They had throngs of screaming fans, surging popularity and an album gaining chart momentum — but John Nolan and Shaun Cooper, formerly of Taking Back Sunday, left it all behind.
"We were just more and more not on the same page as the rest of the band," said Nolan, now Straylight Run's frontman. "As time went on, we just had different ideas of what we wanted to do, and eventually it got to the point where it didn't make sense for us to be in that band anymore" (see "Taking Back Sunday Are Taking Back The Summer This Year").
So Cooper and Nolan ditched the emo-centric Taking Back Sunday and started their new project in May 2003, bringing in Breaking Pangaea's Will Noon to man the drums. Later, they made the band a family affair by asking Nolan's sister Michelle to come on board as a keyboardist, vocalist and guitarist.
"We've always gotten along," Nolan said of his sister. "We're both very laid back and prone to not getting upset or easily offended. That was one of the reasons I knew it would work with us in a band."
"We've had a good relationship, so there's no Noel/ Liam Gallagher things going on," he added, referring to the famously sparring siblings of Oasis.
With the band's lineup in place, Noon suggested the band's name, Straylight Run, a reference to William Gibson's legendary science-fiction novel Neuromancer.
"We wanted a name that wasn't going to have a lot of preconceived notions with it, that you wouldn't hear and say, 'It must be that type of band or this type of band,' " Nolan said. "It had a nice ring to it and that was all we were looking for, really — not any deep meaning."
Aiming for a piano-driven, smart-pop sound, the band headed to Upstate New York to record its debut full-length. The ensuing self-titled album is a far cry from the music Nolan and Cooper were making with Taking Back Sunday.
"I think it's pretty clear, if you listen to the album we made, that we wanted to do something different," Nolan said.
Straylight Run, which was released this fall, is full of lush, subtle, deftly-crafted pop. "The Tension and the Terror" starts with a simple hook and sparse vocals before opening up into the surging vocal harmonies of the Nolan siblings on the chorus.
The single, "Existentialism on Prom Night," swells slowly from a lone piano and vocal to grand chords and backing vocals that repeat the lyric "Sing like you think no one's listening."
"A lot of people thought the title of the song and the lyrics of the song were linked, and they're not," Nolan said. "It's pretty much a somewhat basic love song: It's about being in love and finally feeling optimistic about your future and looking forward to the rest of your life, rather than being pessimistic and afraid of what's coming in your next life."
Back in this life, Straylight Run's career is starting to gain momentum, with the video for "Existentialism" getting increasing airtime and a tour with Something Corporate kicking off in early 2005. The group recently completed a particularly memorable tour with Hot Rod Circuit, North Star and Say Anything.
"We were sharing a bus with Hot Rod Circuit," Nolan recalled. "Their bass player, Jay Russell, has a tendency, when he gets really drunk, to take all of his clothes off and do handstands and different kinds of acrobatics. He was doing this on the bus in pretty tight, close quarters and that was very interesting. ... He was never out in public or anything. It was usually in the middle of the night after we started driving and there was nowhere you could go to get away from him!"
Hopefully, when Straylight Run's next tour starts up, they'll have their own bus.
Straylight Run /Something Corporate tour dates, according to Victory Records:
- 1/17 - St. Louis, MO @ Mississippi Nights
- 1/18 - Omaha, NE @ Sokol Underground
- 1/19 - Minneapolis, MN @ Quest Club
- 1/21 - Milwaukee, WI @ The Rave/ Eagles Club
- 1/22 - Chicago, IL @ Metro/ Smart Bar
- 1/23 - Pontiac, MI @ Clutch Cargo
- 1/25 - Cleveland, OH @ House of Blues
- 1/27 - Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
- 1/28 - Charlotte, NC @ Tremont Music Hall
- 2/1 - Dallas, TX @ Gypsy Tea Room
- 2/2 - Austin, TX @ Emo's
- 2/4 - Tuscon, AZ @ Coconuts
- 2/5 - Tempe, AZ @ Marquee Theatre
- 2/7 - San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore
- 2/9 - Sacramento, CA @ University Ballroom
- 2/11 - Salt Lake City, UT @ In the Venue
- 2/12 - Las Vegas, NV @ House of Blues