Guitarist Matt Fazzi discusses the band’s latest effort New Again, what he’s been able to contribute in helping the group move forward and try different things, and how his life has dramatically changed since joining the mix.
How’s it going, man?
Good. I just jumped off a drum kit, so I’m a little out of breath for a second.
So do you usually go by Matt or by Fazzi?
You know, I’m not particular about that stuff at all. To keep it simple with the band, it’s usually Fazz or Fazzi.
How’s the tour going so far?
Dude, so rad. Every show’s been amazing. All the crowds are really sick. I feel like we’re playing the best that we’ve ever played since I joined the band, or since I’ve been a fan of the band. I just feel like everyone in the band is really well rehearsed and tight. We’re really bringing a lot of energy now that I think maybe the band hasn’t had for a long time, or even maybe never has, depending on your perspective.
I also love how you’re taking Anberlin out because I’m a huge fan of them as well.
Oh, yeah, sick. They’re great dudes. They put on a great show, too. All the singing’s really on point. All the playing – they’re great musicians. They’re a great band to have out with us.
The new record is coming out in a couple weeks and it’s called New Again, which seems to be a pretty fitting title with a few different meanings for the band. What’s your take on that?
It was kind of an obvious theme that kept presenting itself while we were writing and rehearsing the record. There was a lot of personal change that was going on for all of us. For me, it was going from a struggling musician to a great opportunity in Taking Back Sunday to kind of live my dream and play music for a living. I mean, everyone personally was going through a lot of different things. Then collectively having me come in the band, it being another lineup change and all this new adversity, the title just kind of spoke to us, you know?
Obviously, the other guys have been working together for a while now, so what was the writing process like for you joining that mix?
It was really collaborative. A lot of the songs were written with everybody in the room. We got a rehearsal space in Brooklyn and we were just all in there. We tried to wipe the slate clean and eliminate any walls about what Taking Back Sunday should sound like. I think for a while when they were approaching writing, they had set up these invisible barriers about what the band could sound like.
So this time around we really wanted to smash all that, start from scratch and really try anything, like time signature stuff. The guitar chords are just a little different because my guitar playing style is a little bit different from Fred’s. I feel like the way that I play, I make a lot more space for Matt to shine on the bass. He’s just got a bunch of great bass stuff all over the record. Everyone was ready to throw all the rules out the window and just try everything. I think that’s why the record turned out the way that it did.
How much had already been written prior to you joining?
I think there were two or three songs that were almost completed. They gave me two songs when I came back for a second audition, like, “We need a bridge for this song,” or “What do you think for guitar leads for this part?” So my second audition, I wrote a bridge that ended up being the bridge of a song called “Lonely, Lonely” on the record. We wrote maybe another good 17 songs together after we started living in Brooklyn.
In the past, the traditional Taking Back Sunday sound has revolved around the dual vocals back and forth. On this record, though, that seemed to get toned down a lot. What went into that process?
It was kind of more of a thing where the producer, David, was wanting to make Adam more of vocal point. So, we tried to construct backing vocals that were a little more supportive of one main voice. I don’t know if that’s something that’s going to stick. I think that we might end up going back to the dual vocal thing for the next record.
It was just trying to explore something different and trying to make the backups more rich, too. We have a lot of Beach Boys kind of harmonies and three parts all over the record, and stuff like that. In a sense, it was just to try something a little bit different. Bringing in another new voice, it’s a little hard to make it a natural sort of thing, I guess. We wanted to take the focus off of that and put it a little more on Adam.
I caught you guys last month at Bamboozle Left and I was impressed with your singing, so hopefully you’ll be able to show off more of that in the future.
Thank you. I really appreciate that. I hope to bring the dual vocal thing a little more back on the next record. Try and work on expanding the backing vocals territory a little bit, too. I think we can definitely do a lot more three parts and that sort of thing.
Do you have a favorite song off the record?
Probably a song called “Carpathia.” I like that song a lot. I like it because this one has a pretty sweet three-part harmony melody. It’s got a great little bass solo treat after the first chorus. I’m just really proud of the songwriting in that song. There’s this nice reinterpretation of the chorus chords in the second chorus that turns it around in the middle, and I really like the way that feels. It just has a lot of really good songwriting moments that I’m very proud of.
That’s one of the new songs you’ve been playing live recently, along with a handful of others. How have those been going over?
Everything is rad, dude. We recently put up a couple songs, like “New Again” went up on our MySpace a few weeks ago. “Sink Into Me,” the first single, is also on our MySpace page. Even a song called “Everything Must Go,” which we’ve been playing for some of the encores at the end of our set.
Yeah, I like that song a lot.
Rad. Thank you, man. It’s noticeable now that those songs are out and people can listen to it that the kids are a lot more familiar with it and they’re a lot more energized about it. So it’s exciting to see the whole process from when a song was born, to when we started playing it live, for it to finally be out now and people know it. It’s a great feeling.
Previous to this you were in a band called Facing New York, which is a little bit more progressive and experimental than Taking Back Sunday. How were able to incorporate those elements into this record?
Well, I tried to bring a little bit of that to this band. I knew that we couldn’t go out and make like a Mars Volta prog record or anything like that. But I wanted to definitely bring some of that, like a little bit more of a thinking outside the box sort of thing, to all the songs.
Like I said earlier, we do a lot of time signatures here and there. We kind of make it a little more groove oriented, too. Mainly, for me, I wanted to come into the band and bring something different and turn some of the things on its head. I think that I’ve been able to incorporate a lot of my own musical personalities into the music of this record, and it’s definitely influenced by me being in Facing New York.
Facing New York toured with Taking Back Sunday a couple years ago. Was that the first time you met those guys?
No, we had actually met them on Warped Tour of ’04. That was the reason they took us out in ’06, because I had become friends with Eddie and Eddie really loved our band. He was always like, “We’re going to take you guys out on tour. It’s just a matter of when we can make it make sense.” So, fast-forward two years and they took us out in 2006. Fast-forward another year and a half or so, and all of a sudden I was auditioning for Fred’s spot.
Did that call come really out of the blue for you?
Well, I mean, Eddie sent me a text at first. I didn’t even know that Fred had left the band, so I was really shocked to get that. I was really excited at the opportunity. Facing New York was at a place where we were kind of going to settle down a little bit. Some dudes wanted to go back to school, so the timing was very cosmic and strange.
You’ve now had to learn all the older Taking Back Sunday songs. Has that been easy and quick to pick up, or has it been a little difficult?
When they asked me to come audition, they said, “Learn these four songs.” So, I went and learned like 17 or so. I learned them in about a week, I think. The hardest part for me wasn’t learning the music. I was already familiar with the songs, and the arrangements and stuff. It was more memorizing all the lyrics and the vocal parts.
So, I printed out all the lyrics and highlighted all my parts, listened to the grip, and just rehearsed my ass off. So when I went in, I was over prepared and comfortable, and I could switch it onto autopilot a little bit and be myself.
When you’re playing the older songs live, have you been able to add your own take on them in a way?
Yeah. It’s definitely like a constantly changing thing, too. I’ve been messing around with the vocal parts live. Even the difference between when we were touring in December and where we’re at now, I’m way more comfortable with all the songs. I’m definitely trying to take the guitar parts out a little bit when there’s room, you know? I’m trying to bring my own flavor to it, too, so it’s not too identical.
I know Fred, and even if you go back farther to John Nolan and stuff, were well liked and left some pretty big shoes to fill. Did you ever feel any pressure trying to live up to those guys?
You know, yeah, I did at first. But over the first year, the way that the fans took to me, everybody was really positive about it that the pressure kind of disappeared really quickly. I was prepared for it. I really wanted to come in and have a voice within the band. They’ve given me a lot of room to stretch my musical creativity within the band.
So, I was just thankful for the opportunity and really excited about it. I tried not to be too scared about all the expectation. You know what I mean? At the end of the day, you just got to be you. You got to be good, and handle business and hope that people are down.
I love how you’ve been selling the shirt that says, “I used to be in Taking Back Sunday.” Have you been able to find humor and laugh at all the lineup changes now?
Dude, we try to beat people to the punch. There’s so many conversations still going on about John even and stuff like that. It’s just old news. It feels like a lifetime ago, for them and even for me as a fan first. That was just a long, long time ago. There’s nothing you can do about that but try and have some humor and not take it too seriously.
Kind of going along with that, the band has that small but vocal group of fans who really love the first record, Tell All Your Friends, and wish that you’d make another one of those every time out. Have you encountered that at all?
Oh, for sure. Every day [laughs]. All we can say is that it’s never going to happen, just because you’re not the same person you were 10 years ago. Adam, and Mark, and everyone else are all grown men. Adam was like 18 when he did that record. You can’t reproduce something like that because it would just come across as contrived, you know? You constantly have to be moving forward.
It happens every day. People always bring up that record. That’s awesome, and that’s great that they’re stoked on it, but there’s just nothing we can do. We wouldn’t be being honest with ourselves if we went and tried to write another record like that.
How much did you contribute lyrically on the new record?
Nothing really, actually. I just was a little bit of an opinion to Adam. That was sort of his domain. I wanted to let him do his thing with it because I respect him as a lyricist and didn’t want to step on his toes. You know what I mean? So, I tried to handle more of the music and let him do his thing with the lyrics. I think he did a sick, sick job.
Another thing I noticed is they seem to be a little more direct this time around, too.
Yeah, for sure. I think he’s being a lot more candid with things. I think it’s good for him to do that because his lyrics have been so cryptic in the past.
Since you’re the new guy in the band, have the rest of the guys pulled any jokes or pranks on you yet?
Let me think. Surprisingly not. There hasn’t been a whole lot of hazing, or anything like that. I think they like me too much to do something fucked up [laughs].
Was the band a natural fit right of the bat for you?
Yeah, right when I joined I was really impressed. We’d been pals for a while and stuff, but joining the band was a different thing. I really didn’t know what to expect. I was really surprised and stoked to find out there was absolutely no ego within the band. Everyone was just normal.
Right off the bat, I started living with Eddie and Adam in Brooklyn. Immediately, we bonded like brothers. It’s been the same way ever since. It’s been a really good, loving, positive situation for everybody.
I think it was last week that they announced you will be supporting on the Blink-182 comeback tour. Are you looking forward to that?
Oh, for sure, dude. I think all of us in different ways are looking forward to that. For me, it’s like a junior high time warp. Back when I was in seventh grade or whatever, I was so pumped on Blink and Weezer. Those bands kind of inspired me to want to be in a band. It’s weird to have it come full circle now that I’m 24 years old. I get to tour with these bands that had a big impact on me as a young, inspiring musician. It’s a trip.
Although you’ve been in a band before, with Taking Back Sunday everything’s on a much larger scale. What’s that like to experience for the first time?
Oh, man. I’ve done so much van touring in the past that everything now is so much of a luxury. I try not to take any little bit of it for granted. Even the simple luxury of having someone else driving, instead of being in a van and having to drive overnight to the next town. Then muscling up the energy to drag your merch in, and put on a show and try to win people over. You know, it’s a lot of hard work.
So now that I’m with TBS and I get to experience the other side of things, I’m really thankful for that. I’m thankful for the simplest things, like maintaining your health is a lot more of a priority than having to drag your gear all over the place and drive a million hours overnight. It’s really awesome to be able to focus all your energy on the music.
That’s kind of cool because the album title is New Again and you’re experiencing all this stuff New Again in a way, too.
Yeah. My life changed joining this band. This is a whole new thing for me. That’s why the record’s important to me. It’s the first time I’ve ever written music for a record that’s going to be out and available on such a large scale. Or even going from van touring to bus touring, or going from playing shows to 150 people to playing for several thousand. It’s all so new to me. It’s a dream, dude. As Piebald says, “We got the best job ever [laughs].”
Do you have any closing thoughts you’d like to share?
You know, we’re just going to try and come and reach out to people as far as we can. We want to go to a lot of new places on this record. I just hope that people enjoy it. I think it’s the best record that the band’s ever done, and I hope that people can see the love and energy that we put into it.
Originally appeared on Mammoth Press