Adam Lazzara of Taking Back Sunday – yes, that seminal emo band – doesn’t care about your early-to-mid aughts pop punk nostalgia. After all, it’s been more than a decade under the influence of Taking Back Sunday, but make damn sure they’ve never stopped making new music, as evident by this year’s release, ‘Tidal Wave’. When Adam sings ‘I don't know how you did it other than you did / Cut your wrist and said come get you some’ on ‘You Can’t Look Back’ from the band’s seventh and latest record, it could be a line from one of their earlier releases.
We speak to the frontman via email ahead of the band’s debut set in Malaysia for Rockaway Festival on Nov 19.
There’s a whole generation of people who think of you as spearheading the emo movement, as the source of current emo nostalgia, as the soundtrack to their teenagehood and high school years.
It’s hard to imagine we spearheaded any kind of movement. We've just been lucky enough to do our thing and though I appreciate that people have let our music into their lives, nostalgia is a tricky thing. Over the years, we have been able to grow with a lot of people and that is something I am very proud of, almost as if we've been going through life together. Still, I've never considered our band an emo band.
You’re a bit of a wordy band – people have tattoos of your lyrics – and your songs have helped a whole generation of people through a ton of tough times. Do you ever think about how your songs affect your fans and listeners?
One of my goals has always been to try and give back a little of what my favorite bands and artists have given me. Sometimes that could be something as simple as a feeling that I am not alone in whatever it is I happen to be going through at the time. Seeing people respond by singing back the words at a show or getting the tattoos is always incredible to me because it shows I'm not alone in how I feel but also, they aren't either.
It’s been 14 years of Taking Back Sunday. How does the making of ‘Tidal Wave’ compare to the making of ‘Tell All Your Friends’, for instance?
It hasn't changed all that much to be honest, aside from everyone being much better at playing their instruments it's still just the five of us making something from nothing together.
Photo: Natalie Escobedo
What are some of the things you’re trying to say with ‘Tidal Wave’? It sounds a little bit more punkish, like you were going for a different direction. Do you feel that there’s a very clear distinction between this record and your last ‘Happiness Is’?
The song ‘Tidal Wave’ definitely has a bit more of a ‘punkish’ feel but it's the only one on the record that sounds like that. We don't go into writing with any preconceived notions. We go into writing with the hopes we can take an honest snapshot of the people we have grown into. The songs then start to take on a life of their own. If ‘Happiness Is’ is us dipping our toes in the water, ‘Tidal Wave’ is us jumping in.
There are references to water, too: ‘Tidal Wave’, ‘Holy Water’, the line ‘I saw nothing but rain for days’ in ‘Fences’.
It wasn't until we took a step back and we're listening to the songs nearly in their completed form that we realised all the references to water. Totally unintentional, it's funny how that can happen sometimes.
'Aside from everyone being much better at playing their instruments it's still just the five of us making something from nothing together'
Every record’s obviously been a bit different, a bit more progressive than the last, but where does ‘Tidal Wave’ sit in your discography?
It's our best to date, hands down. I'm sure every band or artist says that so it might sound a bit cliché, but it's an honest snapshot of the people we have grown to be just as all the others were for that time in our lives.
Do you ever think about how your new album will influence younger people, the way emo hit your younger fans? Your earlier fans have grown up with you, but how do you connect with a younger audience, or does that matter at all to you?
When writing, it's impossible to think that way. All you can do is focus and make the songs the best they can be. I hope the album reaches as many people as possible because I think it has a lot to offer, but once it's released into the world it's out of our hands, all we can do is perform and hope it speaks to someone.
For more info, visit takingbacksunday.com