Taking Back Sunday
Long Island NY | Alternative
"Sometimes it takes some time to remember where you were headed in the first place and the people you intended to go there with..." -- Taking Back Sunday
This is the record that a lot of people never thought would happen: A brand new Taking Back Sunday album that features the same line-up as the band's platinum-selling 2002 debut Tell All Your Friends. Although the players here -- frontman Adam Lazzara, guitarists Eddie Reyes and John Nolan, drummer Mark O'Connell and bassist Shaun Cooper -- are the same, it's important to point out that this album isn't a sequel to this band's debut as much as it is the beginning of a new chapter of innovation and productivity from this celebrated Long Island rock act.
"When I listen to a song like 'Sad Savior' or 'Who Are You Anyway?' it's evident that this record isn't true to any scene or genre," Lazzara responds when asked what aspect of Taking Back Sunday he's most proud of. Nolan -- who left Taking Back Sunday alongside Cooper in 2003 -- echoes this sentiment, adding "I can't imagine us having written this album after Tell All Your Friends," explains Nolan. "It doesn't feel like the follow-up up to that album and we definitely wouldn't have been able to bring these songs to life if we hadn't gone through all the experiences that we've all been through during the past seven years."
Since the release of Tell All Your Friends, Taking Back Sunday has released three more studio albums, which have sold over two million copies, headlined arenas, toured multiple times in amphitheaters with bands such as Linkin Park, Weezer and Blink-182, and shared Festival Stages with the likes of The Police, The Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead and Phoenix. In August of 2011 they will perform on the main stage at Reading and Leeds festivals for the fourth time. Cooper and Nolan, meanwhile, went on to form critically-acclaimed band Straylight Run, who in 2007 released The Needles The Space on Universal Republic Records, headlined Warped Tour and performed on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. However, all of the members admit that there is a certain chemistry that only exists when these five musicians are together in the same room.
What began with the simple idea of all five members coming together at the Sonic Ranch in the border town of Tornillo, Texas (near El Paso), last year quickly resulted in a sonic windfall that saw the band writing nearly a dozen songs -- and from there Taking Back Sunday never looked back. "The whole experience of us getting back together was really freeing," Lazzara explains. "We went into all of this knowing that our music didn't have to sound a certain way, so we just decided to see what happens and this is what came of it." Nolan adds, "I think we all knew that we had to take this band to a place where it hadn't been before for it to really work; it couldn't all be about nostalgia."
After two more writing sessions at the Sonic Ranch and a stint in Seattle at the Robert Lang Studios, the band reconvened in Los Angeles with Eric Valentine (who produced their 2006 album Louder Now as well as albums by Queens Of The Stone Age and The All-American Rejects) in late August to begin work on the band's self-titled album, taking periodic breaks to incorporate the new songs that continued to pour out of their collaborative efforts. "I like to think of Eric as a rocket scientist because he's so skilled when it comes to production," Lazzara explains. "He spent so much time making sure everything sounded perfect and each track's personality really got to shine."
Undeniably Taking Back Sunday's most varied record, Taking Back Sunday is also their most ambitious, and it showcases the band's music in ways that you might not expect judging from their previous efforts. This is stridently evident on the album's opener "El Paso," a raging post-hardcore anthem that is by far the heaviest thing Taking Back Sunday have ever put onto tape. "That song came from a riff that Mark had that had gotten the snub in the past, which I'm glad about because I don't think it would have been as awesome as it is now," Lazzara explains. "I feel like that song really embodies the mood and environment we were all in when we first when down to the Sonic Ranch."
Another track Lazzara is especially proud of is the album's first single "Faith (When I Let You Down)," a song that's equally as cathartic in a more pop-oriented context. "I tried a lot of new things on this record and the fact that there's a lot of space in the verses is something we had never done before," he explains. Ultimately Taking Back Sunday is full of sonic firsts, from the atmospheric album closer "Call Me In The Morning" to the energetic rocker "Best Places To Be A Mom," but Valentine's specialty is making sure that the disc exists as a cohesive whole. "Even though times have changed, we haven't, and none of us are the kind of music listeners who just want to own a few singles," Nolan explains. "We all like to listen to our favorite albums from start to finish and naturally we wanted to make a record that sounds like that."
Lyrically Taking Back Sunday sees Lazzara and Nolan exploring relationships, a theme they focused on last time they worked together as well. However, instead of singing about the insular Long Island hardcore scene, that landscape has broadened to include the band members' respective relationships with their wives, kids and God. "John and I are both teetering on real adulthood, so with this record we both wanted to experiment with how straight-forward we could be lyrically," Lazzara says. Instead of being cloaked in metaphor, the lyrics on Taking Back Sunday show the band questioning their relationships as much as they embrace them, resulting in the most honest Taking Back Sunday album to date.
Lazzara is also quick to point out that adding Nolan back into the mix helped him expand his own range and gave these songs a life of their own. "I've found that I write better when there are two perspectives on the same subject; there are some songs on this record where John was coming from a totally different place than I was but when we put the two things together this whole new idea grew from it," he explains. "All of our tastes have changed over time but everyone was so trusting during the writing process and I think that allowed us to go certain places we hadn't visited in the past."
Let's face it, it would be simple for Taking Back Sunday to get back together solely in order to embark on an anniversary tour for Tell All Your Friends, but despite their previous successes they are quick to point out this record is a brand new beast that is ushering in a different era for the band. "This album isn't us trying to be something we're not," Lazzara summarizes, "it's just us and I'm really proud of that." If you listen to Taking Back Sunday with an open mind, you'll agree that it is an important record that marks a giant leap forward for a band that truly defies categorization.
Polar Bear Club
Rochester NY | Alternative
There's no shortage of black-and-white thinking in punk rock -- but let's face it: Life is a way more complicated shade of gray. It's in this gray area that Polar Bear Club have always worked best -- and on their third full-length and second for Bridge Nine, Clash Battle Guilt Pride, the upstate New York quintet deliver an album that's punk in spirit but universal in appeal.
Recorded with producer Brian McTernan (Hot Water Music, Circa Survive) at his Salad Days studio in Baltimore, Clash Battle Guilt Pride finds Polar Bear Club looking back on their past few years of life as a band through the bigger lens of the human experience. "I wouldn't say these are 'road songs,'" says singer Jimmy Stadt, who fronts PBC alongside guitarists Chris Browne and Nate Morris, bassist Erik Henning, and drummer Tyler Mahurin. "But we spend so much time on the road that it's impossible not to draw from that. For me, the interesting thing is how being in a band and doing the work that comes along with that can affect your life and relationships outside the band. That's where we were coming from with these songs."
Formed in 2005 as a casual, part-time outlet, Polar Bear Club never expected to spend much time on the road, let alone the studio. But after mounting acclaim from fans and critics alike over 2006's The Redder, the Better EP and 2008's Sometimes Things Just Disappear, the band members eventually decided to ditch and day jobs and school commitments to make a go of it. As it turns out, some of PBC's biggest fans were running the show at Bridge Nine Records -- and in 2009, the band signed to the label, hit the road for some of their largest tours to date (including a U.K. run with the Gaslight Anthem), and released their second album, Chasing Hamburg. Equally informed by the angular sprawl of early-'90s post-hardcore and the gritty, whiskey-soaked sound of Gainesville, Florida, Chasing Hamburg rightfully landed PBC on Alternative Press' 2009 "Most Anticipated" list -- as well as dozens of year-end lists to follow.
Of course, every new album means another album cycle -- and after Chasing Hamburg, Polar Bear Club hit the road hard. Tours of Europe, Australia and North America found the band sharing stages with artists as stylistically far-flung as Frank Turner, Every Time I Die and Trapped Under Ice. Summer 2010 brought a stint on the literally and figuratively blazing second half of the Vans Warped Tour. But after winding down 2010 alongside Bring Me the Horizon, August Burns Red, Emarosa and This Is Hell on the AP Fall Ball tour, PBC decided to park the van and get their bearings. "We made a conscious decision to get off the road and write," says Stadt, "because we knew we'd never have time to focus on this next record if we didn't."
Six months in the making, Clash Battle Guilt Pride reflects the dedication Polar Bear Club put into writing and recording it. Notoriously perfectionist, the band arrived at Salad Days with 14 songs already in solid form, and whittled their way to an even tighter 11 with McTernan's help. "Brian truly was a sixth member," Stadt explains. "We spent weeks just 'living in' the songs with him before tracking, which gave us a lot more time to reflect. I think it also helped that he shares a lot of our musical tastes. We could talk with him about some of the bands we had in mind -- stuff like Embrace, Rites of Spring, early Jimmy Eat World -- and he got that we didn't want to 'do' their sound; we were more about getting inspiration from their spirit.'"
From its slow-burning, melodically rich lead track, "Pawner," to the sprawling, reflective "I'll Never Leave New York," Clash Battle Guilt Pride is as much about anthems and choruses as it is the space between notes. The familiar, gritty 4/4 drive of past efforts is there, but it's tempered by goose-bump-inducing dynamics -- as well as lyrics that make an ambiguous grab for listeners' hearts and minds. "I don't think it's fair to tell someone, 'This is what this song is about,'" Stadt explains. "When I think about the music that's most meaningful to me, I realize it's that way because of what I was able to bring to it. When someone comes up to me and says my song meant something to them, I hope it's because I gave them that same experience."
Even the new album's title pulls from the same theme of giving away just enough to lure you in -- something Stadt says was intentional. "Again, not to give away too much," he says, "but those four words -- Clash Battle Guilt Pride -- that's what it's all about. That's life. It's complicated. It's a struggle. People will disapprove of you when you're doing things that make you happy, and you'll question yourself a lot, too. But those questions are where the interesting stuff happens. That's how you grow."
"Music is about connecting with people, and that's what we focus on more than anything else," says Transit's vocalist Joe Boynton. Hailing from north shore Boston, Transit is a band that expresses an arresting degree of honesty and individuality in their music. While clearly drawing inspiration from seminal groups such as Saves The Day, as well as the Northeast US pop-punk scenes that all five members grew up in, Transit has swiftly evolved into a group with a more alternative, indie rock sound. "We all grew up listening to a wide variety of music, but bands like Archers of Loaf, Braid, Osker and American Football demonstrated to us that there are always refreshing ways to create a new style and feel," explains guitarist Tim Landers. Illustrating Transit's artistic evolution from one release to the next, early descriptions of the group compared them to Taking Back Sunday and Brand New, and now, more recently, to bands like Death Cab For Cutie and Modest Mouse.
The band's prolific output is also impressive by any measure, having put out seven releases over the last four years. Transit's highly acclaimed LP, "Keep This To Yourself", released in August 2010 on Run For Cover Records, inspired ABSOLUTEPUNK to rave: "Good luck keeping Transit's passionate and infectious tunes a secret. Once you hear the first chords of opener "Dear Anyone," you'll immediately go out and tell all your friends about the best pop-punk album of 2010." Transit also released an acoustic EP, "Something Left Behind" in February and a limited edition Record Store Day 7 inch, "Promise Nothing", was released this past spring and sold out in advance. ALTERNATIVE PRESS, in a glowing review of "Promise Nothing", praised the band's meteoric creative growth, comparing them to Jimmy Eat World and Moneen.
Named one of the "Bands To Watch in 2011" by ALTERNATIVE PRESS, Transit has played throughout North America and overseas alongside Four Year Strong, The Wonder Years, Less Than Jake, Bayside, Man Overboard, Senses Fail and many others. The band-whose members also include Torre Cioffi (guitars), PJ Jefferson (bass) and Daniel Frazier (drums)-has just finished tracking its first full-length on Rise Records, LISTEN & FORGIVE. The album, which ALTERNATIVE PRESS just named as one of the "Top 20 Must-Hear Fall 2011 Releases", is set to drop in the US and around the world in early October.
To mark the release of LISTEN & FORGIVE, Transit will be touring this Fall around the US with Saves The Day, Bayside and I Am The Avalanche, before heading to the UK and Europe in December with Title Fight and Balance and Composure. From that point onwards, fans can expect to see the band touring extensively around the globe throughout 2014 and beyond.