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Taking Back Sunday's Adam Lazzara Talks Emo Revival, 'Happiness Is' Re-Issue

By Katie Karpowicz in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 5, 2015 7:00PM

Photo: Ryan Russell

As the obscene amount of reunion and anniversary tours would suggest, we're roughly ten years out from the East Coast pop-punk boom of the mid-2000s. Many of the popular acts of the time have faded into obscurity but a handful have managed to find longterm success.

A perfect example of the later would be Taking Back Sunday. The New Jersey five-piece produced several incredibly popular poppy alt-rock sing-a-longs last decade but that doesn't mean they're riding the nostalgia train for all it's worth.

The band's endless tour cycle brings them back to Chicago for a sold-out show at The Riviera this Friday night. This time they're supporting a reissue of their sixth full length 'Happiness Is' which includes additional tracks that didn't make the initial cut for runtime purposes. As Taking Back Sunday frontman Adam Lazzara puts it, the reissue is "more what we originally intended to put out."

Chicagoist spoke with Lazzara in advance of his band's return to Chicago.

CHICAGOIST: I have to admit, it seems like Taking Back Sunday is always in Chicago. This city must love you, or vice versa.

ADAM LAZZARA: Chicago was one of the first places in the country to really embrace our band and so going back always seems a little bit like a homecoming. It's where Victory Records is as well and that’s the label we were with for our first two records.

Actually my great-grandfather was a butcher in Chicago and that's where my family is from so it just feels nice to go back.

C: It feels like Taking Back Sunday has never stopped touring since the early days. Do you ever just get tired of it?

"After all these years, I don't really care how we're classified or what label someone would put on us as long as they're listening. I don't want to be pigeonholed. I think there's more to my musical taste than that."
ADAM LAZZARA: There's something that happens when you get to play live and perform. It's a real cathartic thing so I guess we just kind of get off on that. We start to get restless if we haven't played for any long span of time.

C: So should we expect you back at Riot Fest in the fall for a three-peat?

ADAM LAZZARA: I've been hitting them up on Twitter so hopefully they'll have us back. They're some of the greatest people, the folks that run that. They just treat everyone so well. I've been around for a while so I've been able to see both sides, the good and the bad, and they are really on the good side.

C: That's great to hear. One of the things that I really respect Taking Back Sunday for is that I believe you've grown and aged very gracefully as a band. I'm curious to know who are some of the bands you grew up with that you think did the same thing?

ADAM LAZZARA: Damn, Tom Petty. I was probably nine or ten when I was first introduced to him and I have every record that he's put out since. They're all great. I think he's one of the best examples.

C: What about some of your contemporaries? I know you were out on tour last year with The Used. They were getting popular about the same time Taking Back Sunday was.

ADAM LAZZARA: If you're bringing up The Used, they've done well because they haven't ever written the same record twice. That's something that happens to bands. Other than that, that [style] isn't really what I listen to. I've been doing a lot of interviews today and it's "emo this" and "emo that." I just never thought we were that band. After all these years, I don't really care how we're classified or what label someone would put on us as long as they're listening. I don't want to be pigeonholed. I think there's more to my musical taste than that.

C: I figured you would get a lot of followup questions about your "emo revival" comments [to MTV news]. We can totally stay away from that.

ADAM LAZZARA: I'm just saying that because it's fresh in my brain but I don't know what the fuck [the emo revival] is. I feel that the folks that were listening to my band when they were younger are a bit older now and it's okay for them to admit they like a certain style of music again.

C: Going off of what you just said, I grew up on that style of music and it's funny to me that all of a sudden all of the big music news publishers seem interested in it. Do you notice that Taking Back Sunday is getting coverage from outlets they never used to?

ADAM LAZZARA: I really don't keep up much with that.

C: Which is cool because that, to me, implies that you and the band members are writing records based on what you would want to listen to instead of what the blogs are calling for. Do you feel there's less pressure on songwriting now because of that?

ADAM LAZZARA: No. With the more records we put out there's actually more pressure but it's not…

C: External?

ADAM LAZZARA: Exactly. It's all self-inflicted. We all want to top the last thing we did. The Internet is a really scary place to go to read about anything you're trying to contribute to the world. It's just bad for your mind and your soul, at least for me. There was a time when I was really active in trying to see what people were saying and what people thought and then at one point I just had to stop because it really just started to affect me. I was really sensitive to it. Ever since I stopped, for one, I've been a lot happier and I can just focus more on what I think sounds good. I don't have all these other things trolling around in my subconscious.

C: Well, that might have already answered my next question, but I was going to ask what your favorite thing about being a "veteran" band is now, instead of being the young guys who are always learning the hard way or feeling they have to prove themselves.

ADAM LAZZARA: Well, I don't think we've quite reached that status yet. The only reason I say that is because I still feel we're learning new things every day and new ways to go about things. The business side of music has changed so much. I think it would be hard for anyone to be considered a veteran ... unless you're Tom Petty.