Adam Lazzara and John Nolan of the band Taking Back Sunday have lived in NoDa for about five years but, with their bandmates living in Long Island and Ohio, they’d never really considered making an album in Charlotte.
Then they did – and came up with “Tidal Wave,” dubbed “both eclectic and sensitive” by Entertainment Weekly and “one of the most ambitious rock albums of the year” by Newsday. Quite a feat for a band that emerged alongside Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance as part of Warped Tour’s Generation Emo back in the early ’00s.
The album has Lazzara’s small son, Asa Joseph, on the cover – but it’s Nolan’s second child, Greta, that got the band recording here.
“We always said it would be nice if there was a studio here we could record at,” says Lazzara, but they didn’t know what was available, and besides, they were touring most of the time. Then last year, with the band ready to record and Nolan’s wife, Camille, expecting (and Nolan wanting to stick close), they decided to do some research.
It was audio engineer Michael Pepe who suggested Lazzara they check out the nearby Sioux Sioux Studios, where he worked.
“John and I had no idea it was there,” says Lazzara. “It was too perfect. You never know what you’re getting when you go into a place, but Sioux Sioux had everything – and a great vibe.”
They had to convince producer Mike Sapone to venture from his studio in Long Island, but once Sapone made the trip, “he didn’t want to leave,” says Lazzara. “He fell in love with it here. He would always get up early and drive around town. He knew more about Charlotte than I did by the time he left.”
Taking Back Sunday’s seventh album “Tidal Wave” – the result of those sessions with Sapone and Pepe at Sioux Sioux – was released Sept. 16, as the group embarked on yet another tour.
The situation was serendipitous for Pepe, who’d been a fan since 2002.
“I actually stood outside of the old Best Buy in University area the day their sophomore release ‘Where You Want To Be’ came out in 2004, so I could buy it first thing that morning,” says Pepe, who moved to Los Angeles in 2015. He’s worked with rappers, such as Charlotte’s Deniro Farrar, and produced local rock bands the Business People and Something Clever. For him, teaming with the 17-year veterans was a dream.
“I always ended up with good takes, better takes, and the best takes when recording them,” Pepe says. “It’s the best album I’ve ever been a part of.”
Lazzara says the process was different than normal.
“Say Mark (O’Connell), our drummer, had an idea. One of us would learn it and get in the room and we’d record just that part once we had a handle on it. We’d listen to it and hear immediately where it needed to go,” Lazzara explains. “Everybody could hear what was working and what wasn’t.”
“We almost had a bird’s eye view and that’s something normally we wouldn’t have until we’d actually recorded the record or were in the process,” he continues. “It was nice to have that handle on the shape and mood and attitude of the song before we went in to track them.”
The title track is a straight-ahead punk song which the band played live in Charlotte in June. It and the contemporary rock song “You Can’t Look Back” hinted at what was to come, but online speculation from fans suggested the group had all but gone country.
Lazzara clears things up.
“I did this one interview early on and was quoted as saying ‘”Tidal Wave” is an Americana album.’ That’s not what I said.” He was actually describing some of the music he listens to, he says. “That’s one of the words I used and that’s what she plugged in to. ‘Tidal Wave’ isn’t an Americana record. There might be some of that influence in there because that’s the way I talk.”
For the most part he’s steering clear of critics, professional or otherwise, for now.
“I’m genuinely so proud of it. It sounds like a record I would go to a store and buy. I’m not ready to hear anybody else’s opinion on it,” he says.
It was time to shake things up. “Happiness Is” showed a lot of maturity and growth lyrically and “Tidal Wave” pushes further musically as well.
“This is the seventh record and with a lot of bands that’s the crossroads. There’s a lot of bands who, if they make it to the seventh record, they’re kind of doing what they do and that’s it,” he explains. “We didn’t want to get trapped in that. You’re growing as a person, learning new things, and if your music is an honest reflection of you as a person it should also reflect that.”
That said, “Tidal Wave” still sounds like TBS.
“Whatever we do it will sound like Taking Back Sunday. We have our style. It isn’t going away.”