Taking Back Sunday are truly a band that needs no introduction. Anyone who hasn’t heard of them till now has been living under a massive pop-music sized rock. They may not be your bread and butter, but the impact that they have had on both popular music and punk is undeniable. The band is going to be here this Sunday, May 14th, at the Fonda Theatre with a whole host of other incredible acts including Tenacious D, Anthrax, Velvet Revolver, Weird Al and Goldfinger for “Strange 80’s” — a benefit for Sweet Relief Musicians Fund.

Though the band is going to be performing a medley of 80’s hits covers, John Nolan and Adam Lazzara were gracious enough to speak with me about their career and back catalogue and I did my best to remain calm.

One thing I’ve really appreciated about the last couple times I have seen you, as well as what I have appreciated about TBS’s progression through your records is that you seem to always be including all your diverse musical interests in a more and more focused way. The self-titled felt like a natural joining of the WYWTB-NA more grandiose rock era with the post hardcore of TAYF. But since then, with Happiness Is and Tidal Wave, some of the influences from Straylight and Adam’s solo track have been creeping in. This is a long way of asking if you guys write with an intention of what a record may sound like or is it a reaction to the time in which you are writing? Is that gradual synthesis a natural, unconscious progression or is it more intentional as a way of treating your collective oeuvre with reverence?

John: We don’t really plan out what our records will sound like. Every time we go into the studio we try to challenge ourselves and also make something we enjoy playing and listening back to. I think with that approach it’s natural that things go in different directions from album to album.

Adam: I agree with this statement.

Speaking of which, John you’ve had a couple solo records and I’ve actually shot you a couple times during your stint with Geoff Rickley, but Adam any plans to expand on “Because it works?”

Adam: of course Its always in the back of my mind but unfortunately I’m not the best multi tasker so for now my focus is with the band.

And John, what’s it like for you playing Straylight songs occasionally with TBS? (I don’t know if you still do that—I’ve seen you guys do it the last couple times I’ve seen you play)

John: We haven’t done it in awhile but it’s always fun when we do. It’s cool to revisit Existentialism On Prom Night and put a different kind of spin on it.

What was the Taste of Chaos tour like for you guys? You’re in the curious position of being one of that crop’s brightest and most consistent bands, but also one that has kept that emo moniker at armslength.

John: That tour was a lot of fun. We’ve known so many people on that tour for so long but that was the first time we had a chance to do a full tour with them. It was a good mix of bands as well. I felt like we all had something in common but also each brought something unique to the shows.

What has your experience been as a professional musician? What kind of hardships did you have to face starting out that Sweet Relief is looking to ameliorate?

John: I didn’t have health insurance until about five or six years ago. So, for the years I was working to become a musician and the first seven or eight years of my career as a musician I was uninsured. I was fortunate enough to not have any serious medical issues during that time. If I had, I would’ve been in big trouble. I would’ve needed to rely on something like Sweet Relief to help me through.

Can you give any preview as to what songs you might be playing or covering at the event?

Adam: I’m not positive but I think it’s supposed to be a surprise, I can say they have been a joy to revisit and really pick apart.

John, you recently helped put out the Music for Everyone Compilation. This is something I’ve been asking a couple musicians I have talked to with more outspoken political leanings, and a question you’ve no doubt been asked a lot lately: does music, rock n roll music in particular (or even more specifically, punk, which you guys have participated in the collective history of) have a specific responsibility in the current political climate? Does it have the same power that it did back in its heydey? Can it again?

John: I think it’s a musicians responsibility to express what they feel. If what they feel relates to what’s happening in the world of politics then they need to express that. I don’t think there should be any divide between expressing something personal and expressing something political. To me they’re interchangeable. I think music has the same power now as it did in the past, I just don’t know if people are looking for music to fill the kind of role it once did. There are plenty of bands and songwriters that are making incredible, insightful statements about what’s happening in the world right now. It just seems like the majority of people are more interested in finding escape and distraction from current event in their music. The life changing music is still out there, it’s just a matter of when the majority of people are going to pay attention to it.

More info:

Official Website/
Sweet Relief Organization