Taking Back Sunday just released Twenty, a collection of the band’s most notable songs to celebrate their twentieth anniversary. Alternative Addiction recently talked to bassist Shaun Cooper about his stint in the band, his stint out of the band, and what twenty years of Taking Back Sunday means to him.
“It’s shocking because I started playing in the band and it was New Year’s Eve going into 2000 when it started in 1999,” said Cooper when asked specifically about what twenty years of TBS means to him. “The old lead singer got replaced. Adam was playing bass, but then Adam started singing and then I came in. I knew the band had something special, but I thought it would be as special as putting out a record on a small indie label and then doing a tour over the summer. After a while I’d get back into life as I knew it, going to college or something like that. I thought that would be real life. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Then, we kept going out on tour until it was time to make another record. It kept going. Then, John and I left the band for seven years and I never expected to come back. There’s a lot of unexpected stuff but it’s a dream come true and having this kind of longevity in my dream job is really crazy because I never expected it to pan out this way.”
Talking further with Shaun about the early years of the group, we asked him what some of his favorite early memories of the band were. While there’s a lot of great stories from being out on the road and things like that, when the band first wrote “Great Romances of the 20th Century”, was really a standout memory for Cooper.
“Going back to when we were writing ‘Great Romances’ that was one of the first songs that came together with the five of us,” began Cooper. “We would practice in our parents’ basements or other practice spaces and hearing those words and melodies come together with John and Adam was something special. Mark and I played in bands together since we were young, but I’d never seen that kind of chemistry between anyone. Something so great was coming together that you’d get goosebumps the second you heard it. Right away, I thought it was shocking how the music came together and how easy it was. There was a lot of thought put into it, but it seemed so easy. It was such an amazing moment that I’ll never forget it. That kind of hopefulness at the start of Taking Back Sunday is what means the most to me.”
Early Taking Back Sunday is what most die-hard fans of the band cherish the most. Pretty much everything on Tell All Your Friends is the penultimate Taking Back Sunday material. That’s when the original band was together. That’s the album that the biggest fans of the band love, but oddly enough when the band released Louder Now, that’s when they gained the most notoriety outside of their fan base. That’s also a record where Cooper and guitarist John Nolan weren’t in Taking Back Sunday, they were off working on Straylight Run.
“I gave Where You Want To Be a once over and I thought it was cool, but I really wasn’t paying that close attention to it. I was busy on tour, busy writing a record and doing all that stuff. I kind of lost track, but Mark and I always remained friends. There’s been some turbulent times, but Mark and I have been friends since we were six years old. Then, Louder Now came out and I heard them play ‘MakeDamnSure’ on Jimmy Kimmel. I was at a bar with some friends at home, and I thought, ‘wow, they really did it.’ I had enough time and separation from the band. I had made up with Adam when I was visiting Mark in Los Angeles earlier. Adam and I mended old wounds and I had no resentment. I was happy doing Straylight Run. I heard that song and I thought that they had the song that was going to make them the biggest band in the world, and I thought they deserved it.”
And for a while Taking Back Sunday was on top of the alternative genre. Louder Now produced their biggest hits and some of the tours they went on during that record cycle were nothing short of incredible. That was going on, but the lineup of the band was different with Matt Rubano playing bass and Fred Mascherino playing guitar. After that record, New Again came out and Taking Back Sunday was still running strong. Then, Nolan and Cooper rejoined the band to put them at their original lineup and the band released their self-titled record. So, while Cooper has worked on a majority of the Taking Back Sunday records, there’s still three albums that he had to get acquainted with.
“We kind of left a lot of songs unplayed from ‘Where You Want to Be’ and ‘Louder Now.’ This whole time that I’ve been home since the tour we were on in August, I’ve been working learning the rest of those songs. There’s about ten songs total of songs I’d never played before. I’d heard them all and I had worked on them here and there. I really had to sit and learn them note for note. They’re interesting songs. Especially the songs from Louder Now… having worked with Eric Valentine myself, I understand where those songs come from and how they shaped a lot better. I had to sit and practice them. Matt Rubano is an outstanding musician and an incredible bassist. It was fun to learn those lines and I really wanted to do them justice.”
Being a greatest hits record, Twenty breaks down like this. There are three songs from Tell All Your Friends, three songs from Where You Want To Be, four songs from Louder Now, two songs from New Again, two songs from Taking Back Sunday, two songs from Happiness Is, three songs from Tidal Wave and two new songs. The new songs are “All Ready to Go” and “A Song for Dan.”
“’All Ready to Go’ is up-tempo," said Shaun talking about the new songs. “It’s a rocker. There’s a lot of dueling vocals. When you hear John and Adam’s voice together it sounds great. They complement each other so well. The other song, ‘A Song for Dan’, is a ballad. Dan was a close friend of Mark and I. The three of us played in a band before I joined Taking Back Sunday. He passed away while we were making the Tidal Wave record. It was hugely inspired by him. Mark wrote most of the music on that one. A lot of the lyrics are inspired by that. It was a hard time dealing with that, especially when we were having such a celebratory time with finishing that album and being so proud of it, then we lost our friend and that was tough. So that one has his name on it, and we love and miss that guy.”
The release of Twenty is a huge landmark for Taking Back Sunday, but so is the tour that the band is embarking on to celebrate it. In January and February, the band is playing a lot of international dates and playing in Alaska and Hawaii. But starting in March, after shows in Costa Rica, Chili, Argentina, and Brazil, Taking Back Sunday will be touring the U.S. throughout the spring. At all shows, they’ll be performing Tell All Your Friends in its entirety. For tour stops where the band are performing over two-nights, each nightly set will offer a double-album play – using a coin that the band designed specifically for the tour. They’ll flip the coin and they’ll either play Where You Want to Be or Louder Now in entirety. In headline cities where they are playing only one night, they will perform Tell All Your Friends, plus a selection of fan favorites.
“That was mainly our manager Jillian’s idea,” explained Cooper. “There’s no way we can play for 3+ hours every night two nights in a row, there’s no way we could hack that. We decided to do the debut from front to back and then we’ll flip a coin and see where it lands and play that album. It will be random every night. The first time when we did it in Jersey, it was super stressful, but we wanted to keep it real. We had a coin made, it was not cheap. We have a special lockbox and a handcuff that our tour manager brings up on stage on nights when we’re doing the coin flip. We might pick someone from the crowd, we might have a friend who is hanging out backstage depending on the night flip it, then we’ll all be surprised when it happens.”
As far as what happens with the coin when the tour is done, Cooper wasn’t sure on that.
“We haven’t planned that far ahead. We have a full year of touring ahead of us. We’ll figure it out as we go, but that coin is going to have to stay protected.” – AA