Interview: Taking Back Sunday celebrate 20 years

Lead singer Adam Lazzara looks back on the band's two-decade-long career.

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Let us take you back to 1999. Tony Blair was the UK’s prime minister, The Matrix topped box offices around the globe and had everyone wondering if they were living in a simulation, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the iPhone didn’t exist yet, and in Long Island, New York, a bunch of teenagers started a band that would change their lives.

Although forming in 1999, it was 2001 when things really started to come together for Taking Back Sunday. Adam Lazzara, who’d moved halfway across the country to join the group as a bassist, replaced the band’s original singer on lead vocal duties and found his calling.

With Lazzara’s unique vocal talents and captivating stage presence, Taking Back Sunday quickly grew into one of the biggest US rock bands of the early noughties. Their 2002 debut album Tell All Your Friends and its follow up Where You Want To Be are considered classics of the genre, and their major label debut Louder Now earned the band mainstream credibility, peaking at No.2 on the US Albums Chart.

Taking Back Sunday - Cute Without the "E" (Cut From the Team)

Since Louder Now, the band have released four more studio albums; 2009’s New Again, 2011’s Taking Back Sunday, 2014’s Happiness Is and 2017’s Tidal Wave. 

In January this year, the New York rockers released Twenty, a retrospective featuring 19 of their favourite and biggest hits from their 20-year career, alongside two new songs.

Taking Back Sunday are in the middle of a worldwide tour to celebrate the release, which rolls into the UK this June and sees the band play Tell All Your Friends in its entirety.

Ahead of the gigs, we spoke to the band’s frontman Adam Lazzara to discuss the tour, the band’s love of the UK, and what he’d bring back from 1999.

Congratulations on your 20th anniversary! Can you believe it’s been this long? 

It’s a really crazy thing. When we started putting together this tour and when we started putting together the tracklisting for the Twenty compilation album, when anyone ever said that it’s been 20 years my first inclination was to argue with them that it hasn’t been that long!

Going back through this catalogue of music, I’m just really proud of everything we’ve accomplished and I just think we’re the luckiest guys to still be in a position to play music for people.

How much are you looking forward to bringing the Twenty tour to the UK?

We’re super excited. This is the first year that we’ve had everything planned out, so we’ve kind of known what we have to look forward to from January to December. We started in Australia, then made our way to Asia and we’ve just recently finished the West Coast of the United States and Canada. So you guys are up next!

Taking Back Sunday - MakeDamnSure

What can fans expect?

We’re going to be doing a much longer show than we normally put on. We’re playing our first record Tell All Your Friends in full and then we’ll play as many songs as we can fit in before we have to leave.

What has the process of going through and practising the older songs been like? 

What surprised me the most going back through some of the older stuff and relearning to play it as a band is that the songs took on this completely new meaning. You’re looking at them through a different filter now because your life has changed a lot since they were written. I think that’s an amazing thing about art in general, depending on what time in your life you’re looking at it, it can mean different things to you.

If aliens landed on this planet and you could play them one Taking Back Sunday album to show them what the band is all about, what would you play them?

Oh man, it’s too hard to pick just one. We’ve done a lot of different things over the years. One of the things that makes me most proud is that we really did stay true to the people we were at the time of making each particular record. It’s almost like looking through a school yearbook. I feel like there’s a lot of times when people expect you do a certain thing, but we always just went with our guts. I can’t decide, it’s too hard to pick just one!

Taking Back Sunday - Tidal Wave (Official Music Video)

You’ve been coming here on tour for most of the past 20 years, how much does the UK mean to Taking Back Sunday?

It’s been incredible. From the first time we were able to go there, it’s felt like a second home to us. The shows we play in New York feel very similar to the shows that we play in London. For us, to be all that way from home, and have people there all getting lost at the same time in front of the same thing, that’s always been very special to us.

Are there any shows that you’ve played that hold a special place in your heart?

Anytime we’ve gotten to play Reading and Leeds. That festival has always blown us away. There are so many people there and the line up is always great.

The first time we played there The Darkness were headlining, and they’d cleared out the dressing room area, but we’d been wandering around the festival grounds and didn’t know that. So we go backstage and we’re wondering where everyone is. We peer through the side of the stage to watch them and then all of a sudden all these explosions go off and we freak out. We look up and all these fireworks are going off right in the area we’re not supposed to be in. It was both terrifying and wonderful all at the same time.

What, if anything, would you bring back from 1999?

The reckless abandon that I had as a younger man.

Have you got any advice to a band who are just starting to break through?

I would tell them just to be cool. Everything is going to be alright. There was a lot of times where we would overreact and think everything was over when one little thing would go wrong. Looking back over the years it’s not those small setbacks that you tend to remember, it’s the accomplishments. Don’t be easily discouraged.

What’s next for the band?

Right now we’re just taking it as it comes. This year we want to just celebrate the 20 years that we’ve been fortunate enough to have, and what better way to do it than to just go and visit all the people that made it possible?

Then when the year’s over, I assume we’ll get together and start to write again.

Here are Taking Back Sunday’s upcoming UK dates:

13 June 2019 – O2 Institute Birmingham
14 June 2019 – SWG3, Glasgow
15 June 2019 – The Limelight, Belfast
18 June 2019 – Troxy, London
19 June 2019 – Manchester Academy
20 June 2019 – O2 Academy Bristol

Last remaining tickets for the tour are available now through