Interview: John Nolan of Taking Back Sunday
American rock legends Taking Back Sunday have released their seventh studio album, Tidal Wave, via Hopeless Records and are hitting Aussie shores again in March to bring their composition of absolute bangers to our ears. We recently caught up with frontman John Nolan to talk about how the new album and upcoming tour came about.
How did the writing and recording processes for Tidal Wave differ from your previous releases?
The main difference between this album and the last one is that we did a lot of our writing and demoing in the studio where we recorded, whereas in the past we did a lot of it at home, or as a group in a non-studio environment. Another one is that we worked out of a studio in Charlotte, Carolina, which is where Adam [Lazzara, vocals] and I live – it was the first time the two of us had recorded at home in a very long time.
Tidal Wave is a massive step in a new direction in terms of sound. Was this intentional?
Well, you know… We always want to make a better album than our last one. In that sense, I guess it’s intentional, but I think the way this album took shape and worked out was just the luck of inspiration striking us. Some of it was us pushing a little harder than we had in the past, to try and develop the songs further and try and beat the ideas we initially had. I think all of that stuff sort of thankfully added up to us making a step forward – and I think in a lot of ways, while we were making the record, it became clear that we’re moving forward and doing something that we haven’t done before. It felt like we were watching it happen a little bit, and we were like, “Oh my god, this is actually happening!” That was kind of amazing.
What has the general response towards the album been like?
I feel like it’s been good! Y’know, we’re at the point where we don’t really know what the overall response is. On the internet, there is a million different sources where you can go and see what people say about something, and we don’t really look at those all the time. But from a live response, it’s been great.
How would you describe Tidal Wave to new Taking Back Sunday listeners?
Y’know, I really wouldn’t want to describe it! I’d just want people to listen to it and see what they think, and see how they’d personally describe it.
“As far as that pressure goes, I think that it only ever comes from within ourselves, because we always just want to make the best record we can possibly make.”
Is there a particular song on the new album that you personally connect with more so than any other?
It’s a little hard to say – it changes from time to time. We finished recording the album five or six months ago, and we’ve since listened to it a lot and different things tend to pop up. There’s a song called “I Felt It Too” – that’s one of the more slower songs in the centre of the album, and that one really grabs me in a certain way: it makes me feel something every time I listen to it. Then, there’s another one called “Coming Home”, which is just a consistant one that makes me very happy whenever I hear it. Those are definitely the two that I think about from the top of my head when I think about a constant emotional response.
You’ve become very influential in your genre since the 00’s. What’s it been like seeing so many bands follow in your footsteps, and did it ever put pressure on the band to keep a level of success with every new album?
It’s been interesting to see that bands have been influenced or inspired by us! Honestly, it’s something we try not to think about too much, because being in that position is something we don’t really know or understand how to deal with. We can think about bands that have influenced us and meant something to us, but it’s really hard for all of us to think of ourselves as one of those bands – it’s difficult to wrap out heads around that. So generally, we try not to think about it, and just be appreciative of the fact that it’s a thing. As far as that pressure goes, I think that it only ever comes from within ourselves, because we always just want to make the best record we can possibly make. I don’t think there’s any outside influence that effects that at all.
How do you think Taking Back Sunday have changed in the last ten years or so?
We’ve all grown up a lot, and not just in the sense that we got older [laughs]. That happens to everybody. But we’ve done a lot of growing as individuals and as a group. Ten years ago, no-one in the band had kids – we were a band of guys who had no ties to any sort of family or their own, and now we’re all people who have multiple children. That alone really changes your perspective on life and the way you think about touring, and as what you do as a musician. I think it has also changed the way we interact with each other – I think we’ve all become more of a family within the band. And y’know, when we’re home, we’re with our family. We’re more of a family when we’re together, the five of us without our kids, and we’re always surrounded by family when we’re at home. That definitely has an effect on you, and has effected our music and the way we write and record.
So you’re a more grounded band now?
You’re about to hit Australian shores, early next year. Can you tell us a bit about how this tour came about?
It’s really been too long since we’ve been to Australia! With the new album out, it’s obviously time to get back, and we were really excited that things worked out with Acceptance. It just so happened that they were available and ready to do it, and they’re a band that we’ve known and have been fans of for a long time, so it was one of those things that just made sense and worked out.
“We’re really excited about this record, and we’re hoping the response from it will keep us going and keep us moving for the next few years.”
What can eager fans expect to see on this run that they may not have during the last tour?
I think that, right now, we’re at a place that we weren’t at even just a few years ago. We’ve gelled as a band and become more focused, and I think the new songs from the new album seem to be a part of that. I think there’s just something that will go above and beyond what we’ve ever been able to give before, as far as the songs we’re selecting and our ability to perform them.
It’s still early days, but is there any insight into what set list we can expect?
No! I mean, it’s definitely way too early for that [laughs]. We always feel out a new album by how people are responding to it, so if we feel like the response is good, we’re going to bring as many of those songs as we can into the mix. No matter what, we always have a good sense of pulling from twelve years of records and choosing the best songs, and we’ll make a set that moves well and gives our audience highs and lows – one that takes them on a journey. We’re always going to do something interesting with our set; it’s just going to be a matter of picking what songs we use to make that what we want.
What city are you most excited to play and why?
It’s hard to play favourites with Australia! Sydney has always been fun for me, but I’d hate to choose that one city over any other place. When a band like us get the chance to go to Australia, it’s a really amazing thing. I can’t think of any show I’ve played in Australia that has been even remotely disappointing. Outside of playing shows, Sydney is a city I’ve always enjoyed being in.
What can we expect next from Taking Back Sunday?
We’re going to keep touring on this record, and we’re going to go as many places as we possibly can! We’re really excited about this record, and we’re hoping the response from it will keep us going and keep us moving for the next few years.
If you could say one thing to your fans, what would it be?
Thank you, thank you, thank you! Always.
Taking Back Sunday
Friday March 17th – Enmore Theatre, Sydney (AA)
Saturday March 18th – The Triffid, Brisbane (18+)
Sunday March 19th – 170 Russell, Melbourne (18+)
Wednesday March 22nd – The Gov, Adelaide (AA)
Thursday March 23rd – Metro City, Perth (18+)