Taking Back Sunday are about to embark on their first tour Down Under in three goddamn years! We sat down with guitarist John Nolan to vibe on the album they're bringing with them: Tidal Wave. By Matt Doria
In an era so enraptured by nostalgia, it’s a tad surprising - though, palpably refreshing - that Taking Back Sunday didn’t dip back into their mid-noughties emo roots for album #7. Tidal Wave does have a slight tinge of throwback in its blood, but that comes more in a nod to the bright, rollicking punk rock of the ‘70s and the early post-grunge wave of alternative that, ironically enough, fizzled out just as Sunday’s guyliner-emo began to soar.
Citing bands like The Clash and Ramones as key influences - “It just hasn’t been something we’ve maybe tapped into until now” - lead guitarist John Nolan muses that as they near their second decade, Taking Back Sunday are switching things up to avoid the static trudges of a ‘legacy act’ status. “Going into it, we knew that we didn’t want to be one of those bands where every new album is just ‘whatever’,” he says, fierce and blunt. “Everyone is just there for the old stuff - you might take a listen to what they’re doing now, but no-one really cares. I think part of why that happens is because the band stops caring about their new stuff too, so we really put it on ourselves to work as hard as we possibly could with this record - make it one that would mean something to people.”
Nolan stresses the importance of keeping his audience on their toes, and for the Myspace veterans among us holding out for some riff-splitting gems, Tidal Wave is exactly that: an epic and unexpected surging that - if you brave it unprepared - will knock you arse over neck. Though proficient with their kit as Warped Tour darlings, 2016’s Taking Back Sunday is a band set on truly exploring the guitar. The foamy hooks of “Death Wolf” and urgent roars padding the title track show Nolan and Eddie Reyes [rhythm] reaching new heights in their skill - but as Nolan admits, the axes themselves had little to do in their pursuit for the perfect tone.
“I think a really big part of it was the different pedals that we used, and the combinations of those. They’ve always been a part of our process, but we had a much heavier reliance on delay and reverb pedals than we have before. There was this pedal called the Frazz Dazzler that we used a lot - it’s a pretty crazy-sounding name, but it was a pretty crazy-sounding pedal. There were a few times where we brought some whammy into it as well - this time around, we really wanted to manipulate the sound of the guitar through our pedals.”
Such would obviously make the live show a lot easier, with less time spent switching axes between songs and more allocated to barrier dives and punk jumps. Tidal Wave is an album written for the stage, too - every show they’ve played post-release has so far seen them smash it out from cover to cover. “I think we have such confidence and faith in this album that it seemed like the perfect thing to do,” Nolan says with a bite of confidence. “We’re not just going to slip a couple of them into the set and see what happens - we’re gonna go all the way!”
Of course, bringing to life an album as sonically dense as Tidal Wave isn’t an easy feat. “We took four days of rehearsals before the tour to figure out how everything could translate to the stage,” Nolan says. “Some things translated easier than others, but there were some things where we had to go, ‘Well, alright, do we really need to recreate that?’ There’s a lot of layers to the album and a lot of things happening in every song, so there are points where you have to step back and say, ‘What’s the focus here?’”
Though hesitant to promise full-album sets when Taking Back Sunday hit Australian shores in March - “I think it’ll probably depend on how this current tour goes” - Nolan is dead set on making “Call Come Running” a setlist staple; “it’s one of my favourites right now because I get to do this crazy guitar solo with the whammy pedal,” he gushes. “It’s the kind of thing that I’ve never done before as a guitar player. To have been touring and performing for fifteen years, and then have this thing that’s just completely different to anything I’ve ever tried… That’s really exciting.”
TAKING BACK SUNDAY
with ACCEPTANCE and ENDLESS HEIGHTS
Friday March 17th - Enmore Theatre, Sydney (AA)
Saturday March 18th - The Triffid, Brisbane (18+)
Sunday March 19th - 170 Russell, Melbourne (18+)
Wednesday March 22nd - The Gov, Adelaide (AA)
Thursday March 23rd - Metro City, Perth (18+)