Taking Back Sunday has stood the test of time, continually evolving and giving fans new music to connect with. It’s hard for us to believe that they’ve been a band for 20 years. Are we old?
John Nolan, Taking Back Sunday's lead guitarist, assures us that the band members feel just as old. 2019 is going to be a celebratory year for them, and they’re doing it in style. They just dropped a commemorative record with all of our favorite jams, plus two new tracks, and they hit the road in January for a world tour that will last all year. The band will play their debut album Tell All Your Friends in its entirety on this tour, but some cities, including Dallas, will get a Taking Back Sunday doubleheader. The set list for the second night will either be their 2004 album Where You Want To Be or 2006’s Louder Now, depending on a coin toss. We caught up with Nolan to reminisce about the last 20 years and find out what’s next for them.
How did the band come up with the name Taking Back Sunday?
I wouldn’t say it’s a good story (laughs). The story is that our guitar player at the time, Eddie Reyes, liked a band called The Waiting Process — they were also from Long Island. We were friends with them, and they had a song called “Taking Back Sunday” that (Reyes) really liked. If I remember correctly, I think the song was about how places on Long Island would open up for all-ages shows on Sundays. So it’s kind of about that experience, and he liked that and suggested the name. And we were all sort of like “Yeah, that sounds good.” I don’t think anyone thought that 20 years later we’d still be talking about it or doing anything with it.
And speaking of that — it’s been 20 years. That is so crazy. What does it feel like for you to have been in the band that long?
It’s kind of a surreal thing. I think maybe anyone can relate to it if you’ve been involved with something for a long time, whether it’s a relationship or a friendship or even school or work. Sometimes there’s this feeling of looking back, and it seems like it was just yesterday that things were starting. And then other times you look back, and it seems like it’s longer ago than it actually is. It all sort of depends, but it’s definitely overall hard to believe.
Looking back, what would you say is your fondest memory of being in Taking Back Sunday?
So many things. But there’s this one moment that [lead singer] Adam [Lazzara] and I have talked about and keep coming back to. It was before the band really got signed and before we had put out Tell All Your Friends, and we were just playing local shows on Long Island. But we had just made the demo for a bunch of the songs that would eventually be on TAYF, and it was kind of starting to get some traction on Long Island. We played this show, and it was really the first time there was a big group of people there we didn’t know. Up until that point, the audience was mostly friends and friends of friends. But during this particular show, the place was packed, and people were singing the words and screaming along and going crazy. It was the first time we’d seen that kind of reaction, and it was really clear that something was happening. It was so exciting and really mind-blowing. It was on such a small scale, but that moment really sticks with us.
What’s your favorite fan story?
Recently something really awesome happened. A group of our fans got together and they actually hired somebody to make POP! Figures of everyone in the band. They even put it in a box and they made it look exactly like the real thing. I actually have mine displayed on a shelf. I thought that was one of the cooler things that anyone’s ever done for us.
What are your favorite songs to play live? Do you ever get tired of performing the hits?
Generally, we’re most excited to play things from the newest albums. Whenever we put out a new record, those songs are the closest to where we’re at personally and emotionally. With the older songs, we don’t ever really get tired of playing them except when we’re playing them at practice. You don’t really get excited to rehearse a song that’s 18 years old. But when we get up in front of people and everybody is connecting to it, and you’re getting that energy back from the crowd, it becomes something totally different. It takes on a life of its own. That never gets old — it’s always amazing.
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From Tell All Your Friends to Tidal Wave, TBS has really grown and evolved. Not many groups can do that well, but you guys have managed to. Did that feel natural?
The band hasn’t spent a lot of time thinking about how we want to evolve or change. But there’s always been a conscious effort to make something that we’re proud of and excited about. Musically, that’s gonna just naturally change over the years. I don’t know many people who would just wanna hear the same type of thing over and over again for 10, 15-plus years. The progressing of the band is a natural process of us following our musical tastes and seeing where they go.
What kind of shifts have you seen in Taking Back Sunday’s fans over the years? How have we changed?
The big thing is just how wide the age range of people at shows has become. It’s really anywhere from like 15 to 40-plus and that’s an amazing thing to see. We’ve even started to see that some of the older fans are coming to the show with their kids, but not like a 4-year-old, they’re coming with their 12- or 13-year-old kid and hanging out together and watching the show. Knowing that they probably raised their kids on Taking Back Sunday’s music and now they can enjoy a show together is an amazing thing.
What’s next for Taking Back Sunday after the world tour?
Hopefully while we’re touring, we’ll keep working on ideas for new music. We’re not always the best about working while we’re touring. But one way or another, once we’re done touring, we’ll get back to the studio. We don’t really take too many breaks. I think we’re at a point where we appreciate everything and just are excited about where we’re at. Doesn’t feel like it’s time to slow down or take a break, and I’m not sure if we ever will or not.
Taking Back Sunday will play March 30 and 31 at House of Blues. Tickets are $35-$160.