For the past few years, many alternative rock tours have skipped Cleveland to hit Pittsburgh and Columbus instead.
Not Taking Back Sunday.
The band regularly comes to town at least once a year (or so it seems).
So what keeps the guys coming back to our fine city?
“We have good memories from Cleveland, and I know it’s silly, but I enjoy eating Chipotle every time I’m there,” laughs bassist Shaun Cooper via phone from a Santa Cruz tour stop. The band performs at House of Blues on Tuesday, Aug. 15. “It’s right there and you don’t have to walk very far. On the road, you have to get in and out quick and catch a meal before soundcheck. It’s good knowing it’s right there, and it’s so easy.”
Still touring in support of 2016’s Tidal Wave
, a guitar-de force that features the band’s most realized songs, Taking Back Sunday formed at a time when indie acts had to book their own tours and couldn’t rely on the internet to disseminate their music. Mind Over Matter guitarist Eddie Reyes founded the group nearly 20 years ago, and Cooper would join the band shortly after it formed.
“It was a very exciting time,” he says when asked about the band’s early days. “[Drummer] Mark O'Connell and I have played in bands together since we were six years old. I had a keyboard I would bring to his parents’ basement. I would bash on it while he would bash on drums. We didn’t know what we were doing. We were always playing in different band. Mark and I had a work ethic that our bandmates didn’t. They were just having fun. We wanted to do something. We wanted to get a record deal.”
When the lineup finally solidified, Cooper says the group approached making music with intent and focus.
“I was going to college and so was Mark and the rest of the guys were working but we were totally committed to the band,” he says. “We would play shows around Long Island and we would just work on songs constantly. We recorded our demo that we paid out of pocket for. It started to grow and we played with bands that were like-minded, like those guys in Brand New."
Suddenly, the small bars where the band performed were drawing capacity crowd. Fans were singing along to the tunes too.
"We flyer-ed our own shows and when we went on tour, we would pass out flyers to strangers all day," says Cooper. "That was all we had. We passed out CDs that I burned on my computer. The original Tell All Your Friends
demo were printed on my computer, and [singer] Adam [Lazzara] and [guitarist] John [Nolan] would work on the artwork and print out the covers at Kinko’s and Mark and I would burn the actual CDs. It was a communal thing.”
Given that history, Nolan and Cooper sent shockwaves when they left the band in 2003. But they realized they were better off with the band and would rejoin the group in 2010 to record 2011's Taking Back Sunday
“We had those lean times of sleeping on strangers’ floors or sleeping the van and brushing your teeth in a supermarket parking lot,” says Cooper. “When you go through that together, you create a bond that doesn’t go away just because you don’t see eye-to-eye for a little while. Making Taking Back Sunday
was some of the most fun I’ve ever had. The chemistry was immediate. We hadn’t lost anything but we hadn’t been in the same room in seven years. We all met up and saw the spark was still there. It was a bit of a letdown because people didn’t respond the way we thought. Looking back, I still think that album was very strong.”
Cooper says the follow-up effort, 2014’s Happiness Is
, was just as much fun to make.
“That record isn’t as complete of a thought as the self-titled record and Tidal Wave
,” he says. “I still think it’s strong. When ‘Flicker, Fade, was coming together, it felt like it had that spark we were looking for that maybe the self-titled album didn’t have. It had some great songs but not that quintessential Taking Back Sunday song. We explored where we could push our boundaries and put things in motion that really took shape on Tidal Wave
It’s appropriate the cover art for Tidal Wave
features a photo of a child looking out at the ocean. The theme of water and its potentially destructive power emerges in several tunes on the album, including the title track. Lazzara’s wife took the photo when the family was on a vacation in Florida. The image suggests that something might go wrong. The original photo was more colorful and vibrant. The band dulled it out and made it look like it was on an old weathered album cover.
“I think Mark saw that photo on Adam’s Instagram — it’s one of those happy accidents type of thing,” says Cooper when asked about the album’s cover art. “We had ‘Tidal Wave’ as one of the first songs we wrote. We had the water theme, so why not have that picture. There could be a storm coming too — you don’t know. We thought it fit so well.”
Right from the opening tune, “Death Wolf,” the album suggests it will feature more guitar solos than past Taking Back Sunday albums. In the past, critics have pigeonholed the band as emo or screamo. This hard rock album suggests a departure. Nolan has said that “a lot of thought” went into the sound of the guitars, whether it was the amps or the different pedal combinations that the band tried out.
“John did a lot of great things,” says Cooper. “Eddie had the basic riffs and John could really explore his instrument. His solo on ‘Calling to Run” is awesome. I remember him experimenting with some different sounds. I think we used a pedal called a Frazz Dazzler. I think everyone did a lot of great stuff on that.”
Cooper says a new album isn’t imminent, though the guys have started mulling over a few song ideas.
“We emailed ideas but I think it’ll be a while until the next record,” he says. “We’re proud of Tidal Wave
, and where it’s brought us. We’re kicking around what’s going happen. We’re starting to plot out where the future will go. We’ll see where it goes.”
He says he and his bandmates have a newfound appreciation for fact that the group provides them with a way of life.
“This is literally a dream come true,” he says. “I’ve wanted to do this ever since I saw GNR play GNR Live at the Ritz on MTV. Obviously, we do it on a smaller scale than GNR. I do exactly what I love and then go into dad and husband mode when I’m home. We’ve carved out these incredible lives, and we have begun to appreciate it. We’re so grateful and we know that and that keeps us driven to keep doing it at the highest level we can and write the best songs we can and do the best tours we can. We don’t want this to end.”
Taking Back Sunday, Every Time I Die, All Get Out, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 15, House of Blues, 308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583. Tickets: $27.50-$37.50, houseofblues.com