Emerging from the back hallways of the Roseland Theater in Portland, Oregon, we find Adam Lazzara sitting on the back stoop, phone and cigarette in hand, looking as laid back as ever. Lazzara has a calming presence, soft spoken and polite. You almost forget that this is the guy who almost single handedly popularized the moden mic swing over some of the most poignant and clever lyrics of the last ten years. Spending the better part of 2014 alongside The Used traversing the globe, Taking Back Sunday have been confidently rocking Happiness Is, an album that may go down as the most important of their career. Now that the fears of their most personal record to date have been quelled, TBS is free to enjoy the ride.
Substream Magazine: We last spoke just before Happiness Is was out and you were a bit nervous about how it was going to be received. How does it feel now, a few months down the road?
Adam Lazzara: Any time you do anything or release anything new, there’s just always that fear that no one will like it. The songs have been going over great live and we’ve been getting a great response.
SM: When does that worry go away? When you perform the songs or when it does well critically?
AL: When we start to play the songs more live, that’s when the feeling starts to dissipate.
SM: How does fan reaction, negative or positive, affect your view of a song you’re proud of?
AL: It’s funny, we have this joke because we have this song “El Paso” that we all love, but it just never gets a very good reaction live. So it doesn’t change how we feel about it. It’s just more of a confusion like “Why doesn’t everyone like this as much as we do?”
SM: Is the fan always right then?
AL: We definitely don’t have it in our set list much anymore because when you’re playing live you want to try and give people what they want, because after all they’re paying to see the band play.
SM: You had said that this album covers a lot more personal topics. Was it painful just to write those songs or more so because you know you’re going to be judged on them?
AL: It does get to be a tough thing right before it’s about to be released. Essentially, we’re sharing our life experience so there is some stuff that you have to not think about as you’re writing and kind of think about it later. Like “Now everyone’s gonna know about this.”
SM: Knowing that kids connect so deeply with your songs; does that ever change what you want to say?
AL: With that I just try to be real honest in the writing. Honestly, if I sit down to write I don’t think about any of that stuff just because I don’t want to…
SM: Cheapen it?
AL: Yes! Exactly. I want it to be genuine, but if you have those thoughts in the back of your head then it will start to mold it like “I think people will like this” and that will get in the way.
SM: After this many albums and songs, do you feel like you know when a song is going to connect? Is there ever a guarantee?
AL: No. Sometimes there’s total curveballs. Like with “El Paso” we thought people were going to freak out. No one really freaked out (laughs).
SM: Do you have an idea why people don’t like that song or any others you had a lot of confidence in?
AL: No, I don’t know why. I think it’s great.
SM: I think it’s probably the most different. It was a surprise.
AL: Yeah, it’s just heavy.
SM: With this tour, going on basically all year, would you rather do a tried and true tour with friends like The Used rather than maybe take out some newcomers? Is this more comfortable for you?
AL: It definitely works out. That’s not really the way we looked at it going into it. We just thought people would really want to see the show.
SM: If you were coming up now as a band today, with how much has changed in the last ten plus years, do you think you could navigate this scene and the changes in the business?
AL: I would like to think so but who knows. I think for our band we were in the right place at the right time. We’re very lucky.
SM: With all these bands from your class doing ten year tours or a lot of them breaking up in the last few years, what do you think set TBS aside? What do you feel like you did to stand out in that niche market?
AL: (Laughs) Dumb luck maybe? There are so many people that work so hard. That was another thing with us too in those early years where we’d have conversations with our booking agent and just tell him “We don’t care if we’re home, just keep us working.” I think that helped.
SM: Do you think that was all cultivated when Victory came along or do you feel like you really did it all yourselves at that point?
AL: We did it ourselves until right after Tell All Your Friends came out then we met our manager Jillian and we’ve been with her ever since. It was Victory who helped us get our booking agent. Before then, we were just doing it on our own.
SM: It seems the booking agent is the most key part of the puzzle.
AL: It’s real important because you can do that stuff yourself but you don’t have the same opportunities.
SM: What do you feel like are some of the biggest mistakes TBS has made?
AL: There’s not a whole lot that I regret. It’s just like anything else, you stumble along the way but there’s none that really come to mind off the top of my head.
SM: Not to try and get you to be negative (laughs).
AL: Yeah, it’s just like with anything, you gotta go through the shit so you know not to do it again.
SM: Lastly, is there anything going on politically or socially that you’ve been interested in lately?
AL: Well, there’s two things you don’t talk about at the dinner table and that’s politics and religion.