Taking Back Sunday

Taking Back Sunday is a band that truly needs no introduction. Since forming in Long Island in 1999, they have sold millions of albums, evolved from a young punk act into seasoned songwriters and continued to forge a successful career. That spirit of resilience and innovation is dripping all over the band's sixth full-length Happiness Is (which is also their first release for Hopeless Records). As you can guess from the title, the album addresses some heady concepts, but it simultaneously showcases a new musical and conceptual leap for this collection of musicians with varied influences that's certain to endear them to fans both new and old.

The group's second album since reviving the classic lineup of vocalist Adam Lazzara, guitarist/vocalist John Nolan, guitarist Eddie Reyes, bassist Shaun Cooper and drummer Mark O'Connell was written over a two year period with no involvement from a record label for the first time since their legendary 2002 debut Tell All Your Friends. "The last record [2011's Taking Back Sunday] was us feeling each other out and learning how to work together again and on this one everybody was a little more comfortable and free to express themselves," Lazzara explains. “At this point in the game we all know each other's strengths and weaknesses so well that it has made writing music together a bit easier,” O’Connell confirms. “Don't get me wrong, there are still arguments but we are older and wiser and with that comes less fighting.”

Co-produced by longtime collaborators Mike Sapone in Long Island and Marc Jacob Hudson in Michigan, and mixed by Claudius Mittendorfer, the album sees the band expanding their musical palette and stretching out sonically in ways they've never done before by utilizing each producer's strengths. "Recording with Marc was great because we've been working together for a decade on the road so we are so relaxed around him," Lazzara says, adding that the fact the studio was located in a remote wooded area in the Midwest helped free the band from external distractions during the recording process. "When it comes to Mike that's like our second home and it helped make those sessions feel so familiar since we actually recorded our very first demos there."

"We had a month off between the two recording sessions which I think was really important because we'd never had that before and it helped us take a step back and reassess things once we were halfway through," Nolan explains. In that spirit the soaring choruses and tender verses of the opening salvo "Flicker, Fade" is a perfect illustration of how that fresh perspective helped these songs achieve their full potential. "I'm very proud of that song in particular because in some ways it’s exactly what you would expect from Taking Back Sunday but it also manages to incorporate all of these completely new elements in it such as the orchestral flourishes," Nolan explains. "I'm also extremely proud of the last song 'Nothing At All' because we've had acoustic songs before but we've never had anything acoustic that builds into such a gigantic climax and I think fans are going to be pleasantly surprised with that."

"I tried to be a little more loose; I was more focused on being myself than trying to sound perfect or anything," Lazzara responds when asked how he approached Happiness Is. "We also played around a lot with arranging the harmonies and playing with layers and I think that makes these songs a lot more rich." Correspondingly "Stood A Chance" alternates between melodic moments and moody breakdowns in a way that's so seamless that you'll hardly notice it’s happening until it’s all over while “Better Homes And Gardens” is catharsis set to a driving drumbeat. The band also clearly weren't afraid to let these songs truly take on their own spirit as evidenced by the ambient ballad "It Takes More," which started out as an upbeat rocker before organically becoming into the atmospheric masterpiece that it evolved into.

Fans of Taking Back Sunday will also rejoice at the fact that Happiness Is sees the band’s enigmatic frontman at his most personal. "Through the years I've tried to stay pretty cryptic because often times it’s easier not to have to explain yourself but on this record I was very direct in the sense I tried to use the simplest way to get an idea across," Lazzara explains. "In the past I don't think I ever would have let a song like 'Like You Do' go on an album because it’s so heartfelt in a simple way and I also think it's actually one of the first love songs we've ever written." The band also agree that performing in the Middle East at places like Kuwait were the inspiration for "We Were Younger Then"—and lines like, “I remember when comfort was not an option” illustrate how far these five guys have come along from playing basements in Long Island in the late nineties.

Ultimately this search for meaning and pursuit of progress lies at the core of why the band have managed to retain a fervent fanbase over the years and survive numerous passing trends. But it’s also important to note that none of the band members take any part of this experience for granted. "In the past when we were on a major label there would be A&R people giving us suggestions but with this album it was just us pushing ourselves," Lazzara summarizes, sounding even more hopeful than he did over a decade ago. "There is no question to me that Happiness Is is the best unfiltered representation of what happens when the five of us get in a room together and that makes me really happy. Nolan confirms this sentiment by adding, "this album really is a testament to each of the members talents because it's just us."

In other words, prepare yourself because it's time to fall in love with Taking Back Sunday all over again.

Polar Bear Club

Polar Bear Club is an American post-hardcore/indie rock band from Syracuse, upstate New York. Formed in 2005, the band currently consists of vocalist Jimmy Stadt, lead guitarist Chris Browne, rhythm guitarist Nate Morris, bass guitarist Erik Michael "Goose" Henning and drummer Emmett Menke.

"I know you're good at keeping secrets.Well I'm better at wearing them out for the world to see."

"Music is about connecting with people, and that's what we focus on more than anything else," says Transit's vocalist Joe Boynton. Natives of north shore Boston, Transit is a band that displays an arresting degree of honesty and individuality in their music. While clearly drawing inspiration from seminal groups such as Lifetime and Saves The Day, as well as the Northeast US pop-punk and hardcore scenes that all five members grew up in, Transit has swiftly evolved into a group with a more alternative, indie rock sound. "We all grew up listening to a wide variety of music, but bands like Archers of Loaf, Braid, Osker and American Football demonstrated to us that there are always refreshing ways to create a new style and feel," explains guitarist Tim Landers. Illustrating Transit's artistic evolution from one release to the next, early descriptions of the group compared them to Taking Back Sunday and Brand New, and now, more recently, to bands like Death Cab For Cutie and Modest Mouse.

The band's prolific output is also impressive by any measure, having put out seven releases over the last four years. Transit's highly acclaimed LP, "Keep This To Yourself", released in August 2010 on Run For Cover Records, inspired Absolutepunk to rave: "Good luck keeping Transit's passionate and infectious tunes a secret. Once you hear the first chords of opener "Dear Anyone," you'll immediately go out and tell all your friends about the best pop-punk album of 2010."

Transit has toured throughout North America and overseas alongside Fireworks, Hostage Calm, Balance and Composure, Less Than Jake, Such Gold, A Loss For Words, Man Overboard, Senses Fail, The Wonder Years and many others.

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Taking Back Sunday with Polar Bear Club, Transit

Wednesday, November 6 · Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM at Rams Head Live