piece have today (January 11) released a 21-track compilation album, ‘Twenty’, to celebrate their career so far. They’ll also play their seminal debut ‘Tell All Your Friends’ (2002) in full at every show on their 20th anniversary tour.

If the location has a two-night run, fans will be treated to either ‘Where You Want to Be’ (2004) or ‘Louder Now’ (2006) from start to finish – the choice dependent on a coin toss.

Adam Lazzara swings mic upstage (2018)

Taking Back Sunday might be the latest in a string of band to ride the wave of ’00s nostalgia but vocalist Adam Lazzara doesn’t want them to only be appreciated that way. The group’s first three albums “changed all of our lives” so the band is compelled to say thanks with a special tour.

We catch up with Lazzara to talk about new music, fatherhood, friendships, and Trump.

Your first three records – ‘Tell All Your Friends’, ‘Where You Want to Be’, and ‘Louder Now’ (2006) – are the bedrock of Taking Back Sunday fandom. Is that why you’ll be performing these records on the anniversary tour?

“Yeah, I mean, it’s a little bit of that, but for us we just wanted to celebrate this huge thing with the people who helped us live it. Those first three records – it was such a whirlwind for us – they changed all of our lives so it’s important for us to celebrate that with our fans.”

Do you worry that people associate you a little too much with the ’00s emo scene?

“We never considered ourselves an emo band. It’s just what people called us, which was fine with me so long as they were listening to us. But I do think the nostalgia indulgence can take away from the fact that we’re still active. I think that we’re writing some of our best songs now.

“That was one of the things that stuck with me when the idea of this tour was first brought up. I wasn’t sure about it because I was worried that people would see it as a nostalgia tour and that’s not the way we look at it. It was our manager, Jillian [Newman], who’s been with us since the beginning, who said, ‘Adam, I think you’re looking at it all wrong. Look at all you’ve done’. She was like, ‘You’ve touched on people’s lives. Don’t you want to celebrate that?’ And then right when she said that there was a switch in my brain and that was that.”

Do you see much of the bands you used to tour with, such as My Chemical Romance and Linkin Park?

“Yeah, Frankie [Iero] from My Chemical Romance. He has his own project that he’s working on now. We did a tour with him in the UK and Europe and they’re gonna be coming out with us this summer in the US. I don’t run into a lot of people these days unless they come through North Carolina where I now live.

How did you feel when you heard that [Linkin Park’s] Chester Bennington had died?

“It was so sad. The tour we did with them, my brother was with us so on days off he and I would go wander around the city we were in. And I remember there were a couple of times on that tour where – because Chester was out with his family – and he would get a lunch together with us. He was just the sweetest guy, a great dad, and it was just really sad.”

Taking Back Sunday live in 2018

How’s progress going on the new album?

“So there’s two new songs that we wrote before that are on ‘Twenty’: ‘All Ready to Go’ and ‘A Song for Dan’. Other than that, typically when we’re out on the road we don’t get a lot of writing done. There’s isn’t really time for us all to sit down together. With that said, this year is the first time since we’ve been touring that we have a whole year planned out so that kinda takes the pressure off. Right now we’re not worrying about the summer or whatever, which makes for a different kind of conversation. We’ll all offer up song ideas, maybe kick ideas around on an acoustic guitar. There will be breaks on this tour so we should have some time to get together and write more.”

Will there be a different sound on the new record?

“One of the things that I am most proud of, which I noticed when putting stuff together for the compilation, is that each record is a good representation of who we were at that time. I feel like we were really honest. I can’t really speculate on what new songs will sound like because it kinda depends on where everyone is in their lives at that time.”

Who are you listening to at the moment?

“I’ve been listening to that new Iron & Wine record. There’s also Phosphorescent. His record that came out last year, ‘C’est La Vie’. I find myself always going back to that record. But when it comes to chart music, I feel so out of touch. Like, I didn’t even know who Ariana Grande was for a while. But I watch SNL and they kept talking about her so I had to Google. Mark [O’Connell – drummer] showed me Post Malone and there’s some cool stuff there. That boygenius record is great, for instance.”

You have three kids. Do you try to get them into music or do they share what they like?

“They just started showing me music that I was unaware of. My son loves Twenty One Pilots. I’d heard a couple of songs but he really loves listening to them in the car on the way to school. When he was young there was a lot of Bob Dylan and The Beatles playing around the house. One of the funniest music moments with the kids is when my son was three or four. We were taking a road trip somewhere and he wanted us to put on ‘Hallelujah’. So we put on the Jeff Buckley one because it’s beautiful. But he was like, ‘No no no, the other one’ [by Leonard Cohen]. So it was the first time that I saw his own taste come through.”

Taking Back Sunday (from l-r): Shaun Cooper; John Nolan; Mark O’Connell; Adam Lazzara

What do you think about the current political climate in the US?

“It’s extremely embarrassing, aside from it being infuriating. For example, we had a flight connection in Hong Kong and there’s these little smoking rooms. So I went inside one to have a smoke. When I was in there, there were these guys from the UK and I’m overhearing them talking about Trump and I just feel embarrassed. I’m thinking, ‘I hope that’s not what they think about Americans.’ I do try to stay out of politics, you know, it’s one of the things you don’t talk about at dinner and so forth. But that guy and what’s happening at home right now doesn’t represent me or really anyone that I know or have met.”

Would you ever write lyrics addressing this stuff?

“No, I don’t think I’m educated enough about all of that to be given so much commentary on it. And at the end of the day it’s really not all that important to me.”

‘Twenty’ is out now via Craft Records. Their upcoming UK tour dates are below. 

June 2019
13 – Birmingham, O2 Institute
14 – Glasgow, Barrowlands
15 – Belfast, Limelight
16 – Dublin, Vicar Street
18 – London, Troxy
19 – Manchester, Academy
20 – Bristol, O2 Academy Bristol