This year marks 20 years since Taking Back Sunday formed in Amityville, New York. The two decades have seen several band members leave, and, in 2010, a pair of them (guitarist John Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper) return. Through it all, the group has continued to release albums and outgrow an original affiliation with the emo scene to reach a point where the band now seems positioned to have a solid career for years to come.
Perhaps the most rewarding part of attaining this milestone is that the group, who recently released a best-of album, 20, enters their third decade with a greater sense of confidence and musical freedom than at any time in their career.
"I think when the band started, everybody's goals were all over the place, but we were kind of bound together by the idea that we knew we wanted to be in a band and we wanted that to be our career," Nolan says. "We just wanted to make it."
In returning to the band in 2010, Nolan admits Taking Back Sunday initially felt they needed to prove that they were as good as ever, but that has since changed.
"I think somewhere in the process of [the 2014 album] Happiness Is and Tidal Wave [in 2016]," Nolan says, "the focus has sort of shifted toward ... what can we do that is going to be exciting to us, and sort of moving away from the idea of proving anything or wondering what the reaction might be."
Founded by guitarist Eddie Reyes, Taking Back Sunday cycled through a few early lineups before solidifying with the additions of Nolan, and in 2001, singer Adam Lazzara, drummer Mark O'Connell and Cooper.
This lineup released their 2002 debut, Tell All Your Friends, now considered a classic of the emo genre. The album spent 78 weeks on Billboard magazine's Independent Album chart, and Taking Back Sunday saw its audience grow rapidly as Tell All Your Friends gained steam.
But after a year of touring the album, Nolan (who was Lazzara's main songwriting collaborator) and Cooper left the band, having found it difficult to deal with the whirlwind of success and the strain of touring.
Taking Back Sunday, though, moved on, releasing three more albums – Where You Want to Be (2004), Louder Now (2006) and New Again (2009) – before tensions within the band led to an invitation for Nolan and Cooper to rejoin, restoring the group to its Tell All Your Friends lineup.
Over the course of the three albums released since the return of Nolan and Cooper, Taking Back Sunday's sound has evolved into a fairly timeless brand of melodic guitar rock and doesn't belong to emo or any other sub-genre. In Nolan's view, Taking Back Sunday never belonged in the emo scene in the first place and their goal now is simply to make great rock records.
"To us, we didn't feel particularly tied to [emo]," Nolan says. "It was just sort of the music that influenced us, and yeah, it connects us to this scene. But it's not an important part of who we are."
The group, though, will make their next batch of music without founding member Reyes. He left Taking Back Sunday in March 2018 and has since started a new band, Fate's Got a Driver. Longtime touring guitarist Nathan Cogan has filled Reyes' slot.
With Cogan in tow, the band is promoting the 20 album, which does a fine job of touching on all Taking Back Sunday's albums. But the setlist for the 20th anniversary tour will not mirror the track list of 20. Instead, the group is playing Tell All Your Friends in its entirety plus a selection of other songs on every date of the tour.
In cities where there are two shows – like Orlando – the group on the second night will play either the Where You Want To Be or Louder Now album instead of the debut album, Nolan says. "There were a lot of songs from Where You Want To Be and Louder Now that we'd never played live and [that] people have asked about. It felt like doing all three albums would be a lot more of an interesting and exciting thing."
– This story appeared in the Oct. 8, 2019, print issue of Orlando Weekly. Stay on top of Central Florida news and views with our weekly Headlines newsletter.
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