BY TARA SMITH
Taking Back Sunday returns to Patchogue Thursday night, headlining the first day of the Great South Bay Music Festival and kicking off their summer tour. Following the GSB Music Festival, the band heads to NYC to play two sold-out nights at Webster Hall before the iconic club and venue closes in August.
It’s a long way from where the five-piece band got their start, playing basements and VFW halls on Long Island before breaking through to huge success following the release of their debut album “Tell All Your Friends” in 2002. Members came and went, including guitarist John Nolan, who left in 2003 to form Straylight Run. Nolan returned to the band in 2010, and “Tidal Wave” marks the third consecutive album made with the same lineup. Their headlining night at the 2014 GSB Music Festival broke attendance records for the festival, held at Shorefront Park since 2006.
Last week, we spoke to Nolan about the new album, standing up to injustices and what Taking Back Sunday has come to mean to so many people.
How have fans been reacting to ‘Tidal Wave’ since it was released in September?
When we first put the album out, we played it from beginning to end on the tour we were on last fall, so we got to watch people learn the songs and really get to know the album live. It’s been cool to watch their reactions to [‘Tidal Wave’] develop. This will be our first U.S. tour with the album having been out there and people being familiar with it, so we’ll see.
What does the album represent where you guys are as a band?
We definitely pushed the boundaries in terms of what people expect to hear from Taking Back Sunday. We opened some doors to go in different directions, and I think it gives us room to go even further with the next one.
You guys are known for being leaders in that emo-punk movement of the early 2000s, but listening to ‘Tidal Wave’ shows more classic rock influences. Why?
There’s a moment in a band’s career where you can just keep putting out variations on the same album over and over again, or a time where you make a statement and say that every new album is going to be a new experience and this band is still invested in doing something new and exciting every time they put out an album. [‘Tidal Wave’] is our seventh album and we had a strong feeling that we wanted to keep pushing forward.
You guys have kids now. Has that changed the dynamics of the band at all?
Occasionally we’ll have a show on tour where most of us have their kids out and they’ll get to spend time together. It’s a lot of kids to all get together.
I think for all of us, the motivating thing about having kids is it makes you want to do better at everything and forces you to sort of analyze what you do a little bit more and want to improve at it. I think that’s all related to songwriting, both recording and playing live.
Earlier this year, you released a compilation album raising funds for the ACLU called ‘Music For Everyone.’ What inspired you to take action?
The election was the turning point. I’ve been a member of the ACLU and donated for years, but the election made me want to do something more.
It was definitely a contentious election year. There were times I had to stay off of social media.
People were arguing for their cause on the Internet — and I was doing it, too. It’s exhausting just watching it or being part of it. I got really fed up with that and decided that instead of putting energy into watching people argue online, I’m gonna go support something I believe in and put my time and energy into that.
Twenty-six artists, including Anti-Flag, Kevin Devine, Frank Iero, Modern Chemistry and Anthony Green, are featured on the album. Were you excited to see them get on board?
Anti-Flag was a big one, I was unsure if we could get them involved because we don’t have a lot of personal connection to them. I felt like getting them on board would help sort of legitimize it — they were one of the first ones who committed to the project. But all of the bands, everything on there is amazing and I was so happy that so many people wanted to get involved.
The Taking Back Sunday track on the album is an acoustic track called ‘Just a Man.’ Tell me about writing it.
It’s about coming to terms with this person in power who you just profoundly disagree with on every level. It’s hard to see anything positive in Donald Trump and it seems like he’s this unbelievably powerful person. To me, the song is about bringing him back down to earth and remembering that he’s not larger than life. He’s just another person and there are other people in government who can keep him in check.
Artists have been criticized for speaking out politically. Why do you disagree with that?
It’s a songwriter’s job to write about what they are experiencing, feeling and thinking. I don’t think it’s necessarily a musician’s responsibility to speak out and make political statements, but if that’s what they’re feeling, there’s no reason they should be trying to stop themselves from doing it.
What are you looking forward to about playing the Great South Bay Music Festival?
It was a really fun show last time, and it’s cool to play a festival on Long Island. It’s home. But now when we come through on tours, we usually play New York City rather than Long Island.
On the first day of college, I was nervous to meet my roommate. Relief ensued when we discovered we were both from Long Island and had an affinity for ‘hometown’ bands like you guys, Brand New, Envy on the Coast. Your music represents those years for so many of us. Is that a big weight to carry?
It really is such a cool thing how music can bring people together and how much it can embody a time in someone’s life. I think that to anybody that our music has helped define a part of their life or someone who maybe is relating to it right now, I’d want all of those people to know that that really means everything to us. We take that very seriously — it’s what made us want to be in a band in the first place.
Music changes your life and becomes so much of who you are. I’m amazed and thankful that we can be that for anyone else.
You’re still riding on the success of ‘Tidal Wave.’ Are you thinking ahead?
We think about one album into the future, so we’re starting to do a little bit of writing here and there. At the end of fall, touring will slow down and then we’ll kick the writing into high gear. One thing we know is we don’t have any intention of slowing down or breaking up. I feel like we have a lot of momentum and we want to keep that going.
Photo Caption: Taking Back Sunday is set to headline the Great South Bay Music Festival July 13.
Photo credit: Ryan Russell