Despite yielding a stage aesthetic with more swagger than you could pelt a can of hairspray at, Adam Lazzara is cripplingly humble. He won’t budge when grilled for a catalyst in Taking Back Sunday’s sustained longevity. “I just think we’re some of the luckiest guys you’ll ever meet,” he says.
But his modesty is uncalled for. It’s the Long Island quartet’s visceral energy, enigmatic personalities and furiously potent songwriting – plus, you know, a few choice scene beefs throughout the years – that have led Taking Back Sunday to their throne atop the aughts’ alt-rock hierarchy.
“We’ve definitely had our ups and downs,” says Lazzara. “But I think what it comes down to, as far as us always trying to move forward goes, is that this is the only thing any of us have ever wanted to do. That’s been a big driving force behind each of us in the band – we kind of put all of our eggs in one basket, as they tell you not to do. So I think that’s what’s gotten us through all the bad times and the good times. That, and we’ve just been extremely fortunate.”
It’s weird to think about: Taking Back Sunday have survived the fall of Nickelodeon, the smartphone boom and the uprising of emo-rap. In a landscape where their peers struggled to stay relevant past LP3, the MTV staples and Warped Tour pit-starters have made damn sure that even seven albums down, they’re still a go-to for kids looking for a loud and livid musical outlet.
Part of that is luck. Part of it is churning out a steady stream of smash hits, and part of it is careful manipulation of the scene’s passing trends and strategic manoeuvring through the music industry’s recent evolutions. But most of it comes down to the fact that Lazzara and co. don’t set unwieldy goals or make outlandish promises to their fanbase. They roll with the punches, and they’re defiantly blasé about how they’re building on two decades of legacy.
“It’s funny,” says Lazzara. “If you had asked us 20 years ago, ‘So, in 20 years, do you think you guys are still gonna be doing this?’ I think we all would have said, ‘No,’ because it just didn’t seem like that could be real, you know? That didn’t sound like an actual thing that could happen. But this is the only thing that any of us have ever wanted – to be able to write songs and play them to kids all over the world, to have people at the shows and, hopefully, be giving them the same feeling that our favourite bands and artists give us. It’s this grand thing of being like, ‘You are not alone.’ So hopefully we can keep that up.”
Lazzara had just turned 18 when John Nolan half-jokingly asked him to join Taking Back Sunday. Growing up alongside the band, he’s learned a few key lessons about maintaining a strong relationship with his bandmates. “There’s one thing I do think back on often, which is that you’re not always going to be right,” he says. “And that’s okay. There’s a lot of things out there that I don’t know, and a lot of people to learn from, and that’s a big, resounding thing that’s stuck with me since the earlier days of the band.”
To celebrate their 20-year milestone, Taking Back Sunday are dropping their first slab of greatest hits in the aptly titled Twenty. Alongside two new jams (both stemming from the mysterious mind of drummer Mark O’Connell), the LP chronicles the entire stretch of the band’s dynamic discography.
“At first, I wasn’t too keen on the idea because I was worried it would be like a closing of a book,” Lazzara admits. “None of us are anywhere near done, so it didn’t make sense to do a ‘career retrospective’ thing. I didn’t want it to be purely for nostalgia’s sake, either. But then when we got to talking about it, I started to realise that it’s more just a celebration of where we’ve gone in the past 20 years. I really think that’s something to be celebrated.
“Plus, we kind of live in this world of streaming right now. Everybody listens to playlists, so I think if anything, we’ve just put together the best Taking Back Sunday playlist we could, all in one neat little package for you so you don’t have to go through everything and move stuff around.”
Next year will see Taking Back Sunday take their celebration on the road for a career-defining world tour. They’re set to kick it all off with an Australian run in January, ripping through theatres in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane (plus a festival drop-in at UNIFY Gathering), with choice cuts from their first three records in tow. As for what will follow, Lazzara says the band has only just begun thinking about where LP8 will take them, but 2019 will be the year they throw a new tank of fuel on their creative fire. And as for what that fire will brew?
“It really just depends on what everybody has to bring to the table,” says Lazzara. “One of the things I think we all enjoy the most is when we can get together and just start hashing out ideas, because typically what will happen is one person will come in with either a part or a whole song, and then everyone else in the band will get their hands on it and it will evolve into this new thing. So as far as going, ‘Here’s directly where we’re headed, it’s going to sound like this’ – I can’t do that, but only because I have no idea what that’s going to be myself. And that’s one of the things that keeps it exciting. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Twenty is out Friday January 11 via Craft Recordings. Taking Back Sunday are touring Australia in January 2019.
Image via Natalie Escobedo.