Every fan of Taking Back Sunday can pinpoint where they were when they first heard the music that changed their life. For me, it was in my boyfriend’s car at the tender age of 16. “Cute Without The ‘E’ (Cut From The Team)” came on, and nothing would be the same after.

Over a decade later, I got the opportunity to interview Adam Lazzara, Taking Back Sunday’s lead singer, whose tortured delivery, personal lyrics, and rock star swagger made me want to write about music and spend every night going to shows.

I found out, however, that behind that seemingly unshakeable confidence and undeniable talent is just a man who loves making music and is still happy that others enjoy what he creates. A man who balks at the idea of being a role model and hopes he doesn’t let anyone down. A man who doesn’t know what the future holds but is happy with how the present is shaking out.

Lazarra spoke with me about Taking Back Sunday’s upcoming tour to promote the re-release of last year’s Happiness Is…, his iconic role in the music scene (spoiler alert: he is still getting used to the idea), and much more.

You and Taking Back Sunday made me fall in love with music, and I’ve been writing about it for years, so this is a very cool moment in my life.

Oh dang, I hope I don’t let you down.

You won’t! Last week, I went to an event that’s very popular here in LA. It’s called “Taking Back Tuesday.

Oh yeah…

You’ve heard of it? Hundreds of people got together, and Mark Hoppus was the guest DJ that night. The line to get in was six blocks long, and after waiting, we all scream/sang to your music for hours. How does it feel to know that people just want to get together and sing along to your music, that it creates that sort of connection?

Well, when you put it like that, I think it’s a pretty amazing thing. To think there is a night where there is a DJ just spinning your record and a large group of people enjoying it. I can’t quite get my head around the whole thing, to be honest.

It makes me worry a little bit because I worry about being looked at as a nostalgia act, you know? So that always creeps into my mind. I have some friends that were there who called and texted me to tell me about it. It’s really hard to get my head around. I didn’t ever think that our music would have that impact on people, so it’s a real nice thing. It’s kind of a validation.

“Nostalgia act” definitely gets thrown around a lot with Taking Back Sunday. You did a ten-year-anniversary tour for Tell All Your Friends, and several other bands have done ten-year-anniversary tours as well (Jimmy Eat World, Say Anything, Yellowcard, Motion City Soundtrack).

So many of my friends would say, “Oh, you’re going to see them? I didn’t know they were still around!” and I’d respond, “They are, and they’re still great!” I know you’ve said the idea of an “emo revival” isn’t accurate because emo never really went away. How do you react to that “nostalgia act” syndrome?

Well, for me, first off, that word “emo” is something that, and I’ve said this before, it’s this word that people used to make fun of their friends, and then one day, people started claiming it and calling themselves that. People were proud of it. I know the scene we are associated with and grew up in, but I never grew up thinking we were an “emo” band, so I guess that whole revival thing is just ridiculous.

I think it’s taking a bunch of bands and musicians who put in a lot of work and pigeonholing them into this one category. When you pigeonhole something, it doesn’t give the bands room… it might hinder their reach, you know?

Absolutely. If you label something “emo,” it might keep people from listening to it, and then you have to explain, “No, wait, give this a chance. It’s not necessarily ’emo’ music…”

Yeah. The bottom line for me is that if it’s leading people towards our band and what we’ve made, then great. Call it whatever you want because that’s always been our goal, to reach as many people as we can. One of the whole reasons we do it is to give back to somebody what some of our favorite bands and artists have given us, so I guess that’s what I think about it.

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Band photos by: Ryan Russell

I think you do a good job of doing that. So many of your songs have helped me through difficult times, whether that’s breaking up with someone or doubting myself. When you are experiencing something difficult, do you immediately turn to writing songs? It seems like great therapy.

Well, first off, thanks for saying that. For me, when I’m going through something, I’ll write about it, but it’s never with the intention of putting it in a song, although I do know in the back of my mind that’ll happen somewhere at some point.

It’s more like what you said. It helps me to get through it. I’ve been doing that since I was a young teenager. I was the kid who watched Basketball Diaries and started walking around with a notebook. It’s something that I’ve always done, and it happens that I have that outlet where I can get it out.

But sitting down to write a song about something that is actually happening… I’ve heard some people do that and they’re really great at it. I’m not very good at that. I need some distance from something before I can look at it objectively and make sense out of it.

Speaking of writing songs, Happiness Is… was such a strong record and showcased a lot of maturity, like you writing from the perspective of being a father. What made you decide to re-release it? I know you’ve said you don’t like trying to make fans buy the same thing twice, so were there just more songs you wanted to share this time around?

Yeah, we had all these songs when we went in to record and we recorded them, but when it came time to sequence the record and decide what songs go where, we had a hard time with it. We didn’t want to overstay our welcome. We didn’t want people to get bored because it’s too long. We ended up cutting songs and putting songs back in and switching things around. Now it’s finally ready for anyone who cares to listen to the whole body of work.

I also think it’s cool because there was a lot of attention to detail. It goes along with not trying to dupe someone into buying the same thing twice. Each different 7” has its own cover, and it comes in its own little box.

Also, some of the songs started out as sparse acoustic songs. John and I went back in and recorded acoustic versions of those songs so people could hear them closer to their original forms because I always like that. All my favorite bands, I’m looking for that kind of stuff.

I just think we made this really cool thing, and I hope people check it out. If not, that’s fine, too, because I get a copy for free.

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Up next: Adam assures Mary she isn’t being weird…