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An Interview with Shaun of Taking Back Sunday

The Minaret chatted with Taking Back Sunday’s Shaun Cooper about touring, B-sides and Fleetwood Mac.

M: I remember my friends and I listening to “Louder Now” back in 2006, and with this newer album released just last year it seems like you’re starting to win over a new generation of listeners. Can you tell me a bit about the “Happiness is” album and how you think fans have received it so far?

SC: You just have to take those things with a grain of salt, because you don’t really know exactly what the response is. Everyone has an opinion, a lot of people try to talk shit on the internet, and they may not even be fans of the band. So what we try to do is play as many songs from the new record record live and see how people respond, and with our self-titled record we didn’t really get the reaction we had hoped for, but with “Happiness Is,” the response has been staggering. Even if people don’t know the new songs, they’re still feeling it and bouncing around by the time we reach the last chord. So it’s been really, really rewarding and surprising for us.

M: Right, and it’s definitely also rewarding for your fans to see you evolve over the years, because the last album is way different from your earlier stuff.

SC: Well we had over two years to write the album and work with producers, and we made a potent effort on working everything out. We were also very fortunate to have John [Nolan] come back to the band for over five years now. We’ve had a lot of time to work together.

M: The “Happiness Is: Complete Recordings” was released last month with three B-sides and acoustic songs. Have you been playing any of the acoustic tracks on tour?

SC: We actually haven’t. We do a meet and greet everyday, and John and Adam play a few acoustic songs and in there they’ll work in a few acoustic renditions from the “Happiness Is: Complete Recordings.” We’ve been playing “How I Met Your Mother” every night, which is one of the heavier B-sides that, for some reason, we all really love. It’s so much fun to play.

M: What was the inspiration behind putting together the complete recordings? Was it because the extra tracks weren’t cohesive enough for the original album?

SC: Well we had a lot of tracks that we wanted to see the light of day and we didn’t know exactly how we were going to do it, but John and Adam did a few of those acoustic renditions, which we thought showcased our music in a different light, so we thought making them available on vinyl would be an interesting way of getting them out there. And every one of those 1,000 copies sold out, which is awesome.

M: Those copies were sold out pretty swiftly.

SC: I know, we’re still shocked!

M: Where’s your favorite stop on this tour been so far? Why?

SC: You know, my memory gets a little short with the shows. But last night (March 10) we were in Cleveland having a good time with the Gaslight Anthem guys and their guitar tech, who was our old guitar tech, came out and played with us. Those little special spur-of-the-moments are always the most memorable.

M: I heard there’s much more work put into production on this tour (light shows). Could you tell me the inspiration behind that?

SC: We’ve done a lot of touring where we’ve just played for about an hour, and on this tour we’re covering all our bases and playing for about 90 minutes, which is a lot of songs, so we wanted to put it over the edge and do something we’ve never done before. I think we’re evolving as a band and focusing more on the visual aspects in addition to trying to perform well. It’s really something else! I’ve never been part of a big king-of-a-production before.

M: Where do you draw musical inspiration? Favorite musicians?

SC: We’re all into a lot of very different stuff, but I’d say The Beatles and Nirvana are both big influences. For me, I grew up with The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Guns n’ Roses… and I think we can all get behind Radiohead.

M: What’s one album that you just couldn’t live without? Why?

SC: It changes a lot depending on my musical taste at the time, but all on this tour and maybe even the month before we left, I can’t stop listening to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors. I can’t turn the damn thing off.

M: That’s actually a perfect album. I’m convinced.

SC: Yes, I mean, just the way everything comes together… I think I’m addicted to the sound. My wife got me the vinyl for Valentine’s Day and I definitely wore a few grooves in it before I left.

M: Other critics have coined your music as alt-rock, punk, etc., but I was wondering how you as the artist would describe your own music?

SC: It’s hard for me to pin down like that, so I just call it rock. There are so many genres out there so I don’t even think about it. We’re a rock band, and that’s all.

M: So I know the “Complete Recordings” were released just last month, but I was wondering if there was already anything else new on the forefront?

SC: No, no, we’re actually excited to head home and finally have time for some writing and recording sessions since we’ve been on the road so much. I mean we’ve tried recording on the road but there’s already so much work to do and so little time. But it’s definitely the time where we’re getting excited about working on new ideas.

M: Definitely a well-earned vacation, it seems.

SC: Ha, thank you!

Taking Back Sunday will be playing at The Ritz in Ybor on April 2.

Jackie Braje can be reached at


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