Taking Back Sunday are a band who truly need no introduction. Since forming inLong Island in 1999, the group have sold millions of albums, evolved from ascrappy punk act into seasoned songwriters...Expand
Taking Back Sunday are a band who truly need no introduction. Since forming in
Long Island in 1999, the group have sold millions of albums, evolved from a
scrappy punk act into seasoned songwriters and continued to forge a successful
career. That spirit of resilience and innovation is dripping all over the band's sixth
full-length Happiness Is (which is also their first release for Hopeless Records).
As you can guess from the title the album addresses some heady concepts, but it
simultaneously showcases a new musical and conceptual leap for this band of
mainstream misfits that's certain to endear them to fans both new and old.
The group's second album since reviving the classic lineup of vocalist Adam
Lazzara, guitarist/vocalist John Nolan, guitarist Eddie Reyes, bassist Shaun
Cooper and drummer Mark O'Connell was written over a two year period with no
involvement from a record label for the first time since their legendary 2002 debut
Tell All Your Friends. "The last record [2011's Taking Back Sunday] was us
feeling each other out and learning how to work together again and on this one
everybody was a little more comfortable and free to express themselves,"
Lazzara explains. “At this point in the game we all know each other's strengths
and weaknesses so well that it has made writing music together a bit easier,”
O’Connell confirms. “Don't get me wrong, there are still arguments but we are
older and wiser and with that comes less fighting.”
Co-produced by longtime collaborators Mike Sapone in Long Island and Marc
Jacob Hudson in Michigan, and mixed by Claudius Mittendorfer, the album sees
the band expanding their musical palette and stretching out sonically in ways
they've never done before by utilizing each producer's strengths. "Recording with
Marc was great because we've been working together for a decade on the road
so we are so relaxed around him," Lazzara says, adding that the fact the studio
was located in a remote wooded area in the Midwest helped free the band from
external distractions during the recording process. "When it comes to Mike that's
like our second home and it helped make those sessions feel so familiar since we
actually recorded our very first demos there."
"We had a month off between the two recording sessions which I think was really
important because we'd never had that before and it helped us take a step back
and reassess things once we were halfway through," Nolan explains. In that spirit
the soaring choruses and tender verses of the opening salvo "Flicker, Fade" is a
perfect illustration of how that fresh perspective helped these songs achieve their
full potential. "I'm very proud of that song in particular because in some ways it’s
exactly what you would expect from Taking Back Sunday but it also manages to
incorporate all of these completely new elements in it such as the orchestral
flourishes," Nolan explains. "I'm also extremely proud of the last song 'Nothing At
All' because we've had acoustic songs before but we've never had anything
acoustic that builds into such a gigantic climax and I think fans are going to be
pleasantly surprised with that."
"I tried to be a little more loose; I was more focused on being myself than trying to
sound perfect or anything," Lazzara responds when asked how he approached
Happiness Is. "We also played around a lot with arranging the harmonies and
playing with layers and I think that makes these songs a lot more rich."
Correspondingly "Stood A Chance" alternates between melodic moments and
moody breakdowns in a way that's so seamless that you'll hardly notice it’s
happening until it’s all over while “Better Homes And Gardens” is catharsis set to
a driving drumbeat. The band also clearly weren't afraid to let these songs truly
take on their own spirit as evidenced by the ambient ballad "It Takes More,"
which started out as an upbeat rocker before organically becoming into the
atmospheric masterpiece that it evolved into.
Fans of Taking Back Sunday will also rejoice at the fact that Happiness Is sees
the band’s enigmatic frontman at his most personal. "Through the years I've tried
to stay pretty cryptic because often times it’s easier not to have to explain
yourself but on this record I was very direct in the sense I tried to use the
simplest way to get an idea across," Lazzara explains. "In the past I don't think I
ever would have let a song like 'Like You Do' go on an album because it’s so
heartfelt in a simple way and I also think it's actually one of the first love songs
we've ever written." The band also agree that performing in the Middle East at
places like Kuwait were the inspiration for "We Were Younger Then"—and lines
like, “I remember when comfort was not an option” illustrate how far these five
guys have come along from playing basements in Long Island in the late nineties.
Ultimately this search for meaning and pursuit of progress lies at the core of why
the band have managed to retain a fervent fanbase over the years and survive
numerous passing trends. But it’s also important to note that none of the band
members take any part of this experience for granted. "In the past when we were
on a major label there would be A&R people giving us suggestions but with this
album it was just us pushing ourselves," Lazzara summarizes, sounding even
more hopeful than he did over a decade ago. "There is no question to me that
Happiness Is is the best unfiltered representation of what happens when the five
of us get in a room together and that makes me really happy. Nolan confirms this
sentiment by adding, "this album really is a testament to each of the members
talents because it's just us."
In other words, prepare yourself because it's time to fall in love with Taking Back
Sunday all over again.
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