Last summer, punk band Taking Back Sunday felt like the world was coming to an end.
Their records were selling well and they were being booked on one tour after another, but second vocalist John Nolan decided he was sick of being on the road, so he left. Then bassist Shaun Cooper quit as well.
"Shaun's words were: 'Without John, it would be a sinking ship,' which really freaked us out," singer Adam Lazzara said. "I think they were both having trouble because everything was happening so fast. Going from being home and always being around your friends to being gone all the time and having your whole life consumed and almost defined by the band that you're in is a lot to handle."
For a few weeks, Taking Back Sunday considered packing it in, but then guitarist Eddie Reyes contacted his friend Fred Mascherino, who agreed to audition for Nolan's spot. Not long after, bassist Matthew Rubano, who grew up with drummer Mark O' Connell, hopped on board.
"Suddenly everything was better than ever," Lazzara said. "They're both really schooled in music and they know their instruments really well, so when they came in they really cleaned up and tightened our sound."
Taking Back Sunday shifted right back into songwriting mode, and within months they had enough material to record a follow-up to 2002's Tell All Your Friends.
Like their debut, July 27's Where You Want to Be is driven by punchy, melodic hardcore riffs and yearning vocals reminiscent of the Movielife and Lifetime, but this time the band expands its musical boundaries and takes some chances.
"Bonus Mosh Pt. II" is insistent and propulsive, with a chugging main riff and scribbly guitar fills; "The Union" is more frantic, loaded with throbbing, distorted bass, buzzing guitars and a pounding beat that pauses only for the tuneful midsection; and "New American Classic" is an acoustic guitar ballad replete with strings and delicate guitar arpeggios.
"When we went into the recording, we had songs written, but then we went on tour last year and we wound up dropping a lot of those songs because we realized they weren't taking us anyplace new," Lazzara said. "We really wanted to grow musically with this one."
The band was intent on growing lyrically as well. Though most of Taking Back Sunday's past songs are about bad girls who broke their hearts, with Where You Want to Be, Lazzara was determined to tread new ground. The single "A Decade Under the Influence," for example, is about growing up and finding out you have less of a grasp on the world around you than you thought.
"There's this post-adolescent period I went through where I discovered that I don't know anything at all," Lazzara said. "Before, I thought I knew everything, and I always had an opinion. Now I've admitted to myself that I don't know what the hell I'm doing, so I keep my mouth shut more and it makes it easy to get along with people."
In mid-May, Taking Back Sunday shot a video for the song with artsy director Adam Levite (Interpol, Guided by Voices). For the clip, the Levite built several circular tracks inside a dark warehouse and planted the bandmembers inside of them.
"While we were playing, there were these remote-control monster trucks with cameras on them going around in circles around the tracks that we were inside," Lazzara explained, "and it made everything look really sweet."
Taking Back Sunday's last performance video, for the song "You're So Last Summer," was also unconventional, but in an entirely different way. While the band played, Public Enemy rapper Flavor Flav jumped around in full regalia. The odd juxtaposition led some to think the band was making fun of the legendary but troubled rapper.
"No way," Lazzara insisted. "We were making fun of ourselves. We had two guys leave our band and there were two main singers, so we were trying to think of a way to bring the new bandmembers into the video, but not have Fred singing the old guy's part. And the funniest way to do that was to use Flavor Flav."
Taking Back Sunday will head out on this year's Vans Warped Tour, which begins June 25 in Houston (see "New Found Glory, Bad Religion Get Warped; Itinerary Set").