Despite the heights Taking Back Sunday scaled in their career, things have never quite been the same since founding guitarist and vocalist John Nolan departed acrimoniously with the band to pursue the experimental side of music with Straylight Run. Now the talented song-writer has returned to the fold, along with Straylight bassist Shaun Cooper, and the band dropped one of the most anticipated releases of the year just days ago. The ever humble and friendly Nolan had a chat to KYS to tell us all about reuniting with his friends, his solo work and what Taking Back Sunday has planned for the future.
I’ll start with the obvious question, why join Taking Back Sunday again after 8 years apart? What made you interested in playing these songs again?
There’s a lot of factors, you know, I don’t know if I could pin it down to just one thing. I’ll try to sum it up for you. In the last year leading up (to the reunion), my perspective started to change, with regard to everyone in the band and my relationship with them. Prior to that, I hadn’t really wanted to be in touch with Adam, and I still had a lot of negative feelings looking back on my experiences with the band. As time went on, I started to look back and think of all the fun we had and of the amazing experiences we had together. I don’t know if it was just getting older or if it’s just a time in my life or what it was, but I just started to think about those guys again for the first time, and miss them and kind of miss that camaraderie and that sense of family we had together.
And besides that, in the year leading up to getting back together with the band, I was doing a lot of solo touring, and they were pretty small shows. And I ended up meeting a lot of the fans and talking and hanging out after the shows. I started to realise that there are a lot of people out there who were fans Tell All Your Friends, who continued to be fans of Taking Back Sunday, and who are also fans of Straylight Run, and who are still now coming to my solo shows. I’d been meeting all these people who had been following what all of us are doing and who are totally into it. Just thinking about it like that changed my perspective a little, because in the past I had thought about our split from the band as if it had divided everybody, and you know, there were all these fans on both sides, who either hate me and Shaun, or who hate the rest of Taking Back Sunday. I started to realise that it’s not really like that, and that there are just people out there who really love the music we’ve all made and would really enjoy seeing us making music together again.
Have you thought about doing solo shows in Australia?
You know, I would love to, if the opportunity came up. So far it hasn’t come up though. I’d love to do it someday.
Who approached who first in the reunion? Did you just get a call out of the blue one day?
Basically, I got a call out of the blue from Mark, our drummer. Mark and I had kept in touch and we’d stayed pretty close over the years so it wasn’t crazy to hear from him, but as far as the idea of the band getting back together, that was completely out of the blue. After that first conversation with him about it, then I started reconnecting with Eddie and Adam. You know, I called them up and just started feeling it out, seeing what it was like to talk again, and seeing if everything was right for us to be working together, and if it would work. It just went from there.
Are you a big William Gibson fan? (Straylight Run is a reference from the William Gibson novel Neuromancer.)
No, that is actually from our drummer Will, that came from him. I’m not too big on the science fiction, I do like Kurt Vonnegut, he gets a bit science fictiony sometimes but that’s about as far as I go.
At recent Taking Back Sunday shows you have played Existentialism On Prom Night, which by the way is a amazing song,
Is that the only Straylight song you’ve played at Taking Back Sunday shows? Why did you choose that song in particular?
It is, yeah, so far the only one. That came from the other guys, as I wasn’t going to come into the band and say, ‘hey, you guys should play a Straylight Run song.’ They wanted to do it. I think it was to say to everybody, just to further show that the past is behind us, and that we all appreciate each other and support each other. I think they probably picked that song because that’s the one that people know the most. We wouldn’t want to pick a song that 95% of the crowd was like ‘what song is this.’
From the clips I saw it got a pretty good response.
Yeah, it did. It made me very happy, because I honestly wasn’t even sure that when we played Existentialism that anyone would be particularly excited to hear it, but people have been, so it’s cool.
There are several prominent guitar solos on the new record. Who played the solos – you or Eddie? Who tends to play more leads?
Well, I think I probably played most of them. Me and Eddie, as far as lead guitar stuff, we will both trade off and on with that. It’s hard to say, with regard to specific songs, I’m not sure which ones he did and which ones I did. I think in terms of what you’d call a solo, and not just a lead guitar part, I would have done most of it. I should probably be more aware of the parts that I play *laughs*.
How do you feel your guitar playing has developed or changed since your first record with Taking Back Sunday?
I think since the first album, I have become a lot more interested in playing melodies on the guitar. That has worked out very well for me on the new record, because a lot of the time, the riff part is something I’m just playing off of. I’ve gotten a lot more interested in playing parts that are melodic, and parts that have their own little hooks in them. Almost in a certain way, I’m less concerned with technical skill or writing something that’s hard to play, than I was, even back on the first album.
You explored more experimental music with Straylight Run. How have you settled back in to playing a more straight-forward style of music with Taking Back Sunday?
It was a cool thing to concentrate so much on just the song-writing aspect of the band. With this album we spent so much time developing the songs, and arranging them, and that was great. In the past with Straylight Run, I was so super conscious of the style and the sound of every song. I got a little too caught up with that, and a little taken away from just concentrating on a basic song and whether it was solidly written or not. It was a cool thing to really focus so much on song-writing and have that be the main thing.
The album has been finished for several months now, I don’t know if that’s just the standard pre-release lead-up for labels, but why the seemingly long delay between completion of the album and the release?
I think it was actually a normal amount of time between the completion of the album and the release. I think it was just that we were in the studio, getting so close to finishing the album for so long and keeping people updated on that, the whole process has seemed much longer. And also, there was so much anticipation, you know, going back over a year now, I think people have been anticipating the album so it makes it feel a little longer. But as far as being done with the album to when it came out, it was all the standard record label time that it usually takes to set up an album.
Do you see yourself playing in Taking Back Sunday for many years to come, or do you think the desire to play different styles may call again?
Well, at this point, we are looking at this as the beginning of something that we hope is going to be very long term, and we are already very excited about making another album. At this point, I feel like as long as people are interested in what we are doing, then we will keep doing it as long as possible. As far as doing different types of music and all that, I think I have a good outlet for that with what I do solo. I can use that to chase different ideas and sounds and try some different things.