Every member of Taking Back Sunday is now a father. Let that sink in for a minute: the band that soundtracked hundreds of thousands of teenage angst phases – silencing high-school stresses and the parents that just didn’t understand – is now all in their 30s, happily married and looking after their own little bundles of joy.
“I was actually the last cab off the rank,” admits bassist Shaun Cooper. “I had a baby boy about five months ago, so the whole thing is pretty new to me. It’s not easy – I miss the hell out of him and my wife when I’m on tour. At the same time, everyone understands that this is for the greater good. When I met my wife, I was a touring musician – it was always the hope that it would never have to change. I’m still amazed that I get to do this night after night.”
When it comes to balancing their family life with the world of being in a band, Taking Back Sunday are managing better than they ever expected to. Although they’re not quite at the Foo Fighters point of having the kiddie pool backstage and taking the entire clan along for the ride, the band still gets to have its moments of bittersweet crossover.
“Our wives have come out for a run of shows here and there,” says Cooper. “We played in Philadelphia recently – my wife brought my son out, and we drove home that night so I could spend some time with them before our next show in New York. You figure out how to find that balance, but we all know that it’s going to get harder as our kids get older. Eddie [Reyes, guitarist] has the oldest kids out of all of us, and he knows that it’s hard when the kids can’t fly out to see you because they’re at school or they’ve got their own things to take care of. But we’re doing this for them – I’ve got to buy my kid diapers, I’ve got to send them to college. Hopefully, in the end, what we’re doing will be totally worth it.”
Of course, paying the bills isn’t the only thing keeping Taking Back Sunday together. March saw the band release Happiness Is, its sixth album overall and the third featuring the band’s ‘classic’ lineup of Cooper, Reyes, vocalist Adam Lazzara, guitarist John Nolan and drummer Mark O’Connell. Nolan and Cooper returned to the band after a seven-year absence in 2010, bringing together the same personnel that recorded its seminal debut LP Tell All Your Friends, and reconciling the “irreconcilable differences” that pushed them to leave the band in the first place. It would be understandable for the press surrounding this reunion of sorts to be a double-edged sword – while fans may rejoice at their return, each batch of new material will immediately be compared in at least a few circles to that revered first album.
“I like people knowing that it’s the same band that wrote that record,” says Cooper when asked if there is any increased pressure on the group. “There’s been a lot of lineup changes, and people can understandably get confused. To me, in my mind, it’s not meant to be presented as a nostalgia sort of thing. It’s meant to show that it’s the same band and they’re on their third record together. It does set a certain expectation, sure, and there’s a little bit of pressure that comes with that. At the end of the day, we’re just trying to make music that people respond to in the way they responded to [the debut]. We’re not out to make Tell All Your Friends, Part Two.”
Taking Back Sunday are returning to Australia once again this August as part of a co-headlining tour with The Used. The two groups share very similar backgrounds: both releasing seminal debuts for their genre in the early 2000s, both tarred with the ‘emo’ brush, both peaking in popularity around the mid-2000s and both still releasing music to this day. The Used’s Imaginary Enemy came out within weeks of the release of Happiness Is. Cooper can still recall his first encounter with his Utah compatriots, way back in the day.
“We were playing a show with Box Car Racer in 2002,” he says. “We also did a small tour with them at the start of 2003 after we’d hit it off. We’ve known those guys for a very long time. It’s crazy how the time flies – we still love them. We’ve been having a blast with them. We had so much fun playing with them in the States, and we all think the new record is great.
“We’re kind of the dinosaurs of the scene at this point,” he continues with a laugh. “Everyone else kind of died off, and we’re still around! We’re so happy we get to take this internationally – specifically to Bert [McCracken, Used vocalist]’s adopted home of Australia. I’m really looking forward to getting this show down there. The plane ride sucks, but it’s worth it every time that you get off and catch up with the jetlag. I’ve had nothing but great times and great experiences. My brother-in-law is actually from Melbourne, so I have great ties to the country. It’s almost like a paid vacation to us.”