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Cute or cut? We ask emo kings Taking Back Sunday to rate '00s pop culture

Taking Back Sunday

Taking Back Sunday Ryan Russell

The term "emo" is a dynamic one that covers a broad spectrum of sub-genres. It embodies an entire community of musicians that work within a general set of beliefs: to lay out even your basest emotions publicly through music.

To put it succinctly, it means Taking Back Sunday, a band that has outgrown the emo envelope, putting out new, more indie-rock-influenced records every couple of years. The latest is last Friday's Tidal Wave, released via Hopeless Records, but the band has never stopped acknowledging and respecting their beloved '00s output. 

TBS are in town Tuesday to play a show at the Varsity with new-emo standouts You Blew It!, who’ve rolled through town before with another emo statesman, Say Anything. TBS will also appear Tuesday at Electric Fetus to sign their new album and play a few songs in the afternoon.

City Pages spoke with Taking Back Sunday's original bassist, Shaun Cooper, who came back into the fold in 2010 after a seven year hiatus. He was quick to emphasize that while the band doesn’t balk at the emo label, they’ve never situated themselves strongly in one genre or scene.

"What do we like, what are our influences, and then we put it through the Taking Back Sunday machine," he says by phone. "Whatever we do, it’s going to sound like a Taking Back Sunday song. The lyrics come from Adam [Lazzara] and John [Nolan] ... whatever they come up with it’s going to sound like lyrics you’d write down in your notebook." 

He continues: 

"You kind of called your friends emo as an insult, it was the Long Island hardcore scene. The Movie Life played songs where we grew up, literally across the street with all of these Long Island hardcore legends. I don’t know what the emo scene was like, I think that’s for writers to decide."

Some of the best house shows that I’ve ever been to were on Long Island, and as we reminisced, Cooper talked about shows he went to featuring the likes of Long Island hardcore legends the Movie Life.

“My friends and I would always be down the block behind the bush, drinking forties of Olde English,” Cooper says. 

Wow, I never knew I was so similar to one of my teenage heroes.

Cooper says that he and the rest of the guys are just glad they still have an active and passionate audience.

"I’m at peace with anything, you know, we’ve been so fortunate to have this career," he says. "We play with a certain style of bands, but we’re just having so much fun still, call us whatever you want, as long as people are coming out to shows, and as long as people are happy, we’re good."

Cute or Cut?

In the spirit of Taking Back Sunday's smash 2002 hit "Cute Without the 'E' (Cut from the Team)," I asked Shaun to tell me if he thought a number of things from my personal experience of the early 2000s were cute or better off cut. Here’s what he said.

City Pages: Yu-Gi-Oh!

Shaun Cooper: I don’t know it, so I’m going to have to cut it.

CP: When I first heard you guys, if I knew that none of you guys Yu-Gi-Oh!, I might have stopped listening to you. OK, how about Blogspot and LiveJournal? 

SC: I’ll say cute, I had a couple of friends with some great blogs on there. My friend Brendan Kelly from the Lawrence Arms had his blog the Bad Sandwich Diaries on there and I read Jim Norton’s blog on there too.

CP: Bullying

SC: Bullying? You gotta cut that. I don’t like bullying.

CP: Hot Topic

SC: Hot Topic has been good to me and my band so I have to go cute.

CP: The hair

SC: Cut. CUT! I hated it then, I hate it now.

CP: Did you ever have one of those big, kind of flowy hair styles?

SC: No, my hair was already falling out. I shaved my head in 2003 and I was just so glad when all that ended.

CP: My father’s alcoholism

SC: You gotta cut that, right?

CP: We kept trying to cut it, but we weren’t able to.

SC: I quit drinking a little over a year ago. It wasn’t a big to do, I just stopped having fun with it, never really had an issue. There are some people who can’t stop when they have eight and they just have eight more before they can go to bed. So anyone who needs to cut it should, even if you just think you might. Try [sobriety] out, it’s pretty good.

CP: George W. Bush

SC: Of course you have to cut him. I mean, he’s out on his ranch, doing doggy paintings, or whatever makes him happy. I’d have a drink with him probably, but as far as running the country, you’ve gotta cut that.

CP: John Kerry

SC: I thought that was cute. If I have to, if there’s one way to describe that, it’d be cute. I think it was a good try. That was a good try, champ!

CP: Warped Tour

SC: I like Warped Tour, it’s a long, long summer, but they’ve been very good to us, so I’ve gotta go with cute. [Warped Tour founder] Kevin Lyman is the man.

Taking Back Sunday
With: You Blew It! 
When: 7 p.m. Tue., Sept. 20
Where: Varsity Theater
Tickets: $35; more info here