Just. Be. Cool. Hard to do when you’re sitting across from 2/5 of Taking Back Sunday on a warm afternoon in Santa Ana, California. My inner 15-year-old fan girl threatens to self-combust from nerves as band mates Shaun Cooper and Mark O’Connell watch in confused horror from across the dressing room. If I do break down into screaming hysterics, however, I’m blaming it on the sun.
I wonder if I should tell them they’ve aged nicely for older white males, then decide against it. My brain rewinds 10 years back to blasting “MakeDamnSure” on my stereo and I try my hardest to Be Cool.
The re-release of Happiness Is got a lot of love from fans and critics. Still, there will always be haters. How do you deal with negative feedback?
Shaun: There’s always negative feedback because it seems everyone on the Internet really likes to complain. I use to pay attention to everything that came through, because I was so excited to have something out and I really wanted people to like it. But with Happiness Is, I haven’t been paying too much attention. Like as long as we get emails and good reviews. Even then I try to avoid it, because it’s not going to change what we do at the end of the day, for better or worse. Every night we go out and play songs from the new record and we see how people respond to them and that’s how we gauge whether or not we did something right.
That’s what matters.
You guys mentioned in the past how it’s difficult for mainstream music to embrace meaningful topics since general audiences don’t want to think on that level. Could you talk more about this?
Mark: It all depends on the person you’re talking about.
Shaun: I mean it’s hard to analyze those sorts of things because I like Taylor Swift as much as the next guy.
So you’re a Swifty?
S: Yeah my little boy likes it, my wife likes it, and she’s pretty popular and she’s singing about her relationships and stuff.
M: It all depends on the mood that you’re in. It all depends on the mood of the person, the time and the place.
When you guys dropped Louder Now back in 2006, CDs were still a profitable market. Now, everything’s digital and there’s still a lot of controversy over online music sharing. Are you guys for or against it?
S: I think it’s great. I wish the music industry embraced all the digital stuff way sooner when people were first getting MP3s and stuff. If they embraced the technology [earlier] and had things like Spotify, the music industry wouldn’t have taken the big hit that it did. So I am all for it, I am all for the easy access and having it on my phone.
But also I love having vinyls of records that I love and really like listening to. I like taking the time to physically put it on the thing but when I’m in my car I can’t have a record player in there.
Well, Eddie does that sometimes, cause he’s a lunatic.
S: He’s uber hipster in his Subaru.
S: Fine, fine vehicle.
I mean, I’m not hating… Talking about records, only 1000 fans were able to get their hands on the re-packaged Happiness Is box sets. For everyone else, could you tell us exactly what was in it?
S: Every song from Happiness Is, plus all the B-sides. It’s the complete recordings. Different artwork for each record. We individually signed every single one of them. We literally sat there in New Jersey before we played at the Starland Ballroom, just signing and signing away one thousand times. And we got the damn things done and they’re sold out.
M: And it has a song called “How I Met Your Mother” that we recorded for the album. I thought it was one of the best songs that we recorded for the album. Didn’t go on the album but it’s on this and we’ve been playing it on this tour.
M: You gotta wanna go out and find that. If you’re looking for that, it will be there but if you’re not, it won’t. You know what I mean.
S: With us after the show we just hang out on the bus, with us our group of guys and our crew. With our friends and family, that’s all we want. We’re smart and we’re all very happy at home. And I think our fans have grown older with us too. So people who may have been groupies back in the day are happily married I hope and doing their thing too.
So I think it’s a little bit different than it was back in 2005.
M: It’s nice to have a family.
What are your audiences like now versus back then?
M: I was thinking about it last time we were playing. It’s crazy. They’re just grown up fans, they’re still wildin’ out having a good time and going crazy. I feel like it’s almost like a party when we’re playing. It’s a lot of fun.
S: A lot of people that grew up are our age, bringing their younger siblings or even people who might’ve been a little older than us are bringing their kids to the show. So, that’s really cool to see.
There was a little six-year-old in front of me when we were playing in San Diego. It’s really cool. His dad had him at the barricade, protecting him and stuff.
Favorite munchie food at 3am:
M: Pizza is always my favorite.
S: Yeah I’ve had Pad Thai about three times this week late night before bed. Yeah, it’s not very healthy at that hour.
How do you get Pad Thai at 3am?
S: Oh, just left over from earlier that night. I try not to eat too much before the show. You don’t want to be up there with a full belly. So, I’ll have a couple bites, put it away and save some for later.
What were you guys like in high school?
S: Well, Mark and I hung out with each other. That was about it.
Just the two of you?
M: We had a group of five, six of us and we still have ’em.
S: We sat in the basement playing music a lot of the time. Mark and I went through a time when all our friends went to college and the band hadn’t taken of yet. It was literally, “Ok, it’s just me and you. Sitting here in the backyard.”
Well, that worked out.
M: Yah, thank god.
S: Things are much better now.
What would you guys have been doing if your band didn’t take off?
M: We don’t know.
S: That’s scary to think about because we didn’t have a backup plan, which is not smart at all.
M: At Shaun’s wedding, I spoke and I said, “Hey, remember the time when all of our friends went to college and we just sat in your backyard and drank 40s, like two losers? Well, thank God those days are not around.”
S: Well said.
Most under-appreciated song:
Both: El Paso
S: Off our self titled record. When we were writing it we thought “oh my god people are going to go off on this” and every time we play it, it just doesn’t go over very well.
Can you tell us about ‘Booze and Adventure’?
S: We put it on a T-Shirt. We were playing in El Paso, Texas in Spring 2002. It was Mark’s birthday and we had never been there before (Texas). We pulled up to this club, which was a small bar. And we pull into the parking lot and the sign for the bar says “Booze and Adventure” We had a really fun night that night and always remembered Booze and Adventure so we put it on a T-shirt. For one show we played under that name as a “secret” and that’s it. It all came from a club in El Paso Texas.
Finish this sentence. You know you’ve made it in America when…
S: When you pay more than half of your earned money to taxes.
The final word on #dressgate:
S: Here’s the thing, it’s definitely black and blue.
But, when the whole thing came out we were playing in San Diego, I saw the dress it was black and blue and then I went to go watch The Menzingers play. There’s a lot of strobe lights and things and my eyes were being messed up. I came back and my wife sent me a text with a link explaining why people had seen the dress different ways. I was like, “Wait, is this a different picture?” Because the light had flashed in my eyes it turned into white and gold.
M: Same. I saw them as both colors but at first I saw the dress as gold and white.
S: We were all yelling at each other, “What the hell is wrong with you! You see things wrong!”