An Interview with Taking Back Sunday: Happiness Is … The Holidays

With Taking Back Sunday’s rich and nostalgic history still resonating within today’s music scene through the impact they’ve made from timeless anthems like “You’re So Last Summer,” “MakeDamnSure” and “Cute Without The ‘E’ (Cut From The Team),” the band enjoyed another eventful year that consisted of traveling across the country and around the globe, the release of their sixth studio effort, Happiness Is…, on Hopeless Records, and sharing the stage with many influential musical icons at Riot Fest, including the likes of Weezer, The Cure, The Replacements and The Descendents.

By the time the band finishes their UK and European headlining tour, Taking Back Sunday will be coming back home to the States, just in time for the holidays. In celebration of another successful year, the band will be playing their first annual Holiday Spectacular shows that will be taking place at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, a longtime Garden State “home away from home” for these Long Island natives. After immediately selling out the first day, which will be featuring support from The Menzingers and Modern Chemistry, the band announced a second show by popular demand that also features opening support from Modern Baseball and Have Mercy.

Right before the beginning of the holiday season, I talked with vocalist Adam Lazzara about the surprises they have in store for their end-of-the-year festivities, Taking Back Sunday’s family-like relationship with both the Starland Ballroom and The Aquarian Weekly, and the band’s upcoming U.S. tour with The Menzingers and Letlive scheduled for next year. During our conversation, Lazzara also reflected back on the release of Happiness Is…, as well as the band’s greatest accomplishments of the year.

By the time you finish your tour in Europe and the United Kingdom, you’ll be coming back to the United States just in time for the holidays. With that being said, what are you looking forward to the most about your upcoming holiday shows in New Jersey?

Well first, we’ve been kind of kicking around the idea of trying to have some kind of “holiday show,” you know, that we could do every year, and then kind of bring in bands that we have been listening to and wouldn’t normally get a chance to tour with and just make an annual thing out of it, you know? So this will be the first try and all, but the responses to tickets sales have been going really good.

We’re pretty stoked just in general… and since it’s two nights in like, the same spot and right after the holidays, it kind of gives us an opportunity to do more than what we could normally do, you know, like, if we are on tour or something. On the Sunday before the second show, we’ll have kind of like a “swap meet,” I guess that’s what we’re calling it—we’ll have a bunch of older merch for sale during the day and also a bunch of local vendors and things like that, so we’re just trying to bring the community into it as well.

You’ve played a lot of memorable shows at Starland Ballroom over the years. Would you consider this venue in particular to be a second home for Taking Back Sunday?

Yeah… yeah, for sure. You know, over the years, we’ve been playing there [Starland Ballroom] for a while now. And as we’ve been coming through… it’s just always a guaranteed fun time, I think both for us and the crowd as well, just because we’re from Long Island, you know, which is close… I kind of consider it all to be in the same area. Being as it’s so close to home and just the whole staff there, they’re just all great, great folks.

Before you announced the second show with Modern Baseball and Have Mercy, did you anticipate for these shows the first date to sell out immediately from the beginning?

You know… I guess we hoped that it would (laughs). So I mean, with stuff like that, you never know how it could go, and we were just fortunate enough that our first show sold out fairly quickly. So then, it worked out great because not only did we add an extra show, but we also got to add other bands.

And that’s something that’s really important to us—with us, we’re really used to kind of just traveling in this packaged format, to where it’s the same bands every night as we go around the country or Europe or whatever. So, to be able play two nights in a place and have the lineup change, is just something that we’re really excited for because it’s folks that we believe in; and hopefully that would help them get in front of folks that they normally wouldn’t be able to get in front of.

Ultimately, what was The Aquarian Weekly’s role in helping you present this show together? Since you’ve been frequently published in The Aquarian Weekly, do you think that they are an appropriately fitting sponsor for this show as well?

Yeah man, we’ve been very fortunate that The Aquarian has supported us for years, you know—for like, countless years. So, to finally be able to put something together with everybody, it’s kind of like one of those things I was talking about earlier with trying to get more of the community involved as well—so it feels like more of a personable thing because that’s what it is for us.

But yeah, they’ve always been great to us. I even ran into some of the folks that got to Riot Fest and things like that, so it just kind of feels like an extended family for us really—like, with The Aquarian, Starland and everybody.

Awesome, that’s very exciting how two different groups of people unite together and become so close to each other over time. It’s definitely a genuine thing.

Yeah man, I think with the line of work that we’re in, it’s rare when you get to work with people that are genuinely great people, and that’s something over the years that we really try to surround ourselves with—as far as being with a label, or a crew on the road—and this is just another extension of that.

Now, as far as the live show goes, what should fans expect from your upcoming holiday shows?

Yeah, I think it’s going to be really rad because we’ll have a lot more freedom, you know? The last big tour that we did was with The Used, and both of our set times were the same every night—you know, between The Used and us. So with this, we get the opportunity to play more of the obscure songs from our catalog. There will be a lot of that and then, of course, we’ll play until nobody wants us to play anymore (laughs).

After releasing Happiness Is… earlier in the year, how have fans reacted to hearing these songs live since March? Was it a slow process for fans to adjust to the direction of this record compared to your last release?

For us, I think the songs that were released first from the record got a pretty immediate response despite crowd reactions and things like that when we would play them live. We haven’t really had a chance with our touring to really dive into that record.

As far as what I’ve come across from folks, you know, I’m pleased with the response that it’s gotten. I mean, we put everything we had into it and there wasn’t any outside say or anything, so it’s really just the five of us, and yes, I couldn’t be any happier with how the folks are responding to it.

With that being said, looking back on this entire year, what would you say is one of the biggest accomplishments that Taking Back Sunday has achieved in 2014?

Man, it’s really hard to pinpoint just one, you know—there’s been a lot that’s happened this year. I mean, I would say just seeing the record coming out was a huge thing for us. Well, because when we started writing it and when we started recording it, we didn’t have a label at the time or anything, so we didn’t know what was going to happen.

But the Riot Fest in Chicago was really something else because it was a whole lot of people. Like, it just kind of looked like a painting that someone hung in front of us, you know. The crowd was so large, so that’s something that I think I’m never going to forget.

Wow, that must have been incredible. I follow guitarist Eddie Reyes on Instagram and I saw pictures that he posted from Riot Fest of him watching The Descendents from back stage and also your band’s gear next to The Cure’s equipment; that must have been quite a sight.

Yeah, it was pretty crazy. Actually, Eddie and I earlier in the day, we went over to The Cure’s stage because Lucero playing, so we went over to see them. As we were standing over there on the stage watching Lucero play, we were surrounded by all of The Cure’s backline. And then, just to see their names spray-painted on that stuff is pretty crazy because it’s like, who would have thought… Like, if you [would have told] my teenage self that was something that I was going to be doing when I was a little bit older, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Well after New Year’s, you’ll be back on the road venturing across the states alongside The Menzingers and Letlive. You’ve obviously established a great relationship with The Menzingers after sharing the stage with them on many occasions, but how did you guys come across Letlive?

Well, we had played some festival shows with them and we’re just fans of their band. So, when it came time for this tour, we figured we’d ask, you know, to see if they would be available, and luckily, they said yes. That, and they’re pretty great to watch live.

When I first discovered Letlive around the time when they put out Fake History, I felt as if Jason Butler [Letlive vocalist] embodied the spirit of Daryl Palumbo [GlassJaw vocalist] as a singer and a performer. Did you also make this connection when you first discovered the band?

I wouldn’t really say that, you know? Just because I think that there’s… I think that they are kind of two separate. It’s more like, they do have maybe similar styles as far as like, how they’ll choose to approach the melodies or when switching to the screams or whatever. But on stage, it’s hard to compare the two. I think Jason Butler, the singer of Letlive, approaches it more with a reckless abandonment than Daryl Palumbo does. But yeah, that’s something you’re going to have to see for yourself, you know? Everybody takes that stuff differently.

I read that you, The Menzingers and Letlive are going to be playing at the Atlantic City Beer and Music Festival as well on this upcoming tour. How were you approached with the opportunity to be a part of this festival?

That was one of those things where they gave us a call and it worked out (laughs). With a lot of that stuff, we’ve come across a lot of great opportunities just by… I don’t know, being at the right place at the right time, and that was one of those things.

Would you say that this festival would be anything different than what you normally play?

I mean, as far as on our end, we don’t approach it like, “Okay, we’re playing a beer festival,” so we have to act differently, you know? We just get out there and try to give the best show that we can. I guess one of the benefits of playing a beer festival is that you play late enough in the day, then everybody leaves thinking you sound just great because you get to drink beer all day (laughs). So, maybe we’ll be playing later in the day and maybe we’ll have that going for us.

Normally, I like to close out my interviews by asking something along the lines of, “What kind of future plans do you have next?” But since we’re getting close to the holidays, do you have any resolutions for the new year ahead?

Well, as far as resolutions go, I remember when I was younger, I’d said like, “Oh, I’m going to lose weight,” or, “I’m going to build a house with my hands” or something. But now it’s just more of a general blanket resolution to just be better, you know? Like, that’s kind of the running motto now because you can still apply that to a lot of different aspects of your life.

Taking Back Sunday will be playing their first annual Holiday Spectacular, presented by The Aquarian Weekly, at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ on Dec. 27 and 28. They will return in the spring to play at the Best Buy Theater in NYC on March 18, the Atlantic City Beer Fest on March 20, the Electric Factory in Philadelphia on March 21, and The Paramount in Huntington, NY on March 24. Happiness Is… is available now on Hopeless Records. For more information, go to