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Seventeen years ago, Taking Back Sunday struck gold. Releasing Tell All Your Friends, the New Yorkers ruled the OG emo scene of the early noughties—don’t even act like you didn’t have lyrics to You’re So Last Summer as your MSN personal message!
Now, celebrating their 20th year of existence, the band have embarked on an extensive world tour—much to the delight of former MySpace devotees globally. Before the anniversary shows hit our shores next year, Hysteria caught up with bassist Shaun Cooper.
Hysteria: Taking Back Sunday’s return to Australia is just around the corner with Unify Gathering and a national run, how are you feeling about being on such a massive festival?
Shaun: We’re really excited about it. We find it really awesome that we get to play a lot of Australian festivals, they’re always a great opportunity. By the time Unify rolls around we’ll have been at home for a while so we should be relatively well rested. I know we’ll be very excited to get down there, and get out of what is usually a very cold winter in New York.
Any bands you’re especially keen to check out?
Our friends in Underoath and Every Time I Die will be there, they’re always great to see live and the hangs are even better, they’re just wonderful people.
While you’re here you’ll be celebrating the 17 year anniversary of your debut release, Tell All Your Friends. With so many years of experience as a band behind you and so much growth, is it surreal to go back and play those old tunes?
We spent a lot of years getting away from the nostalgia factor. Since John (Nolan, guitar/keyboards/vocals) and I came back to the band in 2010 we’ve put out three records and we decided that this was the time to revisit the past a little, because it’s been 20 years since the band started and not a lot of bands get to do that. We want to celebrate those early records and the records that really made people get to know our band because we feel so fortunate to still be around after all this time.
What tracks on the record always get the crowd going?
Cute Without the E is the standard bearer, the first song that people went nuts for when we put that record out. You’re so Last Summer really stands out too, over time it seems like that song has taken on a life of its own and the crowd reacts to it every night. The sing-alongs are always so loud. It’s amazing.
It’s crazy to think that people look at us the way I look at bands like Nirvana, with how much they helped me through. Or a band like Rancid, I went through some tough times and I could hear a lot in their music.
[ Shaun Cooper ]
A record like Tell All Your Friends is one that so many people can tie to their adolescence and growing up and get really nostalgic about. You said the band has distanced themselves from the nostalgic tag over the years, but how’s it feel knowing your work has played such a massive role in the lives of some of your fans?
We all grew up being fans of different bands, music has really touched our lives in so many ways and it’s helped us through tough times. When we hear about our music changing people’s lives in the way that other music has changed ours … it’s very humbling. It’s crazy to think that people look at us the way I look at bands like Nirvana, with how much they helped me through. Or a band like Rancid, I went through some tough times and I could hear a lot in their music. When we hear that from people, that we’re impacting their lives and we’re giving them that feeling and we’re helping them through … it’s very shocking. I know the very humble beginnings of where this band came from so I just feel so grateful that we still get to do this job.
It must be really awesome to realise so many of those fans have been there with the band since the beginning and are still hanging around now.
We’ve seen so much, we’ve seen couples that met at one of our shows years ago, and then they get married and bring their kids. It’s amazing to see that dedication and to see people grow with us in that way.
What do Taking Back Sunday credit their longevity too?
We don’t know how to do anything else (laughs). We’ve always been really passionate and have always believed in what we were doing. We never tried to follow a gimmick or a trend, our music is very true to us, it’s very dear to our hearts. We believe in the music we write, we believe in the lyrics and melodies that John and Adam (Lazzara, vocals) come up with. I feel like we are a band that goes on gut instinct, we don’t really think about what’s popular or what’s cool, we just go with what we truly believe in. I think the audiences can pick up on that; we are always trying to stay true to ourselves as far as music goes and we are having the time of our lives because we do believe in that music. It’s very easy to have a lot of fun and we really feel like we’re living the dream. I always get afraid that one day I’ll wake up and this will all be over, the rest of the guys in the band feel like that too. It is a privilege to do this job and every day we wake up and pinch ourselves because we’re living in a pretty great time.
I always get afraid that one day I’ll wake up and this will all be over, the rest of the guys in the band feel like that too. It is a privilege to do this job and every day we wake up and pinch ourselves because we’re living in a pretty great time.
[ Shaun Cooper ]
There have been a few line-up changes within the band over the years, including your own departure. What brought you back to the band?
It was funny, I was in a band with John Nolan called Straylight Run for seven years and that band just came to an end and I thought my time in music was over. I thought I had a nice fun ride and I was bummed that I was at the end of it and that I was going to get whatever job I could figure out how to do. But then I spoke to Mark O’Connell , our drummer, and he said, “I really want to get the band back together, I want the original line-up, I want you and John back here and I don’t know how we’re going to make it happen but that’s what I want”. I guess he was going through some rough times after the New Again record and it was time for a big change. We all booked flights to El Paso, Texas and we got together. We didn’t have much hope that things would work out but we said maybe it could, let’s reconnect as friends and see if there’s something there, let’s see if we’re on the same page with where we think this band might go. There were no promises or hopes, we thought maybe we could connect as individuals and if that worked, maybe there was more there. Immediately, on the first night we knew things were good; we were able to reconcile a lot of our differences and talk about the past. We started working on songs the very next day and it was like we hadn’t really missed a beat, we felt very good about the work that was coming out and we saw all the chemistry that was there. Now I’ve been back in the band for eight years and it’s really crazy to think how fast time has flown, it’s been such a wild ride.
It must be great going into the anniversary tour of Tell All Your Friends with a line up that’s comfortable with those old songs and knows the background of them.
We know how the band got started; we know the trials and tribulations. Before Victory Records came along no label wanted to sign us. We were kind of like that weird kid that nobody wanted to play with at recess. Things started to come together and then they took off very quickly after we signed that initial record deal, I think we just know what it takes to make this band work.
There’s been lots of growth within the band over the years, how does the Taking Back Sunday of the early noughties compare to the Taking Back Sunday of now?
The Taking Back Sunday of now is a little older, a little wiser, more relaxed and more confident. I think we’ve gotten better as musicians, songwriters and people. We had a few years where we all grew apart but we all grew back together very quickly. We became dads at the same time, started our families and got married and all that adult stuff, so I think that really made us bond and made us strong.
The last Taking Back Sunday record dropped in 2016, have the band been working on any new material since then?
We have this release coming out, Twenty, it’s the career retrospective with songs from all the records and we have two new songs on that. We’re going to spend the bulk of 2019 celebrating the 20 year anniversary of the band but I think in 2020 we should get back to the studio. We all have a couple of ideas; we’re emailing back and forth and talking about different ideas for the record and where we might take things next. It’s not for a little while but we’re stoking the fires and I think we’re getting that creative itch again. It’s always fun to feel it come on.
Catch Taking Back Sunday at the following dates:
Wed 9th January // HQ // Adelaide
Fri 11th January // 170 Russell // Melbourne
Sat 12th January // Unify Gathering // Tarwin Lower
Mon 14th January // The Metro Theatre // Sydney
Tue 15th January // The Metro Theatre // Sydney
Wed 16th January // The Triffid // Brisbane
Thu 17th January // The Triffid // Brisbane