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Interview: Taking Back Sunday

posted September 28, 2014, 4:17 pm by Alexis Edgar | Filed Under Interviews, Live Show Reviews, Music News | comment Leave a Comment

Punk Prestidigitation:
How Taking Back Sunday Made Punk Disappear in the Studio and Reappear Live

Taking Back Sunday has been an icon in the alternative rock industry since the New York natives burst onto the scene with their interesting mix of punk music and hardcore vibes in 1999. The band reveled in their success and continued to produce record after record, despite the comings and goings of several bandmates. tbs2014

Amidst the changes, the band skyrocketed as an indie group, and eventually had a high-octane album released by Warner Brothers Records in 2006. Fast forward 8 years—Taking Back Sunday, once glorified for their edge, released a laid-back album entitled, “Happiness is.” The recent release was a cause for much debate among critics and music lovers alike. Where did the punk go?

Music Emissions, enthralled with the curiously different album spoke with bassist Shaun Cooper, to discuss the transformation.(Photo courtesy of Alexandra Healey)

(Photo courtesy of Alexandra Healey)

Music Emissions: Congratulations on your latest album, “Happiness is.” It’s quite different from your previous releases. What went into this album that changed your sound?

Shaun Cooper: We never try to change anything purposely. Someone will bring a guitar riff into the band or a kind an idea for a song or a certain direction, then the five of us kind of shape and mold it in how we hear it. It all comes about very naturally and organically. And that’s kind of been the way we’ve always worked. We never tried to hop on a trend or do the popular thing it’s always what’s just felt right to us.

ME: How long did it take you to write the album?

Cooper:  We did work very hard on it. Well, I mean, it’s always a slow process with us because we tour so much and it’s kind of hard to work and write on the road. So we would take breaks off of touring and then we’d get together and one time we rented a house in West Virginia that was infested with mice, and we worked out some songs. That was there. Other times we worked in some friends’ studios, worked on some songs in Long Island or Michigan… we’re all spread out all over the States, so we kinda have to pick a time and all go to the same place somewhere in the country and yea, so I guess it was over the course of two years that we were kind of writing and then refining these songs over different periods of time.

ME: If you were going to put “Happiness is” in a music store, if they still existed, where would you put it? If you could walk in and put it in a spot yourself, where would it go?

Cooper: If I had to put it in a music store, I’d put it right up front. I want everyone to see it and not have to look too hard for it. Anywhere away from the bargain bin; I want people to pay full price…and just to walk in and see the record and think it looks really cool and bring it to the counter and buy it.

ME: Did the creation of this album test the bond between you guys? Was there any hesitation or discord to go off into a different direction?

Cooper: Oh yea, we constantly argue about: what songs should go, what songs shouldn’t go, how the sequence of feels of the record, how songs blend together, what works together, and the complete package.  So we discuss it a lot and talk it over with our manager, talk it over with the people at our label, Hopeless Records, who we really trust in a lot. And that’s how “Happiness is” came out the way that it was.

ME: Critics are saying the band, as whole, has matured. Your sound and skills have blossomed into almost a different vibe for the band.  Would you say that you lost your “punk” edge?

Cooper: I don’t know. We’re all growing up.  We’re all getting older, um, I don’t know if there was any edge that was lost. I mean, there’s a piece on [the album] called “How I Met Your Mother” which is one of the more…more heavy songs we’ve ever written.  I tend not to care what the critics think, I want everyone to like what we do but at the end of the day we’re going to still keep doing what we do and it’s impossible to please everyone all of the time, people are going to say what they’re going to say but they’re not the ones doing it, and living this life, and working on these songs and then playing them live for people every night so, as far as critics are concerned I kind of take it all with a grain of salt because it’s not going to affect us one way or the other.

(Photo courtesy of (Photo courtesy of>>>)

While Cooper is insistent that Taking Back Sunday has not lost their edge, the studio album released offers many tracks akin to songs stylized by Eddie Vedder. For those fearing the glory days of punk are over, because of the latest relaxed-rock record released by Taking Back Sunday this year, think again.

Although the rock magicians from Taking Back Sunday made their punk edge vanish from their studio album, they were able to make it reappear during their “Happiness is” tour. Reviving their image, the New York rockers took the stage in an epic blaze of passion and the teenage punk that was so dearly missing from their 2014 album release.

Taking Back Sunday, alongside The Used, performed an amazingly youthful and energized show at Showbox Sodo in Seattle, September 25th.  The intensity unveiled during their performance proves thatTaking Back Sunday are the masters of punk prestidigitation.  These musical magicians were able to perform a punk sleight of hand: by eliminating their harsh punk vibes from their latest album to reach a wider audience, and re-materialize that punk sound during an ambitious and impressive performance on stage.

Track Taking Back Sunday


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