Taking Back Sunday

Taking Back Sunday

Taking Back Sunday were in Belgium this weekend and we had the pleasure of sitting down with bassist Shaun Cooper and drummer Mark O'Connell to discuss their latest album, being a part of the Hopeless Records family, George Michael dance parties, and more...

 

Your latest album “Happiness Is” is your first record on an independent label in about a decade. How was it different from releasing your previous albums via Warner Brothers?

Shaun: I think it’s been really good, especially internationally. We get to travel a lot more. Hopeless has people from the label in all parts of the world, so in Europe for example they have someone in Germany who covers just Germany. We’ve been able to go to Singapore and the Philippines since Hopeless put out this record, which was also really exciting. We’ve done the UK a lot and I think Warner was really good for that but we’ve been able to branch out a whole lot more now. And it’s been really good in the States too! Hopeless are really good with the viral marketing and made sure we got videos done before the record even came out. So it’s just been a really good experience!

 

You recorded this album without too much interference from the label?

Mark: There was no interference at all. We wrote and recorded the whole entire thing before they even heard a note and they were cool with that. We wanted it that way and they wanted to work with us knowing that. Hopeless made it clear they wanted to work with us and when we said we wanted to record this album on our own they just said “whatever, we’re cool with that. We just want to work with you.”

Shaun: The only discussion we had about the record and that has to do with any artistic direction was when we had a conference call. We basically just wanted to keep the album short, maybe about 9 songs or so, and Hopeless said all the other songs were really good too and we should probably put them on the album too. That is pretty rare because the label would usually try to keep it shorter. We were worried the album might not be as strong or potent if it was longer but they were just like: “No, it’s going to be great”.

Mark: This guy Eric actually wanted to keep the song “Stood A Chance” off the album and that was the one thing we disagreed on.

Shaun: Yeah, we had a different version that we weren’t happy with and we were able to rework it on Eric’s recommendation. In the end everyone’s really happy we kept it on there.

We feel like such lucky guys. You just can’t beat having that success with the band and a loving family back at home.

Shaun Cooper, Taking Back Sunday

Is less interference from the label one of the reasons “Happiness Is” seems to be such a personal album?

Shaun: I think a lot of that, the lyrics, just comes from John and Adam being in a place where they’re more comfortable sharing some details. I’m kind of speaking out of term because I’m not them, but I know it often takes a while for them to process an event that happens in their lives and so 5 years later they can write a song about it. They’re now like: “Okay that happened and it was a terrible thing, but now I understand all sides and I can put it in a song.” So I think what makes this record more personal is just that maturing as a songwriter and being more comfortable to share these experiences.

 

You’ve worked with Marc Hudson before and Mike Sapone did some pre-production for you guys in the past, but this was the first time Mike did the actual production of some of the songs. What was it like working with him this time around?

Mark: He’s the best. He’s a really great guy and he brings so much to the table without forcing anything. Working with him is like working with a friend, just trying different things. He’s really good with electronics and beats.

Shaun: And harmonies and vocal hooks as well. He’s all over the place! He’s a drummer, that’s his nature, so I think that gives him a really cool perspective to everything we do. He’s just a big, cuddly teddybear. We come from the same area and he recorded the “Tell All Your Friends” demos before we had a record label or anything, so he’s just been around forever. When Eddie was still with The Movielife he met Mike, so that was like 1997. They go way back.

Mark: We’re definitely going to work with him again. I can’t wait!

 

How do you feel the songs he produced are different from the songs Marc Hudson produced?

Shaun: Like Mark was saying you can hear those electronic elements and that’s just kind of the way it worked out. It seemed very natural. We demoed those tracks with Mike so it was only natural he would produce them too. For the rock-oriented basics we’d move more towards Marc Hudson but the stuff where we experimented a little bit more happened with Mike Sapone.

 

This is your second consecutive album with the “classic” line-up, yet it seems as though you were still feeling out the relationship with the self-titled album. Are we right to assume you kind of came into your own again with “Happiness Is”?

Mark: Absolutely, you said it. Spot on!

Shaun: Yeah when John and I came back to the band we started writing songs immediately. We didn’t have a lot of touring behind it or anything and we hadn’t even been playing together. It was very comfortable to write together because we understood each other and there were no arguments about the direction we wanted to take, but I think the comfort of playing and touring together for about 2.5 years before we got back to the studio this time felt really good and made for a stronger record.

 

We don’t go out to clubs or anything, we’re just 5 weird dudes dancing around to “Last Christmas” by George Michael.

Shaun Cooper, Taking Back Sunday

What is your favourite song off the album and why?

Mark: It switches. All in all though I think my favourite is probably “Flicker, Fade”.

Shaun: I like Better Homes And Gardens a lot! I remember the lyrics and the chorus immediately connected with me. I was kind of blown away the first time already and just seeing how the song evolved and changed and became what it is on the album makes me very proud of it. I didn’t expect it to come out as good as it did and it kind of blows me away.

Mark: I remember we did “Flicker, Fade” very early on. We just recorded a demo for it and I remember hearing Adam lay down the chorus and I walked up to him in the booth while he was singing. I just went like this: *wildly enthusiastic movements*. I just yelled “DO THAT, DO THAT, KEEP DOING THAT!”

 

What is your definition of happiness?

Mark: Family and friends.

Shaun: Yeah! When we are out here we miss our families back home. We’re always so happy to spend time with them and it’s hard to be away, but we’re also happy to be here doing this dream job. It’s unbelievable and really a dream come true. We feel like such lucky guys. You just can’t beat having that success with the band and a loving family back at home.

 

Can you describe both the best and worst moment you’ve experienced in all your years of being in a band?

Shaun: I think the best thing about the band is the longevity and the fact that we’re still here. I really thought that when “Tell All Your Friends” came out in March we would tour through the summer and then that would be it. We would go back to work or school and real life would continue. But this many years later we are still going and to me that is just the greatest achievement of the band; to still keep going and to still be expanding to new places and win over new people. As far as worst moment, I don’t even know if anyone wants to go there haha!

Mark: Yeah, there have been so many! We’ve experienced so many horrible things but the fact that all five of us are here right now is great. We’ve gotten past a lot of bullshit.

Shaun: You know, the best thing is that after all the bullshit we just laugh our asses off every day now. We really enjoy each other’s company and funny shit is just constantly happening to us.

Mark: Eddie is a riot. He has the ability to impersonate anyone, but it’s also little things. He will sometimes make fun of John because he has a shaky hand or something. He can cut you down in such a way that it’s always hysterical and you just have to laugh at it too because it’s so funny.

Shaun: It doesn’t sound that funny, I guess it’s one of those things where you just had to be there to find it funny. Eddie just has a lot of hidden talents! We can also just get on the bus and have a dance party. We don’t go out to clubs or anything, we’re just 5 weird dudes dancing around to “Last Christmas” by George Michael. We’ve been listening to that song almost every day because we’re weird like that!

 

Imagine only one band would be allowed to cover one of your songs. Which band and which song do you think it should be?

Shaun: If it can be any band I would like to hear Nirvana cover one of our songs. That would be ridiculous.

Mark: The obvious things come up, like the Beatles.

Shaun: The original line-up of Guns N’ Roses.

Mark: There you go!

Shaun: What would they do with “Flicker, Fade”?

Mark: *singing Flicker, Fade very loudly whilst hilariously impersonating Axl Rose*

Shaun: Yeah, Guns N’ Roses it is!

 

What do you still hope to achieve in the future?

Mark: Just to maintain I guess. To keep doing what we do.

Shaun: Yeah just putting out records that we’re really proud of and that people like so that they keep coming out to shows. Just keep trying to grow the band worldwide and be able to support our families constantly by doing what we love and by still having so much fun. And getting better and better would be nice too! We don’t want to repeat ourselves with the records. We want to keep things interesting and come up with new ideas. Onward and upward!

Mark: With this business you just never know what’s going to happen. You see bands that put an album out and they’re the biggest band in the world, but they can be gone in a flash too.

Shaun: Yeah, we always wonder if people are going to like our new music. Is anyone going to still care? We’ve been doing this for way too long already and we sometimes feel like we’re on borrowed time. It’s just constant fear!

Mark: You just can’t live in this fantasy world where you’re going to be like: “Oh we’ll do this and that forever.” You have to be realistic. That’s the problem with a lot of musicians these days. They spend all their money or something like that but they don’t really live in reality. You have to keep your head on straight. I’ve always done that.

Shaun: I think we’re all very aware of reality. We also know how lucky we are so every day it feels great that we get to keep doing this. But before every record comes out it’s just terrifying.

Mark: I would love to be bigger in Europe.

Shaun: Yes. It would be nice to have the following we have in the States. That would be amazing.

Mark: In the States we play to a couple thousand people. In some states we could play 3000-4000 capacity venues. So we do really well. If we could bring that over here that would be incredible.

Shaun: This is great too though and we appreciate everyone and we appreciate you guys taking the time to talk to us and promote us!

 

Talking about promotion; if you could promote only one band who would it be and why?

Shaun: I don’t know if they need it because they’ve put out a lot of records and play a lot of shows,  but I love The Menzingers. They are my favourite band. With every record they just keep getting better and better. I love all their records. I have a son that’s one year old and his favourite song is “I Don’t Want To Be An Asshole Anymore”. I don’t know if my in-laws like him dancing around to that song, but he loves it and I love it. I would love them to be the biggest band in the world because I want to keep getting their records until I’m old and grey.

Mark: The things that I’m listening to right now are just old bands. I’m listening to The Pogues a lot, so I’ll just give a shout out to the Pogues!

 

Thanks a lot guys!

 

Listen to Taking Back Sunday's new album "Happiness Is" below!

 

Taking Back Sunday
Taking Back Sunday are an alternative rock band originally formed in Long Island, New York in 1999. The band has gone through several lineup changes. Their first release came in 2001 with the Taking...

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