Earlier this year emo-punk stalwart Taking Back Sunday released its sixth album and second since reuniting the original 2002 lineup. The album, “Happiness Is,” is a mature collection with singer Adam Lazzara - a High Point-native who now lives in NoDa with his wife and young sons - opening up lyrically in a detailed, personal, yet universal way.
On Wednesday Taking Back Sunday ends the current leg of its tour at The Fillmore, which means transplants Lazzara and John Nolan (guitar) will get to spend Halloween and Thanksgiving at home with their families before heading to Europe. Lazzara spoke to The Observer Tuesday from Canada about the new album, being away, and his adopted home.
Q. This album seems pretty frank and personal. Do you consider it more so than usual and, if so, how did you delve deeper?
A. There’s always that voice in your head or that little editor inside me that says, “Oh maybe we shouldn’t be talking about this?” With “Happiness Is” (the goal) was just write. Once everything is down on tape then start to deal with that then. I think with all my favorite bands, artists or writers, they’re always just very honest and I want to try to maintain that too. With this record there was a conscious effort to not mask things as much. I love playing with words, but I wanted to make sure I played with words in a more simple way. I used to think to get a point or feeling across you needed to have the subject matter cloaked, just vague. So with this one we’ll try to be very direct. Hey, here’s how I feel or here’s what happened and see how folks relate to it.
Q. There are themes of growing older and gaining perspective. As a band are you all in the same place where you could relate when you’re writing?
A. We all have very young families so I think that attributes to the subject matter.
Q. This is the second album back with the original group. Was it different making this one compared to the honeymoon phase or getting to know each other again on the self-titled record?
A. John was living in Kansas and once we started reconnecting he’d come to visit and we’d write and then they moved out there. It brought us closer both just as friends and with where we live in a physical sense. With the self-titled record that’s kind of like what that was. We were reconnecting and relearning how everyone worked. With “Happiness Is” everyone knew how to work with one another, when to lean on someone and when not to. It was more of a laid back process than to any of the records we’d done.
Q. The band was originally all based out of New York. Does it feel like a hometown show when you play Charlotte?
A. It’s starting to now. It didn’t feel that way for a long time. It’s a really funny thing. I felt for a long time like, I’m from here. I don’t know why nobody likes us here. It’s starting to grow over the years. When we play there family and friends are there. It feels like a hometown show in that sense. It feels like there’s a lot more urgency to make it more of a hometown show for us.
Q. I remember you telling me at one point a while back you thought the Fillmore was too big.
A. There’s that worry of what if nobody comes to see us and I live here? It’s funny with the perception people have. They think, you’re in this rock band and tour all over and you’re a huge guy and you never worry about it. I think about it.
Q. Does living in a city that’s not a “music city” offer anonymity?
A. With the friends we’ve made everyone is very creative. So it’s not a big deal. These guys write songs and that guy paints and that guy makes movies. It’s just a communal appreciation for one another. Being in Charlotte too, unless we’re at a show, I can just be a guy.
Q. Tell me about the USO shows you did. I thought it was interesting you’ve done the USO shows, because I would imagine a lot those soldiers appreciate heavier rock music and something that’s more current when we hear about older artists going over.
A. We did it through Navy Entertainment. We’ve done all over Europe and Dijibouti and Kuwait - these places you see on the news. (The song) “We Were Younger Then” - that’s what that was based around. We were in Bahrain. When you play those shows there’s a lot of folks that don’t necessarily know or haven’t heard of your band. It’s more of trying to give them a feeling of home. I don’t know how they do it. They’ll be out from nine months to a year and a half. I have so much respect for them. We’ll complain about being gone from home on tour, but now that we’ve had that experience we think twice before we complain. It takes a strong person to do that. We were in Portland the other day and there was a guy with one of the opening bands and he came up to me and said, “I was in Kuwait not too long ago and you guys came there and played. I just wanted to thank you for that.” I immediately went into, “Thank you. I don’t know how you did it.” It was a pretty cool thing.
Q. Do you feel like Charlotte is home now?
A. I do. Which is funny too. When I left North Carolina to join the band I always said I’m never coming back here. Now I’m back. It does feel like home. Just even the way people talk. It feels right.
Q. You released a solo track last winter that’s got acoustic guitar and harmonica. Being in a heavy rock band fans have expectations, is there a desire to make a different kind of music?
A. That’s what I like, loud rock n’ roll music. It works out, but there’s layers to everything. There’s oftentimes where I’d much rather play very gently. That’s where that other song came from. It’s actually cool how the whole thing worked out. We made a quick video for it. Shamus Coneys lives in the neighborhood. He makes great videos and films. We were talking in the backyard one day. I said, “Hey would you want to make a video for me?” Our friend (visual artist) Will Puckett, his family has this veterinary hospital right outside of town. We went out on there on their land and filmed it at 6 in the morning. It was a big communal Charlotte thing.
Q. Is your family still in NC?
A. My dad’s still in High Point. Mom’s in Winston-Salem. (My wife) is one of seven. Her mom is there right around the corner. Her sister and two of her brothers live here. They’ve all been migrating.
Q. You’ve been gone a lot with this tour. I saw you were overseas when your son started kindergarten. Is it different touring now with a family back home?
A. I remember the days where I’d tell our management and our agent, we don’t care if we’re home, keep us working. Now it just gets harder and harder to leave. You know, I don’t want to do anything to hurt my kids. Luckily the flipside of that is when I get home I can just be with them the whole time. I look at it if I worked a normal job or a nine to five I’d only see them for an hour or two in the morning and an hour or two at night.
Q. It’s good her family is here for when you’re gone. Raising two little ones alone could be really hard. I’d never get the dishes done.
A. I couldn’t imagine life not having them around or even having my folks not far. It definitely gets tough. I start to feel like the worst guy for being gone, so that helps.
(Photo by Natalie Escobedo. Left to right: Bassist Shaun Cooper, Lazzara, guitarists Eddie Reyes and John Nolan, and drummer Mark O'Connell).