Interview: Adam Lazzarra of Taking Back Sunday

CraveOnline sits down with TBS frontman Adam Lazzarra to discuss the new lineup and brand new album.

Johnny Firecloudby Johnny Firecloud

Taking Back Sunday return today with their first album in nine years to feature the original “classic” lineup, a determined and ambitious self-titled release that's arguably the best record of their career thus far. Frontman Adam Lazzara, guitarist Eddie Reyes and drummer Mark O'Connell reconnected with guitarist John Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper in early 2010, reuniting the lineup that recorded 2002's landmark debut Tell All Your Friends.

Kicking off with "El Paso" it's immediately clear that a new dawn has risen for TBS, with a slamming thrust of attitude and power that crushes expectations of what the band is generally thought of. While working the new album, which features 11 tracks, an additional seven or eight songs were also recorded, which fans can look forward to as B-sides, special releases and seedlings for what's sure to be a soon-following next album from the band.

We caught up with Adam just before the release of Taking Back Sunday to discuss the making of the album, how Jack White and Wayne Coyne inspire the band and what the future holds for the new lineup.

What's the atmosphere like right now among the band before the release? How do you feel?

There's a bunch of anxiety, but it's a good kind of anxiety. We really put everything we have into these songs and into this record, and just worked for so long on it that to finally have it come out just feels crazy. When we got back together again, it was like look, either we're going to get back together and this is going to work and we're going to continue to make records, or we just shouldn't do it at all. We've tried really hard to let everyone know that this isn't for nostalgia's sake. This is who we are, moving forward.

You guys were kids when you first set out to do this. What would your 20 year old selves be most surprised to see you doing now?

These songs came together quicker than anything we've done in the past. And it was a lot less painful, too. That might've been a surprise all those years ago. (laughs)

There's been a lot of discussion about the challenge of everyone being so intimately involved every step of the way. How is it possible that the process was free of conflict, with such a new approach and the renewed lineup?

When we got back together we went into it realistically – there was a chance that it just might not work. The first night that we got together, we didn't even play music. We just kinda sat down and aired everything out. Stuff that had happened however many years ago, stuff that had been lingering, we got it out. And then the next day, when we got together we didn't play any of the old songs. We just went right into writing. Everything just fell into place after that, and the songs grew legs from there. The fact that we were so open with one another really helped that work out.

What was the first song that took shape in those sessions?

The first thing we worked on was "Best Places To Be a Mom" – like originally the part that Eddie's playing was this part that I had for another song. I was playing it really slow, and then he grabbed a guitar and sped it up, and the next thing we knew we had something good.

"El Paso" kicks off the record, it's easily the hardest thing you guys have ever put out. From the perspective of someone who remembers what it's like to go through that first listen ritual with an actual physical album, what was the intention behind kicking off with such a blast?

We just wanted to come out swinging. We were actually really shocked – after we had it figured out to to play all the way through while we were first writing it, after that we just sat back and listened to the recording of it over and over and over. We couldn't believe that this was coming out of us. We thought it would be a great way to hit the ground running, a great opening.

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You made mention before how songs can slip through the cracks in digitized media, with a focus on singles rather than albums. There's so many soundbytes out there from people saying the album is dead, so on and so forth. But it only seems dead if you allow it to be. All that's missing is the quality of the art and the momentum behind it. This feels like a real album.

Thank you, man. That was very important to us. So thank you for saying that.

There's people who seem to keep that idea alive as well, people like Jack White for instance. The guy's so convinced of what he's doing that he bought a damn record pressing plant up the street from his record company. We need people like that to balance the equation.

Yeah, man. Jack is amazing. He's a real inspiration. Him and Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips. Those guys are something else. Listening to the entire album rather than just picking three or four songs gives the experience a much greater depth. When we were setting out to do this, that was one of the bigger conversations we had after recording. The conversation went on forever, just about whether people even listen to full records anymore. We wanted that full album experience.

Did you convey that to Eric Valentine (producer) when you went in to do the record?

Yeah, for sure. See the thing with Eric is that he feels similar to the way we do. He believes in listening to a full album. He grew up with that, just like we did. So he was definitely in our corner with that one.

What did he bring to the table that had the most impact?

He's a mad scientist when it comes to engineering and producing. He's really concerned with the details, the little things. He focuses on the things that you might not hear the first time through, things that reveal themselves as you get deeper into the record. Also, so many people nowadays look at recording as a lost art. Now you'll set up a drum kit, have the drummer play and then go back in and re-sample all the songs. So what you're hearing when you listen to the record isn't actually drums. It's samples. But with Eric, at every single turn he always goes for the most natural sound. And the way that he records, he treats it like a painting. It's incredible. A guy like him is super hard to find.

You wanted to go with on New Again but the timing didn’t work, is that right?

Yeah, a huge scheduling issue there. I wish we just would've waited. Actually what's funny is that as it turns out, we had to go back and rerecord a whole bunch of stuff for that album, and by the time we were done we could've just had made the record with him. I don't regret working with David Kahne or anything, but Eric's the best.

The backup vocals have a new dynamic as well – how many of those backups are John's? I couldn't tell on songs like "Who Are You Anyway" and "El Paso"

That's a good thing! Everything was a total collaboration. It was one of the cool things about having John back, other than just having him back in my life, is that I really trust his opinion. I have somebody to bounce ideas off of in that regard. That makes for better end results.

How do you prepare your voice for recording? You put your voice through a lot, and I was surprised to find out that you smoke.

There's this one vocal coach that I went to out in New York. She actually has this thing out called "The Art of Screaming" – it's definitely a recommended selection. She was referred to me by my buddy Spencer from Underoath. He just shreds his voice night after night. It's just technique, really. That's what's gotten me this far (laughs).

Pick up Taking Back Sunday and keep up with the band at their official site