By Jay Tilles
With Taking Back Sunday’s seventh album, fans are tasked with following the band on a new road, although not totally unfamiliar, Tidal Wave is an adventure both sonically and lyrically.
As frontman Adam Lazzara tells Radio.com, the band faced a fork in the road after seventeen years. Do they give fans the expected, or do they follow their hearts and produce an album that speaks about who they are as a band today? Lazzara not only describes the outcome of that decision but he treats fans to a little inside info by revealing some hidden Easter Eggs within the album.
Who’s the kid on your new vintage looking album cover?
The child is mine! That’s Asa Joe. My wife actually took that picture. We were kinda doing one of those bucket list trips like going to see the Grand Canyon. Well, we wanted to drive across the Florida Keys ’cause there’s that one long highway. We stopped on the side of the road just to get out of the car—cause it takes way longer than we thought it was going to—she snapped the photo. As we were listening back to everything toward the end of the recording process we noticed there were all these references to water, which was completely unintentional. That was right about the time she had taken that photo. And as far as the vintage feel, for us, we kinda feel like we captured this timeless quality that we’re constantly chasing. So we wanted the cover to reflect that. This could be something that came out three or four years ago or right now.
Did you bring any snacks in the car for your son to much on? Kids can get cranky on road trip unless you’re prepared.
Actually, he’s a pretty good traveler. But just as with any kid, when you’re in the car for any extended amount of time the threshold for just sitting there kind of dwindles.
Any significance to the number 152 up in the right hand corner of the album cover?
Yes. That number’s been on all of our records. I grew up in this small North Carolina called High Point, so no shows or anything would come through there so we’d have to drive north to Chapel Hill or south to Charlotte. Typically we’d go to Chapel Hill because it was closer.. and the halfway mark off of Interstate 85 there’s this exit 152 and that’s where we used to always stop. Gas was really cheap. If we had a group of people going out to the show we’d all meet there because it was central to everybody. So we put it on every record just as a nod to those friends and those people and that time. No matter how far we get away from each other it’s still important that they know they’re a big part of what brought us here.
Have fans sent you photos taken by the exit 152 sign?
It’s funny. I have this other buddy that lives up in Virginia now and he started putting stickers on the sign so every time you drive by it—cause I think other people that know about it have started doing it too—so the whole bottom half of the sign is just covered in stickers.
The album is called Tidal Wave and you launched it right before Hurricane Matthews threatened to bash the Southeast. Coincidence?
That was just some dumb timing I guess [laughs]. Just so we’re clear, Tidal Wave came first, not Hurricane Matthews.
You’ve said that you fall in love with songs that are right message for right time in your life. Is that true for this album?
Yeah, these songs are just a reflection—and I think for John too—a reflection of where we are now, kind of human journey. It’s our seventh record now and we can kind of look back on each one as a little snapshot of that time. It’s almost like a yearbook. So, yeah, I think Tidal Wave is a really good representation of where we everyone’s at, both lyrically and musically.
Did fatherhood inform any of your songwriting?
It definitely changed the way we approached writing just because it changed us as people. After having a child you don’t look at the world quite the same. So just by default, it’s going to change the way you write. You know a lot of people will try to compare the writing to our earlier records and the thing I always respond with is that, ‘well, when you’re eighteen you have a different set of issues that you’re deal with than when you’re twenty or twenty-two. Pretty much everything that’s in there [the album] is just a journal entry and it’s very autobiographical in that way.
There are so many musical influences on the album; punk, rockabilly, emo… You’ve melded the styles together really well.
Thank you. I think this is one of the first time that we’ve realized… we had a conversation going into the writing process and were like, look, this is our seventh record. Here’s what we could do. We felt we were at a fork in the road. We can go one way and that way would be the easy way and just write what people expect from us or we can write something that’s very true to the people that we are right now… not only in our lives but the music we’re listening to. And that’s the road we took and thankfully it’s been going really well cause the whole thing could have blown up in our face.
The song Fences is filled with so many emotions, from the highest of highest to lowest of lows. Do you ever find yourself battling emotions during the singing processes?
Yeah, that’s one the cooler challenges that I get to come up against when it comes to writing and singing ’cause it has to be done just right. But with that said, what right is could be different from everybody. But with that one, I think it’s kind of social commentary and looking at the world around you and just being confused by it. It like, things shouldn’t be this hard for me to understand right now. And I don’t know about you but that’s a lot of what my inner dialog is. This kind of manic—everything makes perfect sense—oh my God I don’t understand anything. Oh my God, what am I doing with my life. Those kind of opposite feelings.
It’s been seventeen years since you formed the band. Seven albums under your belt… This career must be a lot better than working in the deli where you were first employed.
It beats any other job. This is all I ever wanted to do. Thinking back about that time, I think we all hoped that it would work out but we all knew that it was a long shot. And I think that’s one of the things that so cool about being in the band right now. Everyone has the same goals. This is all we want to do… or it’s the thing that we’re most passionate about… when you’re thinking about your life’s work.. or you legacy. It just goes to show you that we’re five of the luckiest guys you’re ever gonna meet.
Are there any sonic Easter Eggs hidden in the album?
Oh yeah, there’s little sprinkles of it all over the album but I think one of the coolest ones is.. there’s a song on the record called “Call Come Runnin'”—at the end of that song our guitar play John’s son—you can hear him singing the chorus in the background and the story behind that is pretty cool. He would drive around in his car listening to the demos, and a lot of time his song would be in the car with him… so his son got pretty familiar with the songs. There was one night when he went to put him to bed and so he put him in his room and he closed the door and he was walking by his room five minutes later and heard him singing so he pulled out the voice recorder on his phone and held it to the crack in the door. So it’s his son lying in bed singing the chorus of that song. He played it for us the next day and we were like, alright, that’s got to be at the end of the song!
Tidal Wave is available now.