New Again – For Taking Back Sunday it’s more than an album title, it’s a declaration. “We kicked around a bunch of different titles, but that one always remained the top of the list, and that’s because it really does feel like a new band,” vocalist Adam Lazzara says.
Taking Back Sunday is not turning their collective back on what is already a storied past, not when their resume boasts three gold albums, two of which hit the top five (including a #2 debut for 2006’s Louder Now), extensive touring with the likes of Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance, and Jimmy Eat World, as well as co-headlining the Warped package and appearing at the historic Live Earth, all in-between their own headlining gigs for 10,000 plus fans regularly, and appearing on every one of the late-night chat fests; Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, and Conan O’Brien.
Yes, it’s already an impressive run TBS has had, but the rejuvenated group is looking clearly to the here and now, for a number of reasons according to Lazzara. “Leading up to this record we took the biggest break that we’ve taken since we started touring just to kind of learn how to be people,” he says laughing. “So with that we just learned how to be friends again.”
The biggest factor in the New York quintet’s enthusiasm though is new guitarist Matt Fazzi. “Bringing Fazzi in, the excitement and the drive to get out there and play for people is just where it was with our first record; it’s like that energy, it’s like we bottled it,” Lazzara says.
Matt Rubano concurs, adding that Fazzi has stretched the band out sonically. “Matt brings an excitement and a fearlessness to working on music that really makes us feel even more so that we can do anything and call it us,” Rubano says. “Some of the songs on this record are maybe what listeners would expect to hear from us and then some songs on this record are going to be new territory for us, reaching and going forward.”
That diversity is to be expected from a group that over the last two years shared the stage with acts as wide-ranging as Kanye West, Smashing Pumpkins, Ludacris, Rage Against the Machine, STP, The Police, and Mr. Bob Dylan. From the opening title track, an anthemic rocker that recalls U2 circa Boy and October, New Again shows off the band´s broad scope. Throughout the record, the band displays its expanded musical boundaries, bounding from the heavy vocal stylings on the rocking “Catholic Knees,” to the engaging pop hooks on “Summer, Man,” a song that the band’s youthful fans will definitely see themselves in as Lazzara sings, “The summer is over and I doubt I’ll be seeing you around.”
Among other highlights on the record are “Swing,” whose harder, high-octane energy mingles nicely with the song’s keyboard and guitar-laden breakdown, and “Lonely, Lonely,” which mixes huge guitars with a tinge of new wave and a rapid-fire delivery.
“Lonely, Lonely” is one of the songs Lazzara is most proud of on the record. “That song from start to finish is one of the most relentless songs we’ve written, it’s at 10 the whole entire time,” he says. “And to me it moves more like an older rock ‘n’ roll song than something more current or that we’ve even done in the past. “
It’s a tune that’s made for the stage, as is “Sink Into Me.” A drum intro leads into the frenetic, rhythmic vocals punctuated with repeated “Hey, hey, hey” a la the Ramones. Lazzara can’t wait to hear 20,000 fans scream along with that one. “It’s a really fun song to play when we rehearse it, so I can’t wait to bring that to people because we put in these gang vocal ‘Heys’ in it, which takes the energy of the song up even more,” he says. “So I’m really excited to play that for people.”
The band played some pre-release dates where they got to see firsthand the fans’ excitement over the new material. To Rubano, it was the perfect way to reintroduce the group to the hardcore TBS devotees after the three years since their last studio effort, 2006’s Louder Now. “This past December we went on a small three week tour of the United States. We finished writing and recording the record and it was time to take it to the streets,” he says. “So the fact that this first tour was small cities and cities we hadn’t been to in a while gives us the opportunity to hang around the venue, even go so far as to hang out at our merchandise table, be the ones selling t-shirts, and meeting people and taking pictures. It was the right way to start off this record, which was to re-engage the fan base on a one-to-one, very real, in-your-face basis.”
It was at an early show with Fazzi that Rubano knew without any doubt the group had found the right guy to round out their band. “When I saw Matt take the stage at the Garden, play his best, just kill it, and have the biggest smile on his face the whole time I was like, ‘This is the guy. Of course he can do this.’”
That show, where the band played with long-time friends My Chemical Romance, also proved pivotal in that it united Taking Back Sunday with New Again’s main producer, David Kahne, who TBS became fans of for his work on Paul McCartney’s recent Memory Almost Full and Sublime’s self-titled third record with “What I Got,” which Lazzara calls “a high school anthem for me.” “We met with him, we called him up, and then at first he wasn’t really sure about doing it. But then we played at Madison Square Garden, he came to the show, and right after he saw us play he called us,” Lazzara recalls.
For Lazzara, Kahne’s song-first approach, which Lazzara calls “bare bones” was a big influence. And that can be heard on one of the record’s most unique tracks, “Everything Must Go,” a mid-tempo tune that starts with slow keys before rising into big guitars, all of which provide the backdrop for some of Lazzara’s most mature lyrics to date. “Lyrically it’s real autobiographical, whereas normally I try to mask all that just so people can take whatever they want from it. But that one was one of the more straight-forward tunes on the record,” he says. It’s a song that Lazzara, now 27 and married, says reflects his own lot in life.
The band also got the chance to work with long time friend Matt Squire on the album. Adam spent time with Matt when he was producing a friend’s album and was excited to see what they could do together. “We had a demo of the song ‘Where My Mouth Is,’ with just guitar and organ that needed a set of fresh ears," he recalls. "So we headed over to Matt Squire to see if we could find a different approach altogether for the song. The end product is better than we ever imagined. It was just one of those collaborations that completely worked.” The song, destined to be one of New Again’s singles, is a gut-wrenching tale of taking responsibility for one’s own actions and showcases for Lazzara’s formidable vocal talents.
The mature themes that Taking Back Sunday are admittedly addressing could turn out to be one of the most important things about New Again -- that it shows the band in 2009. “Getting all the way to this point with a brilliant new band member and a great new friend and a record that we all are bursting for people to hear it really feels like we’ve accomplished something pretty great,” Rubano says about the new album. “It represents a year of difficulty and struggle, and at the same time, unbridled exploratory creativity. It’s been a really special and important year for us and this record certainly represents that.”