Interview with vocalist Adam Lazzara and guitarist/vocalist John Nolan | By Sean Gonzalez
“It’s just a really good rock ‘n’ roll record,” vocalist Adam Lazzara says of Tidal Wave, the seventh album by Taking Back Sunday. For many modern bands, achieving enough success to carry them through seven records is difficult. Tidal Wave is set to be released via Hopeless Records on Sept. 16, creating a whirlpool for the band to ride as the year comes to an end. For their seventh go around, Lazzara and company made certain that Tidal Wave struck as hard as any other release: undeniably Taking Back Sunday, but more broad than ever before.
The record opens with “Death Wolf,” a track that plays as loud as previous album openers, with syncopated crashes accenting the vibrant melodies in the chorus, snapping along to the snare of drummer Mark O’Connell. Each verse features Lazzara and guitarist and vocalist John Nolan rapidly singing over the frenetic pace. The bridge ruptures with a bellowing bassline from Shaun Cooper that floats beside O’Connell’s rolling fills. Next comes the titular track “Tidal Wave,” a familiar feeling punk anthem that helps identify Taking Back Sunday’s fearlessness in tackling different sounds and making them their own. In describing the identity of Tidal Wave, Lazzara explains that the band needed to take a different route for record number seven. “We can continue just doing the tried and true. Like, ‘Hey, at least we know the people that like our band will like these songs. Let’s take that road,’” the vocalist states. “Or we can go down this other road; it’s a little more covered, and you can’t quite see the end.”
That path led Taking Back Sunday to feeling more fulfilled when finishing Tidal Wave. They were conscious enough to realize how a typical Taking Back Sunday song would play out, trying to diversify the norm and show the growth from their life experiences. Across the record, there are multiple references to home. Nolan and Lazzara constantly have their home life at the forefront of their minds, finding a reassurance away from the road that bled into the lyrical content of Tidal Wave. “I think one of the reasons that keeps popping up now is that, when we were younger and we would be out on the road, we had no ties to home,” Lazzara says. The idea of home transcended the lyrics, as the record was tracked in Charlotte, N.C., where both Nolan and Lazzara reside. “That was kind of like this constant anchor that was with us throughout that whole record, because it really did feel like home,” Lazzara says.
“Call Come Running” features Nolan’s 3-year-old son vocalizing the song’s refrain, adding another layer of intimacy to the record. While driving his son to school, the 3-year-old would ask to hear the demos that would eventually make up Tidal Wave. “That’s all he wanted to listen to—way more than I wanted to listen to [it],” Nolan laughs. “One night, I was putting him to bed, and usually, we sit outside his room for a little bit while he’s going to sleep. He was lying in bed singing the song as best as he could, and I just hit record on my phone and played it for everybody.” At that moment, Taking Back Sunday knew it had to be on the record, coinciding with a song mirroring the idea of consistently being there for a loved one. In this way, Taking Back Sunday’s home lives provide for them even while they are away, anchoring them to a solid frame that has allowed their success to break new barriers with every release.
Having their experience and depth in writing music and a solid, thematic foundation backing them, Tacking Back Sunday propelled these songs further than ever before. “Homecoming” is a song that the band are extremely proud of, bending it in different ways during recording. “We just kept pushing on that one,” Nolan explains. “It’d be like we’d get to a certain place—‘Okay, this is good, but it’s not quite there,’—and then, we would push it a little further. ‘It’s better, but it could still be better.’” The song illuminates a softer side of Tidal Wave, dressed with composure, acoustic guitars, and a steady crescendo of harmonized vocals amidst Lazzara’s reflections.
This is not the only soft, vulnerable place listeners will find Taking Back Sunday in. “I Felt It Too” is a shimmering track warmed by Lazzara’s crooning, which is delivered gently on top of delicately picked guitars. The quintet’s ability to decelerate in favor of dynamics makes Tidal Wave flow with a steady pace, like that of a good book. Taking Back Sunday also let their songs breathe more, ebbing like the natural flow of water. “Man, like that song, ‘You Can’t Look Back.’ When that one was coming together, we kind of had the music in the way it was going, and then, it got to that guitar break and that tone is just warm and nice,” Lazzara comments. That spot in the record exhibits Taking Back Sunday’s ability to maintain a specific balance in their songs, a place to drift to that feels like its own home amongst songs with soaring crashes on the perimeter.
Throughout the years, Taking Back Sunday have always provided listeners with introspective glances into their emotions. Songs like “We Don’t Go in There” offer the same definitive cry that Taking Back Sunday have woven into their sonic palette. A dark, minor key song haunts Lazzara while trying to find mutuality. “That song, lyrically for me, was just more about trying to really reach for common ground and being turned away at every point with someone else to the point where you just can’t do it anymore,” the vocalist explains. On Tidal Wave, Lazzara’s voice reaches heights that expands his range, specifically on the chorus of “Holy Water.” Lazzara’s emotions are pouring out alongside the words, “You should be happy, because you’ve got people that love you.” It’s a touching delivery that beckons listeners not to let their doubts and fears take over their lives.
Tidal Wave is aptly titled. Taking Back Sunday are unrelenting in their prowess for breaking boundaries with their music. It’s unfair to say the band have grown up or matured; instead, they have accepted a new path that pushed their songs to new heights. They even found a different way to express their mentality. “I think in the past, my instinct—for a song like ‘Fences’—for me would be to write about how shitty everything is and how sad I am about it,” Nolan states. “But with this, I tried to push myself in another direction lyrically and think about how shitty things are, but also very much looking for hope.” Nolan and Taking Back Sunday have often looked for someone to say, “It’s going to be okay,” but with Tidal Wave, they don’t need to ask that anymore.