Although they just put out their sixth record, Happiness Is, last year, 2015 is already looking to be a busy one for emo punk veterans Taking Back Sunday. They'll soon set off on a tour that has them on the road from mid-February to April with The Menzingers and letlive., and, on February 24, they'll release Happiness Is: The Complete Recordings, a collection of rare and unreleased tracks pressed on a ton of fresh new vinyl.
Before all that action gets underway, MTV News spoke with the band's frontman Adam Lazzara about the record, the "emo revival," and whether or not he feels like an elder statesman of punk at the ripe age of 33 -- plus, we asked him to pick some of his favorite, and least favorite, songs from the band's catalog. Read on to see if they match up with your own.
MTV: The release of Happiness Is: The Complete Recordings is fast approaching. What's the story behind the packaging -- how you put it all together?
Lazzara: Basically we wanted to have a way to kind of release all the songs that we had recorded for that record, B sides and all that, but at the same time we didn't want to just make something, just basically put it out again with those songs added to it.
I always think it's kind of sh-tty when bands do that; it's making people buy the same thing twice, which sucks.
With this we were trying to brainstorm, trying to figure out with our favorite bands, what's something as a fan that we would think was cool? Which brought us to this 7” box set idea. It has all the songs from Happiness Is on it, but it's all repackaged and each 7”, each song, has its own record cover.
Of all the records we put out, this is the only one we got into arguments about how the sequencing would go. We were like, 'We don't want to overstay our welcome.' You know that whole argument that's been going on now? Do kids even listen to whole records anymore? We ended up making it 10 to 11 songs originally, but now everyone will get to hear them all. I think they're all really good songs.
MTV: How do you guys pick your tour support now?
Lazzara: With the Menzingers, Shaun, our bass player, that's one of his favorite bands. It just worked out that they were trying to put together a tour the same time that we were. With letlive. -- we've seen them live a whole bunch, and we feel like they bring a real kind of energetic air to the tour, so that's how we picked those guys.
Typically we try to take bands that we're fans of, because there's nothing worse than being out for like two months [and] just having to hear this music you don't like every single night. I think we did a good job this time.
MTV: Has that ever happened to you before? Want to name names?
Lazzara: It's funny, I'm sure we've been that band for other bands. There's that saying everybody uses, that 'Good guy, bad band' thing where you end up becoming friends with folks but can't really listen to their music. I'm positive we've been that for people.
MTV: Do you feel like the dreaded 'elder statesmen of punk' at this point?
Lazzara: Well, I don't really look at it like that. I guess it's hard for me to look at us, or even myself, like that. I still very much feel like a kid. Obviously we've been around for a long time.
I never wanted to become like some kind of nostalgia act -- or all that sh-t you see on the Internet right now: 'Oh 16-year-old me would be freaking out!' I hate that bullsh-t. It's just one of those things that kind of happens.
Louis CK has this really funny little bit he does about going to the doctor about his back or his ankle or something and he asks the doctor what he can do for it, and the doctor says, 'Oh that's just how it is now.' I guess it's just one of those things that happens and it's up to us to try to keep doing what we're doing and not get stuck in stagnant water.
MTV: I've seen people say that very thing about TBS with the whole 'emo revival' thing that's been going on. Was that on your radar?
Lazzara: That whole thing. It sounds ridiculous -- emo revival. I grew up in the South, so when I hear that I picture tents in the field and sh-t. I was completely unaware of that, then I did an interview, a few months ago now -- or maybe longer -- and someone brought that up to me.
I was like, 'What the f--k are you talking about? You can't revive something that's never been dead.' I've been working real hard for a long time; I haven't stopped.
Yeah, so all of that is to say, I don't really have much of an opinion about it. I mean if people are listening to our music because of it I guess that's cool. Whatever it's going to take for people to give us a chance, I don't give a sh-t.
It's a funny thing, like it's this thing that happened so long ago. I could see some kind of Woodstock revival or something like that, but this is something that happened not that long ago. If that's how fast the world is changing now, then there's a whole set of new problems we need to worry about.
MTV: So do you feel like then, in terms of your reach, and the size of the band, that you haven't reached your ceiling yet?
Lazzara: Well, yeah. Or like, when we're sitting around just the five of us -- or when I sit down to think about it -- I think there's a ways to go. I'm sure depending on who you talk to everyone has their own opinion on that. If we didn't still feel like we had things to accomplish, we wouldn't still be doing it. We'd be all doing different things.
MTV: What do you think you'll do when the time comes?
Lazzara: I don't know. I've been saying for years I need to figure out how to fix cars or some sh-t. I don't know how to do anything, I'm not qualified for anything else.
I was joking about it with my friends, and I said the only think I'm qualified to do is be a bartender. They said, 'No, just because you hang out in bars a lot doesn't mean you'll be a good bartender!'
I think I'll always continue to make music. Hopefully there will be a way to kind of scrounge a living out of that. The whole 'do what you love' mentality. But if that was completely off the table, I would be very sad, and I wouldn't know what to do with myself.
MTV: Since we're getting all reflective here, I thought you might talk about some of your favorite, and least favorite, Taking Back Sunday songs ever. What do you want to start with, the good or the bad news?
Lazzara: For me I'm gonna go ahead and say: Hearing our first record is like hearing nails on a chalkboard. I know that sounds like a really sh-tty thing to say because it was that record that changed the course of our lives.
I am in no way trying to discount it. But the just sound of my voice on that record is... at the time I was just a kid. I didn't know how to sing. I was just yelling everything hoping it fit in there somehow, trying to paint with some strange color.
Then, with that said, there's that song 'Cute Without the "E"'... There's one we don't rehearse anymore, but we still play live every night, and it gets one of the biggest reactions. I don't know what it is -- that song just really seemed to resonate with folks. But that's not one of the ones I hate. When we play it live it takes on this life of its own -- it becomes much larger than my opinion of it, which in turn makes me love it.
There's two songs, 'The Blue Channel,' and 'Head Club'... at the time we were just trying to get enough songs to fill a record so we could go on tour. When I listen back now I'm like...
MTV: What are some of your favorites that you think never got a fair shake?
Lazzara: 'Miami,' off the Louder Now record, which, for some reason, I don't know how -- that one fell through the cracks. I think it's just great. I remember hearing the final mixed version like, 'Holy sh-t! I can't believe I'm in this band!'
For some reason that one didn't quite get a lot of attention. You make this thing, you throw it out there in the world, you think it's the greatest thing ever, and other people are like 'Ehhh.' It's all subject to opinion.
Then, on that same note, before Happiness Is, we put out the self-titled record and it was the same thing. A lot of great songs on there, but it didn't quite get the reaction we thought it was gonna get. Maybe it was timing. Off that one there's a song 'Call Me in the Morning,' which I think is one of the best Taking Back Sunday songs.