Despite frequent lineup changes, there is one common thread between each Taking Back Sunday song.
“If at the end we’re all red-faced and sweaty,” bassist Matt Rubino says, describing the band’s energetic live shows, “then you know it’s a Taking Back Sunday song.”
The group’s aptly titled album New Again, due June 2 from Warner Bros, heralds a move toward a more grown-up modern-rock sound, with catchier choruses and beefier guitars. Guitarist Matthew Fazzi replaces Fred Mascherino.
Producer David Kahne says his goal was to capture the “power and scope” of the band’s live show and to “make sure all the elements in the arrangements support” frontman Adam Lazzara whose lyrics, Kahne says, “have a lot more going on than goofy ‘Yeah, yeah, I’m on my skateboard’ stuff.”
“The fourth album is always daunting,” Rubano says. “It’s either the bye-bye record or the one where you take a step forward. We’re moving forward.”
Taking Back Sunday manager Jillian Newman credits much of the growth on New Again to the addition of Fazzi, a former member of the band Facing New York.
“Matt brought a really positive, happy energy to the band,” Newman says. “A lot of the walls came down during writing. He allowed everybody to try new things.”
Newman says Fazzi was the first person to try out for Mascherino’s spot.
“All the continuing members had goals musically that we wanted to accomplish on this record,” Rubano adds. “But Fazzi helped instill a fearlessness and an inventiveness.”
Warner Brothers senior vice president of marketing Rob Gordon says the label intends to emphasize the expansion of Taking Back Sunday’s sound, but not at the expense of listeners who bought the group’s previous discs.
“There are two parts to the campaign,” Gordon says. “No. 1 is energizing the fan base. No. 2 is taking this band from the world of pop/rock/emo/whatever you want to call it to an arena-rock band like the Foo Fighters.”
To accomplish the first part, the label has partnered with MySpace for what Gordon calls a “playback on wheels” promotion, in which the band invites fans in various cities aboard its tour bus for a New Again listening session.
The group recently hosted a similar event at a small club in London.
“It was bizarre but cool,” Rubano says with a laugh. “Basically a hundred people standing around looking at the ceiling in a state of listening. When we chatted up everyone afterward, though, the responses were great.”
Rubano says that although he and his bandmates have “never felt like we had to work within certain genre confines,” being seen as a rock band “just gives us the latitude to do whatever we want.”
He’s confident the fans have matured along with the band but adds that he leaves the market research to those not onstage.
“We’re not from the school of scrutinizing our audience,” he says. “Whether it’s a sea of 18-year-old girls or 300 Armenian grandmothers, our job is just to blow them away.”