Taking Back Sunday returns with softer side on new album, 'Happiness Is'

Taking Back Sunday, from left: bassist Shaun Cooper,

Taking Back Sunday, from left: bassist Shaun Cooper, singer Adam Lazzara, drummer Mark O'Connell, guitarist/singer John Nolan and guitarist Eddie Reyes, in 2013. (Credit: Natalie Escobedo)

Taking Back Sunday singer Adam Lazzara raises his pant leg to show the scar above his left ankle.

"I don't think that's ever going to go away," he says, running his finger across the scar, a reminder of his near-death experience and broken leg suffered while recording the band's new album. Luckily, the freak accident in 2012 -- when a cigarette break outside a Michigan recording studio resulted in the singer being trapped by a massive tree so heavy the fire department had to remove it -- has led to more positive things.

The band's sixth album, "Happiness Is . . ." (Hopeless), which hits stores Tuesday, marks several changes, some of which were, at least indirectly, caused by The Tree.

"On this record, we come the closest we ever have to writing a love song, where it doesn't have a mean twist to it -- actually two of them," Lazzara says, leaning back in his chair in the lobby of a Farmingdale hotel. "It's kind of showing up in that way."

Lazzara takes a moment to think, looking across the table at guitarist-singer John Nolan.

"I'm still processing it," Lazzara says. "There's actually been times when I tried to sit down and write about it, trying to find a poetic way to describe that situation. But I can't really. It's just so weird."

"Even though it's been a while, you're probably still processing it," Nolan tells Lazzara. "There's a lot to work through -- an awful lot of ins and outs there to think about."

"It's like God telling you to get it together," Lazzara says, just as guitarist Eddie Reyes comes over to the table to pat him on the back. "It's like he said, 'Hey, you're clearly not going to do this on your own.' . . . It made me a little less lazy. I feel a little more responsible. John, do you think I'm more responsible now?"

"Yes," Nolan says, laughing. "Much more."

The Tree, not to mention the struggles drummer Mark O'Connell and bassist Shaun Cooper had to deal with in their Long Beach homes after superstorm Sandy, has added a sense of urgency to a lot of Taking Back Sunday's decisions lately.

The driving force behind "Happiness Is . . ." became the band's desire to move forward. Though the band was happy to pay tribute to the 10th anniversary of its breakthrough album "Tell All Your Friends" last year, it also was ready to move ahead.

"We don't want to be the old guys who keep playing the same stuff," Lazzara says. "We don't want to be a nostalgia act."

"Happiness Is . . .", recorded in Michigan with producer Marc Jacob Hudson and in Bethpage with producer Mike Sapone, should take care of those worries. The first single, "Stood a Chance," features a new upbeat outlook, while "All the Way" moves the group into more beat-driven territory. "It's unlike anything we've ever done," Lazzara says of "All the Way." "I think that's why I love it so much. It's also more in line with the music I listen to."

"Happiness Is . . ." finds the band totally in control of its direction for the first time, since they recorded it without the help of any record label. When it came time to release it, the band decided it needed to sign with a label so people outside their established fan base might get to hear it. "We still want to grow our band," Lazzara says. "It takes an awful lot of people to do that."

They decided to go with Los Angeles indie label Hopeless Records, also home to fellow L.I. music scene vets Bayside.

From Hopeless Records' point of view, the decision to sign the band was a no-brainer. "We love Taking Back Sunday," says Eric Tobin, the label's vice president of business development. "Anyone who doesn't is crazy."

After years in Warner Bros. Records limbo, TBS is a priority once again. "Eddie says we're like the rescue dog that was maybe treated badly and a new family takes it in," Lazzara says. "That's us with Hopeless, they're the family that took us in."

So far, the new partnership is going well. "Stood a Chance" has been picked up by BBC1 and the band's co-headlining tour with The Used is pretty much sold out across the country, including three shows at Best Buy Theater in Manhattan.

Lazzara says after a tour of Europe and Singapore, the band will return to America to do its own tour this summer.

"We're so stoked about our new music," Lazzara says. "We can't wait to play it for people."

 

WHO Taking Back Sunday

WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. April 15, 16 and 21, Best Buy Theater, 1515 Broadway, Manhattan

INFO $32-$35; 888-929-7849, axs.com

 

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Taking a look back at TBS' singles

Taking Back Sunday's new single, "Stood a Chance," as well as its candy-colored video shot at Jam House Studios in Lindenhurst, shows the band at its liveliest in years. It also may be the Rockville Centre-based band's catchiest lead single. Here's a look back at its competition:

"Great Romances of the 20th Century"

ALBUM "Tell All Your Friends" (2002)

VIBE The band's brutally honest point of view, which became a hallmark of not only their lyrics but also much of the emo scene that followed, is on display, balanced by the power pop melody.

CHART PERFORMANCE N/A

 

"A Decade Under the Influence"

ALBUM "Where You Want to Be" (2004)

VIBE The band's turmoil spilled over into the song's angst and singer Adam Lazzara's screams of "I've got a bad feeling about this," but it only made the hooks seem stronger.

CHART PERFORMANCE No. 16 on the Modern Rock chart

 

"MakeDamnSure"

ALBUM "Louder Now" (2006)

VIBE The relationship angst may be the same as with the band's earlier work, but the musical setting is grander and even more potent, sturdy enough to stand up in the stadiums the band was playing at the time.

 

CHART PERFORMANCE No. 8, Modern Rock

"Sink Into Me"

ALBUM "New Again" (2009)

VIBE A surprising left turn for the band, it's built on changing rhythms, hand claps and churning guitar riffs. The tougher, edgier exterior protects an unconventional but sweet love song.

CHART PERFORMANCE No. 10, Modern Rock

 

"Faith (When I Let You Down)"

ALBUM "Taking Back Sunday" (2011)

VIBE A rock anthem for the reunited "Tell All Your Friends"-era lineup of the band, pledging support through good and bad times.

CHART PERFORMANCE N/A

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