Interview: Taking Back Sunday guitarists Eddie Reyes and John Nolan
Taking Back Sunday's Eddie Reyes and John Nolan tried their hands at drumming before the shapely six-string seduced their adolescent phalanges. Once the two struck their first chords, there was no looking back, although Reyes confessed he still picks up the sticks every now and then to teach his son to play.
In 2002, Taking Back Sunday — Reyes, Nolan, vocalist Adam Lazzara, bassist Shaun Cooper and drummer Mark O'Connell — released its full-length debut, Tell All Your Friends, on Victory Records.
The disc peaked at 183 on the Billboard 200, selling more than 500,000 copies and becoming the band's first Gold album. The guitar-driven set boasted the singles “Timberwolves at New Jersey,” “Great Romances of the 20th Century” and “Cute Without the E (Cut from the Team).”
Still, not all was well within the Amityville, N.Y.,-based pop-punk band. In 2003, Nolan and Cooper took their leave, which would be the first of several lineup changes TBS would experience over the next seven years. Last year, Reyes announced yet another lineup change, and a few weeks later, to the delight of old-school TBS fans, Nolan and Cooper announced their return.
Guitar World caught up with Reyes and Nolan to talk about guitars, influences, the reunion and the new self-titled album that will be released June 28.
GUITAR WORLD: What made you switch from drums to guitar?
EDDIE REYES: I picked up the guitar because I went to a show when I was 12 or something like that, and it made me want to play. I can't remember which band it was, but I knew I wanted to play guitar. I'm a self-taught guitarist. I've never had a lesson. I don't know how to read or write music. I just, for some reason, know how to write guitar parts.
JOHN NOLAN: I just wasn't cut out for (the drums). I tried for a while, but it didn't really click with me, for whatever reason. When I decided to buy a guitar, I found it just seemed to work for me. Within the first six months after learning all the basic chords, I was writing songs.
How old were you when you got your first guitar?
ER: To tell you the truth, I don't remember. I think I was 12 or 13. My first guitar was a Jackson V Mako.
JN: I was 16. It was a black Ibanez. I don't remember what model it was, though. It was pretty awesome and I was pretty excited about it.
What’s your favorite guitar?
ER: I'm a big Fender guy. I have a rare one that's almost in the shape of an Epiphone Wilshire. It's like a rarity and you can't even find them on a website, but I found it in a mom-and-pop shop for $400. It's got Seymour Duncan P90 pickups, and I've been playing that guitar for two years now. I also collect a lot of old Epiphones. I prefer the Japanese models because I was a fan of Greco Guitars and stuff like that. I thought the Japanese Epiphones were made so well. I also have a bunch of Wilshires and a couple of Japanese Rivieras.
JN: I have this half-hollow-body Fender Telecaster Deluxe I use most of the time. It's my main guitar. It's a reissue of a vintage model, but I'm not sure from what year.
What is it about the feel of the Fender that makes you want to play it?
ER: I have really small fingers and I'm not a crazy guitar-lick player. I just play chords and basic guitar riffs. There's something about the shape of the neck. When I first picked one up, I could play the neck perfectly, and it feels good to me and fits well with my body.
JN: I love the feel of the Telecasters, although I don't like the sound of the pickups that come on the regular Telecaster. I prefer P90 pickups a lot better; that way, you get a feel of the Telecaster and get a sound that's more like a Les Paul.
What kind of acoustic guitar do you favor?
ER: I have this Epiphone Dove I really love, and I also use Takamines. They are awesome. I worked with First Act for a while and they made a couple of guitars for me, but I don't use them anymore.
JN: I have a couple of acoustics. There's one I use, but I don't know the exact model, but it's a Takamine. I also have a Martin acoustic/electric I really like.
Who were your musical influences that made you want to play guitar?
ER: I grew up with a lot of metal because my brother was a big metalhead. He got me into AC/DC and Iron Maiden and stuff like that. Later on in my teen years I got into the punk-rock and hardcore scene and started going to a bunch of shows. There were some cool bands that influenced me big-time. I've seen the Bad Brains and I've seen Dagnasty and Quicksand and bands like that. Those bands just made me want to play music. That said, there are a lot of great metal bands, too. When I was a teenager, I was big into the death metal scene like Celtic Frost and Kreator. They also inspired me to play guitar.
JN: I was always drawn to music. As long back as I can remember, I always paid more attention to music than most people. When I first started playing, Nirvana was a big influence on me, because I was able to play so many of those songs while learning the guitar. That was exciting and encouraging, because I could actually sit down and play those songs.
Eddie, with the Tell All Your Friends lineup back in tact after seven years apart, did you feel any pressures going into the studio to record the new CD?
ER: In my opinion, we did and we didn't. I felt good. I was nervous about them learning the other material that they weren't involved with, but I knew they were going to do fine and make those songs sound the way they would have sounded, if they had continued playing with us throughout the years.
John, how was the recording process for you?
JN: We actually had about 18 songs ready when we got together with the producer (Eric Valentine). We started to shave the list down little by little but started writing other songs, too. So there were plenty of songs going in. Eric helped arrange our parts. He has this way of weaving those parts together in a way that we wouldn't have been able to do on our own.
Eddie, you and Mark have been the constant members of Taking Back Sunday since 1999. Your thoughts on the reunion?
ER: It's been amazing. I felt like the band was dying and we did everything we could to keep the flow by recruiting different members and convincing ourselves that all was OK when it really wasn't. When John and Shaun came back, it felt like my brothers, my best friends, were back. It feels good having them back.
John, what are your thoughts about returning to the fold?
JN: It's been great. It's been kind of a crazy ride. It was something we all needed again. We spent the first couple of weeks together writing. Songs kept coming and coming, and things flowed so easily. It's been a great experience.