Interview: Matt Rubano of Taking Back Sunday

July 12, 2006 03:26 PM
by Christina Fuoco
LiveDaily Contributor

Having found increasing success with 2002's "Tell All Your Friends" and 2004's "Where You Want to Be," Taking Back Sunday wanted to turn it up a notch for its third release.

"We really wanted to make a big, over-the-top, rock record," bassist Matt Rubano said via telephone from Georgia.

"I feel like our writing, our lyrics, our melodies and the sound of the album--with the help of [producer] Eric Valentine--really came together. We really accomplished what we wanted to. Even the title of the record, 'Louder Now,' is meant to evoke the fact that we were taking all the aspects and elements of our band and amplifying them to the fullest extent."

The formula worked. The gold-certified "Louder Now" peaked at No. 2 on The Billboard 200 album chart and, after 10 weeks in stores, sits at No. 51.

Rubano--who is joined in the band by vocalist Adam Lazzara, guitarist/vocalist Fred Mascherino, guitarist Eddie Reyes and drummer Mark O'Connell--recently talked to LiveDaily about the band's current tour, working with Valentine and more.

LiveDaily: How's the tour going so far?

Matt Rubano: The tour's been awesome. We're having a great time. This is the biggest tour we've ever headlined. We have such great bands with us that I think the bill is really awesome, between The Subways, Head Automatica, and Angels and Airwaves. We've also got to bring quite a bit of production on this tour, [which] we haven't done before. We have lights and things like that. Overall, the whole show is fun for us to do every night.

Is it hard to adjust to doing big shows like that?

Not really. It's different than playing small clubs or theaters. I think, over the course of our band's career, every type of different show that we played was a gradual or natural progression. We've been weaned onto these types of shows. I think we've learned to be comfortable in front of any type of audience.

There's been quite a buzz with "Louder Now." To what do you attribute that?

Hopefully that it's good, I guess. [laughs]. ... We wanted to take everything up a notch. That was our main focus with this album. I guess people are responding to that. I also think this album captures the energy of our live show better than any of the records we've done in the past.

What was it like working with Eric Valentine?

Eric's great. I can't say enough good things about him. He's super, super talented, and equally as cool. Hanging out with him was great. He's really laid back, so he makes you super comfortable in the studio. With us as a band, he provided a sixth person's objectivity about songs we had been working on for so long. For me, it was a challenge and learning experience to work with him. He made each of us feel really good about what we were doing. He was just the perfect producer for this album. We all wanted to work with him for a long time. Finally having the chance to have done it is great. I think we would do another record with him in a heartbeat.

You said it was a learning experience. What was the most important thing you learned from him?

For me, personally, he had a really good understanding of my ability. Then he would push it really far, and take it even further and challenge me. We would be recording something and there would be times when I thought I nailed it. You'd just hear him come over the mic and say "And one more time," "And one more time," "And one more time," he would just keep doing it over and over. [I'd think] "Man, that sounds good." When he finally gets you to do it [he says], "Yeah, now we're talkin'." So I learned to really always think for the song. Nothing that you play on any song is worth playing unless it compliments something else in the band or in the music. It's really important to play as part of the band. I learned a lot of things from him. I can't say enough about him. He's a great person and a great producer.

It sounds like he was really encouraging.

Very much. You always sort of hear these stories of producers being taskmasters or really difficult or stubborn--not really working with the band, but on the band. That wasn't the case. Eric was, like, in our band for awhile. He was assertive, but he was also, like you said, encouraging. You don't have to be a jerk to make a good record. You just have to have your mind open and know what you're doing, and Eric's certainly down with that.

What is the songwriting process like with Taking Back Sunday?

It varies. There's a lot of different songwriting processes, ranging from someone will bring in something completely done, to a group-writing thing, where it starts with one small seed. Or one or two people writing together. It's a bunch of different ways. This record represents a few of them. The single "MakeDamnSure" was something that was pieced together bit by bit. Actually, Adam found a chord progression that I brought in. Then Fred came up with the chorus. All the lyrics were something that Adam had had for a very long time. For a song like "Up Against," it was something that Fred wrote completely by himself. The song "Divine Intervention" was a guitar part that Eddie had, and Adam churned it out and wrote the lyrics and melodies to it. There's a bunch of different ways we get it done, which lends to the band's sound.

I think it really shows, because each album is so diverse.

Yes, that's something that we think is important. We'll always be trying to push forward and not get stuck doing the same record twice. There's some very different things on this record that we wouldn't have necessarily tried in the past. Hopefully, each time we go in to record, we'll be trying to push some new boundaries for us. I think that's what keeps it exciting for us and for the listeners.

The bands Warner Bros. debut, Louder Now, takes the group's classic ethos of intertwining vocals and hardcore meets-rock-meets pop to an even more enticing level. Taking Back Sunday is taking back rock.

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