Heels & Picks: The serious side of ‘Sunday’

Jun. 17, 2015 | 0 Comments



Charismatic frontman Adam Lazzaro brings the emotional weight on Taking Back Sunday’s newest album, “Happiness Is.”

BY ERIN SMITH / Special to the Star-Advertiser

When I was listening to Taking Back Sunday’s newest album, “Happiness Is,” I started to wonder if singer Adam Lazzara and I have been living parallel lives.

The themes on the album tackle weighty subject matter like divorce and watching someone go through tremendous addiction — both things that I have dealt with over the last four years.

Then I thought it’s more likely that as we grow up, we just deal with these things and the themes are probably universal to all as we travel life’s path, to a certain extent.

So what is happiness to Taking Back Sunday? According to Lazzara, happiness exists when the scales are even.


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“Well for me I’d just say it’s balance,” he said. “You know how they say that too much of anything is a bad thing? When all of the aspects of my life are in balance that’s when I function the best.”

Formed in 1999, Taking Back Sunday have come to be known for their emotionally charged rock songs and vibrant stage presence.

The 2006 album “Louder Now” marked the band’s mainstream success, with the song “MakeDamnSure” and a No. 2 spot on Billboard. Released in 2014, “Happiness Is” was met with critical and fan support and was their first foray with the label Hopeless Records. The album hit No. 10 on Billboard.

Over the phone, Lazzara has an ease to his speaking voice that belies no wear and tear as the front man of a touring rock band. He is affable and speaks in musical way, a common trait of lead singers.

I was first introduced to Taking Back Sunday through my bandmates in The Throwdowns. Our bassist and guitarist, Kimo Clark and Ola Shaw, respectively, are big fans of the band and we flew over from Maui to Oahu to go to see them play. At the show we found out that we had the opening spot for The Fray at Waikiki Shell, so that was a big deal for us.

I was in awe of the microphone technique Lazzara used on stage. He was whipping the microphone out over the crowd and looping it over his head; pretty cool.

We’ve all grown in the few years since their last visit to Hawaii and with their most personal record to date, Taking Back Sunday is mixing their rock edge with a more vulnerable side for the first time.

The video for their song “Better Homes and Gardens” — a great title — has Lazzara alone in a house that was once full of love, contemplating what happened with a chorus about taking off a ring.

Lazzara said he wrestled with the song idea when writing it because the story is so personal.

“The song was definitely there in different notebooks that I had kicking around,” he said. “I wasn’t sure about putting the song on the album because there is nothing cryptic in that song. And when you’re on tour, do you want to play that with a bunch of people you don’t know every night?”

As it turns out, including the song on the album was a choice that struck a chord with fans.

“I was actually surprised at the response to it,” said Lazzara. “People have said that they really relate to the song and it’s helped them get past the situation that they are in.”

Taking Back Sunday’s newest album hit No. 10 on the Billboard music charts.

There are sonic shifts on “Happiness Is,” where the band lets space into the pop-punk blast. There are violins and strings and a new angle on arrangements. Many bands evolve, and I was curious to see if it was a conscious decision to soften some of the lines on this album.

According to Lazzara it was more of just an evolution of sound, something that came from the band naturally when no expectations were set for the writing and the studio.

“The songs just took shape,” he said.

For staying sane on the road, Lazzara is a fan of FaceTime and other technology for keeping in touch with loved ones. He said it’s a constant road to really figuring it out, but resting his voice between shows is key. At this point in his career, Lazzara said touring is like “a group of traveling brothers who are really comfortable with each other.”

So what does Taking Back Sunday love most about Hawaii? After its last show here, the band spent a week on Maui taking in the breathtaking scenery and doing “touristy stuff.”

“We are really excited to be coming back to Hawaii and perform for fans,” Lazzara said.
Erin Smith is a singer and guitarist who performs as a solo artist and with Maui-based Na Hoku Hanohano Award-nominated band The Throwdowns. Born in Canada, she moved to Hawaii in 2004 and now resides in Kailua. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.

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