By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Taking Back Sunday's current tour represents a sort of homecoming for the emo-punk icons. After going gold with their 2002 debut, Tell All Your Friends, the band almost immediately imploded. In 2003, guitarist John Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper left Taking Back Sunday to start Straylight Run.
Now, though, eight years later, that original lineup is back together again.
Thing is, this is all kind of a habit for the band. After first forming in 1999, the band went through a handful of lineups before even settling on the one that recorded that first album. The years that came after only followed suit. With most members not even old enough to legally drink, the band was ill-equipped for the rigors of the road and challenges of success.
"Everything was falling apart," Cooper now says over the phone, while reflecting on his band's past turmoils. "We had too much success too soon—success beyond what we could ever imagine. And the next thing we knew, we were on tour for two years straight. No one understood each other. Nobody knew how to deal with each other or how to interact. We just kind of lost our idea of where we were going and how we were doing it. We were all drinking too much, trying to cope with the stress of the road and the stress of dealing with each other, so we were constantly fighting and screaming at each other. It was a really awful time."
The lineup changes only led to more problems, though not necessarily commercially. Guitarist Fred Mascherino and bassist Mark Rubano were brought in for 2004's Where You Want to Be and 2006's breakout Louder Now, which featured the hit "MakeDamnSure." But just beneath the surface, the band was cracking once more, as the new, more technically skilled members took over, squeezing out the other members' creative contributions.
When Mascherino demanded a bigger percentage of the publishing rights, he was asked to leave. His replacement, Matt Fazzi, wasn't much better—he and Rubano made their own power play and tensions mounted once more, dovetailing with 2009's commercially and critically disappointing New Again. And when Fazzi suggested a six-month break to work on his own stuff, he too was dismissed. Meanwhile, guitarist Eddie Reyes, who had a personality conflict with Rubano, impelled them to rid themselves of that thorn as well.
It was drummer Mark O'Connell that suggested bringing back Nolan and Cooper, whose band had recently called it quits over declining fortunes. In fact, he issued an ultimatum: He wouldn't make any more music unless it was with them.
Still, there remained the issue of Nolan and lead singer Adam Lazzara, whose failed relationship with Nolan's sister amplified their growing personal conflict. They hadn't spoken in seven years. So everyone decamped to an isolated locale outside El Paso to see if the old wounds could be healed.
"The first night we talked so much out," Cooper says. "We had plenty of drinks and really hashed out the past. Then the next day it was like a clean slate. During that first session—in basically the first five minutes—we wrote 'Best Places to be a Mom.' It was incredible. We were all like 'Wow,' and Adam, Eddie and Mark said they'd never written this many good songs this quickly since [Nolan and I had] left. By the end of the week, we had eight or nine songs at least—fully fleshed out and not all that different from what you hear on the record."
Last week, they finally released their self-titled fifth album, inaugurating what they say is the final and hopefully longest-lasting chapter in their story. The band truly believes that they've never sounded as good as they do now. And this time, they say, they understand how to make it last.
"That bond is kind of an unbreakable thing, even after seven years of basically no contact," Cooper says. "Everyone has been through so much and we're so happy. Who knows what will happen? We just love what we're doing, being around each other and writing songs. And now we're fortunate to have grown up enough to realize how special it is."