For years now Taking Back Sunday have probably been your favourite band. Consistently releasing great records despite the many line-up changes and providing a source of happiness for fans across the globe, happiness is Taking Back Sunday. Killyourstereo.com caught up with John Nolan to discuss why the title of the new record nailed it.
‘Happiness Is,’ what do you think about it now that you can sit back and reflect?
I’m really proud of it, I think we made a good record, I feel really good about it, I can actually sit with it and appreciate it, which I think is nice.
It’s the second record since the reformation but it sounds to me like you got back into the swing of things and became comfortable again quite easily, is that accurate?
Yeah, I think the self-titled album and the two years of touring and constantly playing together really got us to a great point for when we went in to make this album. We had a better sense of what each person was doing when they would introduce a new idea and everyone knew how to work off of those ideas and I think that really comes through on the album.
It sounds to me like there are some moments on this record where you guys are branching out a bit.
It wasn’t necessarily conscious but I think there was a point in the process where we decided to see where things would go and not try to force stuff to stay in a certain mould or preconceived idea of what Taking Back Sunday is and can’t do. We didn’t really discuss that or make a plan to do it but we all went into it open minded and thinking let’s just see where things go and be open to it as opposed to keeping it within a boundary.
Do you personally fear falling into a musical rut?
Yeah, I do, I think we all do, and I think maybe without talking about it or thinking about it too much that is what drove us to be more open minded in the making of this record. None of us want to be one of those bands that just puts out the same record over and over again, I don’t really like that personally. My favourite bands are the ones that will push things in different directions with every album and I think that’s something we’re conscious of and that we want to avoid.
Are there any moments on this record in particular where you think you have achieved that?
It Takes More, that song is one of my favourite songs and favourite moments on that album, there is like this minute and a half after the song is over where it goes on this whole thing and that had a lot to do with our producer, Mike Sapone, kind of pushing us towards that. Every time one of us was ending our take he would say "keep playing, keep playing" and he would take all that stuff and put it together into this crazy outro thing and I think that is a cool moment I really enjoy it. Also the last song on the record, Nothing At All, is one of my favourites and also one that I think pushes the boundaries of what Taking Back Sunday can do or what people would expect to hear.
What is the general reaction to the record, from your experience?
I think it’s been good, from what I can tell. When we play the songs live it seems like there is a more immediate and positive reaction than there was on the self titled album. I also don’t dig too deep into what people are saying on the internet anymore, to some extent I’m wilfully ignorant.
I’m interested to know your thoughts on the TBS legacy. You have been around for a long time, your fans love you, you mean a lot to a lot of people, what does TBS mean to you and what do you think about all of that?
That’s kind of a big question.
Dude, it’s a huge question.
When I think about it, I have to think of the origins of the band and the early days of the band and the time I was away from the band, and all these different perspectives I have on the band kind of shape how I see it now. When we put out the first album it was just so crazy to me how much of a response it got from people. When we finished recording it, before we released it, we weren’t particularly happy with a lot of things on the record, we all kind of listened to it and thought "well, it’s alright, there is a lot of stuff that didn’t work out the way we wanted it to, hopefully we’ll do better next time," and we never thought for a second that hundreds of thousands of people were going to buy it and respond to it; let alone keep on responding to it for another ten years.
So I feel like that whole thing took me six or seven years to process, I think I was still processing it after I left the band, it’s such a strange thing to have people respond in such an unbelievable way when you don’t understand why exactly, and I still don’t understand why people have responded the way they do, but at this point, looking back on everything I think what we did with that album was put out something that was a snapshot of who we were, and how we felt right then, and I think ideally that is what every TBS album aims to be and that is how we look at it, every time you hear a record that is us right now, it’s what is happening in our lives, it’s how we feel and what we are thinking about and here it is. So to me that is really what it is to me, maybe it’s that simple.
It’s the TBS reality TV show in audio form.
(laughs) Yea,h that’s one way to put it.
We will, some things are in the works, not sure when but it will be in the not-too-distant future.
How do you brace yourself for a new record touring cycle mentally?
I’m still trying to figure out how to mentally prepare myself, my approach has just become "here we go" like you are jumping into freezing cold water, you can’t ease yourself into it you just dive in and deal with it.
You still love it though? The idea of what is about to happen excites you?
Yeah, I do, I love it, that’s why I do it, there is a lot of stuff that comes with promoting a record and touring that are not particularly fun for me but that hour and a half that we are on stage is always just like I can’t believe I get to do it, it’s the funnest thing ever, same with being in the studio and making the record, all of the other stuff you have to do. I look at it like, this is what you have to do to get on stage and play for people and do what you love and make records so it helps me get through the other stuff. If we do this we can have a lot of fun making music.
Can you still live comfortably and have a good life balance?
We’ve been fortunate in that respect, we all have families and we have to be away from home a lot, which is hard but at the same time we don’t have to come home and work another job to support ourselves we can do it just by making music, which is a really fortunate thing that we can still do that.