Taking Back Sunday

Jillian Newman of AMP Management said it was her lucky day when she first heard some songs by New York-based rockers Taking Back Sunday. After seeing the band’s live show during the 2002 South By Southwest showcase, that instinct was confirmed.

“They played 10 miles off the path at some run-down barbeque restaurant with about 15 people in the crowd,” Newman told POLLSTAR. “I thought they played like they were in an arena, and the songs were really good. There was something there with these guys … you just have to trust your gut.”

Frontman Adam Lazarra said Newman stood out from the industry reps the band already met when they started looking into management.

“In the scene where we come from, the thought of having a manager or even things being this big was pretty far off,” Lazarra told POLLSTAR. “It got to the point where we couldn’t handle things on our own. We knew we had to find somebody, but all the people we had met were just industry dudes. That’s not how we operate, or how we wanted the band to operate at this level.

“[Newman] managed Midtown, who are friends of ours. After she came to see us, we talked with her a whole lot. She wasn’t a schmuck,” he added.

The current lineup, comprising vocalist Lazarra, guitarists Ed Reyes and Fred Mascherino, drummer Mark O’Connell and bassist Matt Rubano, has only been together for a short time.

The group formed in 1999, but Rubano and Mascherino were added this year when original bassist Shaun Cooper and guitarist John Nolan left to pursue other opportunities just before the band’s first European tour. That was a tough break since Europe and a leg on the Vans Warped Tour had to be scrapped.

“Shaun and John wanted to do different stuff. Their heads were in different places. It’s pretty much like if you already have two kids and you get remarried. Bringing in that person and saying ‘All right, let’s make this work,'” Lazarra said.

“Fred we knew because he was in this other band, Breaking Pangaea, that we knew. Matt pretty much grew up with our drummer, Mark. We’re way more of a family now than we were in the past, which is exactly what we needed.”

After talking with other labels, Taking Back Sunday signed with Victory Records and released its debut, Tell All Your Friends, in March 2002. The rockers have rarely been off the road since.

“Prior to [signing with] Victory, we did a lot of weekend shows. We would work Monday through Thursday,” Lazarra said. “The second we would get off work, we’d hop in the van and go. We’d be gone for four days at a time. It was pretty much what we could afford.

“We’re a pretty relentless touring machine. I think we function better when we’re not home. I guess with all our personalities, it just works better that way,” he explained.

Newman said Taking Back Sunday’s ability to sell tickets before setting foot in a city was a bonus to an already awesome package.

Taking Back Sunday

“These guys have worked hard, with Victory’s help, to sell records and build a solid fanbase regardless of anything else. [The band’s] debut came out in March 2002, and they started touring in January of that year,” she said.

“They’ve built that up to headlining and selling thousands of tickets in places they’d never been, like Toronto. They sold 2,200 tickets the first time they set foot in eastern Canada. It’s been pretty crazy to watch.”

The rockers work to connect with the fans during their shows as much as possible. Lazarra admits to getting frustrated if too many photographers in the pit or barricades keep him from reaching the crowd.

“We try to think of ways to make everybody feel like they’re included, that it’s not just a show and then we pack up and leave, peace out,” Lazarra said. “There’s really nothing special with what goes on onstage, what makes it special are the kids that believe in it.

“As far as the energy (from the crowd) and all that stuff, I honestly think it comes through naturally. The music takes its own form and it just kind of takes over.”

Once the band’s tour ended in November, the members headed back into the studio to work on the next album. Plans to reschedule the derailed European tour were also in the works.

“[Taking Back Sunday’s] goal is to tour as much as possible. They’re probably going to do in the neighborhood of 150 to 200 dates a year, I hope,” Newman said. “We want to take it all over the world next year, Japan, Australia, you name it.

“Coming from a background in artist development, I worked for A&M Records and Vagrant Records, I feel lucky to work with this band because everything you want to have working is working. This band really connects and it’s just a word-of-mouth thing.”