Taking Back Sunday: “It doesn’t matter where music comes from – you can’t mess with Harry Styles’ last album”
Taking Back Sunday have shared new single ‘Keep Going’ – with vocalist Adam Lazzara and guitarist John Nolan talking to NME about embracing pop for their “shiny” new album ‘152’, not wanting to celebrate the past and the much-needed community that playing live offers.
The band’s eighth studio album ‘152’ is out this Friday (October 27) and “feels different” to what’s come before, according to Lazzara. “Going into the record, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make sure everything was miles away from anything we’d done before.”
“When you’ve been doing this for as long as we have, there’s a danger it’ll get to a point where nobody cares that you’re putting out new music,” continued Nolan. “The only way to really avoid that is to make an album so good that it gets people excited and demands their attention.”
Their previous album was the scuzzy punk rage of 2016’s ‘Tidal Wave’, and in the years that followed the band supported fellow emo giants My Chemical Romance on their massive reunion tour, appeared at the nostalgia-driven When We Were Young festival and went out on their own 20-year anniversary tour – celebrating by playing breakout albums ‘Tell All Your Friends’, ‘Louder Now’ and ‘Where You Want To Be’ in their entirety.
“If you do anything for 20 years, you should probably celebrate it, but I still went into that tour kicking and screaming,” said Lazzara. “We don’t want to be the guys that were, we want to be the guys that are. When you spend too much time inside of nostalgia or trying to capitalise on something that used to work, you’re doing a great disservice to the beautiful person you’ve become since.”
It meant that the New Yorkers found themselves at a “crossroads” going into their eighth album. “We knew we could either stick to this tried, true and safe thing that we’d been doing, especially because a lot of people were neck deep in nostalgia at the time, or we could keep pushing and see where that took us,” said Lazzara.
At first, the band found themselves writing songs that comfortably fit in alongside their sprawling discography, but brought nothing new to the table. The turning point came when they collaborated with Steve Aoki on 2022’s ‘Just Us Two’. “Before that, nothing was clicking but seeing the way those guys worked was really inspiring,” explained Lazzara. The process also introduced them to producer Tushar Apte, who went on to work with the band on ‘152’. “He had no preconceived notion about the band or what we needed to be.”
He continued: “There’s something a little more shiny to this record, but it’s still rough around the edges just because it’s us. I always thought we were just a loud rock’n’roll band, but there’s so much more to it than that, especially when you listen to ‘152’.”
One of the biggest changes came about with Nolan really embracing his love of pop music. “When I was younger, I wouldn’t even listen to Led Zeppelin because it wasn’t punk enough. It was so dumb,” he explained. “As time has gone on, I’ve realised, it doesn’t matter where the music has come from or who’s doing it. Good is good. You can’t mess with Harry Styles’ last album [‘Harry’s House‘].”
It means that every song on ‘152’ has a new ingredient that the band wouldn’t have been open to exploring previously. “Now, we’re able to draw from the musical influences we all have, which have only gotten broader over the years. It means there’s a lot of fun stuff,” Lazzara admitted.
“I wouldn’t say anything on this record sounds like Post Malone, but he was definitely an influence,” continued Nolan, who was also inspired by Willow Smith’s The Anxiety project and their hit ‘Meet Me At Our Spot’. “When we started out, we always had this pop sensibility that we brought to the music, but pop music changed as the years went on.
“Over the past five years though, it’s come back around. There’s something exciting about not feeling so out of step with everything.”
Rather than a deliberate step away from nostalgia, Taking Back Sunday said that they see ‘152’ as a confident step towards the future. “We wanted to make songs that were true to who we are right now. Naturally, that doesn’t include recreating anything from the past because that’s not who we are,” said Nolan.
With a majority of the record written in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic ‘152’ sees the band reflecting on the people they’ve become. There’s still an angst to it, but it’s constantly chasing silver linings. “That time really allowed me to take a step back and ask, ‘What’s important? What do I really like and how do I actually feel about things?” said Lazzara. “This album is a response to those types of questions. It’s our response to where we are in our lives and how our views are changing and hopefully growing.”
“I hope fans can find themselves in it. That’s always the goal and that’s why we named it ‘152’. It was this inside joke we had within the band and with our friends,” he continued, with exit 152 being where the band and their friends would meet up as teenagers ahead of going to gigs. The number features on the cover of every Taking Back Sunday album to date.
“We’d been trying for so long to get into other people’s world but for this, how about we just invite everyone to ours,” Lazzara said. “What better way to do that than to take this secret thing that’s existed between us and some close friends, and present it to everyone as an invitation?”
He continued: “The irony about the time we’re living in now, with social media and everything, is that you get the illusion that you’re really connected to everyone and everything that’s going on but in reality, you couldn’t be further away. With the record, I hope people can make it their own and feel like they’re not the only one going through these things. Selfishly, I really hope people take it that way so I can know I’m not the only one either.”
Speaking about the expectations of ‘152’, Lazzara explained: “I always feel like I have something to prove, because sometimes imposter syndrome takes the wheel and it’s hard to shut that voice up. There’s always this thing of wanting to show people who we are now and what we’re capable of.”
Nolan added: “It does feel like we have to prove that it’s worth paying attention to what we’re doing now, and Taking Back Sunday isn’t just about something from however many years ago.”
Taking Back Sunday are set to spend the next few months on the road. There are some album release shows where they’ll play ‘152’ in its entirety, before heading out to Australia. Then there’s their annual holiday shows in New York and New Jersey. “Next year, the idea is to bring these new songs to as many people and places as we can,” Lazzara said.
“The thing that I really love about playing shows is that at a certain point, it takes on a life of its own and I just get lost in the music. I’ve always needed that escape because the world gets so heavy but over the past couple of years, I’ve felt like I’ve needed those moments of freedom more than ever,” he continued.
“I’m also really proud about the different people that come to see our band. There are teenagers, there are people in their 50s and there’s everyone in between. They’re all getting lost at the same time to the same thing. That’s community. That’s fellowship. There’s something transcendent about that, and that’s what I’m always chasing.”
Taking Back Sunday release ‘152’ on Friday October 27 via Fantasy, before a US and Australian tour. Visit here for tickets and more information.