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The story behind Cute Without The E by Taking Back Sunday

Taking Back Sunday's Adam Lazzara reveals how their smash hit Cute Without The E came to be

We were at my dad’s house, we'd played a show in North Carolina, and I have this classical guitar that I’ve had since I was a kid. Mark (O'Connell, drummer) was sitting on the floor going over these chords, and I think John heard it and said we should make a song out of that opening riff. When we came home we went into practice and started to work on it and that’s how it started.

The lyrics came from a relationship that I’d just gotten out of at the time. There was a diner near where we used to live and we’d trade notebooks amongst the band. We’d highlight the stuff that really stuck out to us, which is similar to how we do it now. We were just going back and forth and that’s how we pieced it together. I was 18 at the time, and every relationship feels like the be all and end all at that age.

At that time you’ve only seen so much of the world, so your view is pretty narrow, and I think the song is a good reflection of that. It’s funny playing it live now with the newer songs because it still has its place there. Some of the coolest things about music and art in general is that you can see it and hear it at a certain age and it means one thing to you, but as time goes on and you get a little older, you’re seeing it through a different lens or hearing it through different ears, it takes on this whole new meaning. That’s something that this song has done for us. Or for me, at least.

Looking back on Tell All Your Friends, it really stands out. At the time, every song we had was our best song as far as we were concerned, and that’s the way it is now. There’s never been a time where we’ve sat down and listened to the final master and thought ‘These are good, but these aren’t that good.’ I remember driving around listening to the masters of Tidal Wave and it was that same feeling like when we were driving around listening to Tell All Your Friends.

We got done recording and went straight on the road, so when we got the final mixes and they had changed some things, there were some sounds that had been manipulated, and guitar tones weren’t how we had recorded them. There was this one part on The Blue Channel where John had come in and played this slow, sad piano intro to the song, and when we listened back, they had sped it up to the same speed as the song, so it sounds like a Van Halen Jump situation. That’s not what we wanted at all, but they were like ‘Well, that’s just the mix.’ But now, with the last couple of records, you go through the first round of mixes and you send your notes back, and you tweak it until it’s right.

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Around that time I was a bit obsessed with Fight Club and the author Chuck Palahniuk in general. When it first came out in theatres I convinced my girlfriend at the time to go to the movies, I told her it was a romantic comedy, like it’s a couple who are always fighting, but we get through the movie and she’s mad because she wasn’t into violent stuff. When it came out on DVD I bought the special version and it was just on all the time in our apartment. It’s probably the only movie where I’ve gone through every single special feature there is. At the time, our buddy Christian had a little production company and we went to him with the idea, basically wanting to remake Fight Club in three minutes with girls beating up guys – and that’s what he did! I thought it came out great.

During that time, we just stayed on the road. I was talking to our manager the other day and she brought up our touring history, looking back on it, and she was saying that she couldn’t believe how much we used to be gone. We’d be gone for a full year with a week off here or there. It’s not like we were home and we heard people talking about us, but the shows started to get bigger. We would play for three people then a couple of months would go by and then we’re playing for 300 people.

When we rehearse for a tour now we don’t play Cute Without The E in rehearsal because we’ve played it so many times, it’s like muscle memory. But it’s crazy that after all this time it fits seamlessly in the set with all these newer songs. It’s not like it comes up in the set and it’s like ‘Oh god, an older one, this is the worst.’ It comes up and fits so well with who we are now, but also it takes on a life of its own. Right when it starts there’s an energy you can feel and it’s like electricity that you can see, a bolt of lightning, and at that point it’s out of our hands, but being a part of that is something that I’m very fortunate to be able to do.

Taking Back Sunday are playing this year's Slam Dunk Festival in May. Adam was speaking to Luke Morton.

May 26: Slam Dunk North, Leeds City Centre – Buy tickets
May 27: Slam Dunk South, Hatfield Park – Buy tickets
May 28: Slam Dunk Midlands, Birmingham NEC – Buy tickets

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