Add Matt Rubano to the list of super cool, Gay friendly rock stars who we wouldn’t mind being stuck in an elevator with. The bassist for alternative hard rock band Taking Back Sunday looks like a cross between Seth Green and Anthony Keidis. Did I say elevator? Make that deserted island. Rubano was relaxing in a friend’s Manhattan apartment when I got in touch with him, decompressing from a multi-city UK and European tour that included two sold out shows with Grammy winners Green Day. Released in April, Taking Back Sunday’s third album Louder Now has already been certified gold (500,000 copies sold). The quintet’s 2004 offering, Where You Want to Be, has sold 700,000 copies to date. That’s hot. Taking Back Sunday perform Thursday night, July 27, in Seattle at The Premier. See “Where It’s At” for concert details.
Here’s what Taking Back Sunday’s Matt Rubano said when he chilled inside “The Music Lounge”.
Albert Rodriguez: How are you?
Matt Rubano: I’m good. Just got back to New York last night from a seemingly everlasting UK and European tour. I’m sitting in my friend’s apartment in Chelsea, in Manhattan, just relaxing.
Rodriguez: Chelsea is Gay boys town.
Rubano: It sure is. I just had a nice stroll through the neighborhood and remembered what it’s like to be one of the only straight dudes on the street.
Rodriguez: At your shows, girl groupies are always in the crowd. But I’m sure Gay boy groupies are in the audience too from time to time?
Rubano: As it should be. It means we’re reaching out to people. I want the environment to be as welcoming as it is fun. It’s good to see more and different people getting into your band.
Rodriguez: Where did you play the last time in Seattle?
Rubano: The last time we were in Seattle, we played at The Showbox. We had a good time over there. I had a really nice afternoon walking around Seattle.
Rodriguez: What did you do?
Rubano: I walked down to the fish market area and through all the shops on the water, and had lunch there. I bought a cup of soup and sat down. It was such a peaceful way to enjoy my lunch. You get these giant cargo ships, mountains and boats. It’s such a nice, scenic afternoon spot. I literally wanted to take a picture and say, “This is where I’m having lunch today everybody! It’s fucking awesome!”.
Rodriguez: Louder Now, Taking Back Sunday’s new album, is currently on Billboard’s top album charts.
Rubano: We had a cool debut moment. Now we’re looking at the rest of the year’s schedule and looking forward to more touring and putting out more songs.
Rodriguez: Nick Lachey is also on the Billboard albums chart. What’s up with that?
Rubano: (laughs) I was contemplating playing Nick Lachey the other day. It’s funny this came up. I read an article in Rolling Stone where they painted this big sensitive picture of a man left behind by his high school sweetheart. I totally understand the plight of Nick Lachey. I think he’s a good guy. I may not necessarily be a fan of his music, but as a dude I would definitely be able to sit down and have a conversation with him. Jessica is another story. I’m not interested in her or her life, or anything like that.
Rodriguez: I don’t have sympathy for him.
Rubano: It’s not sympathy but more like, “I’ve been where you’ve been dude and I know what you’re talking about. Even if I don’t, I would hang out with you”.
Rodriguez: Did it take a major label this long to discover you guys or this long for you guys to feel comfortable being on a major label?
Rubano: It was the latter. We had earlier opportunities, but it was a decision we knew we were going to make at the right time. That opportunity presented itself and we knew it was right for us at that time, so we went for it.
Rodriguez: How much of a say does the band have in choosing the first single?
Rubano: That was a very unanimous decision for this record. We felt “MakeDamnSure” was the kind of song that, as far as what the new record represents for us, had one foot in our original sound and one foot forward. We wanted to make a big, over the top rock record and take all of the aspects of our band and amplify them to the fullest extent. That’s what the title is meant to evoke.
Rodriguez: Do you choose the second single or let the label choose it?
Rubano: We wouldn’t put our time into all the writing, making the record and touring to let decisions like that go by the wayside. The greatest thing about our relationship with Warner Bros. is it’s a real life example of dispelling the myths that the independent record label is the good guy and the major label is the bad guy because it’s not the case for us. At this point, we still have all the control and creative freedom, and we also have the support of this great group of people. It’s like we’ve joined teams. They’ve got our back and have given us the means to accomplish things and grow as a band. It’s been nothing but positive for us so far.
Rodriguez: Is New York home for Taking Back Sunday?
Rubano: Everyone is scattered all over the New York and New Jersey area, and we’ve got one guy who lives in Ohio. But the band is from New York.
Rodriguez: Is it nice being home, seeing friends and familiar things?
Rubano: Totally. Especially after this last trip. For some reason, it was a particularly homesick trip. When we’re in the states I don’t miss it so much, not because of the familiarity but because when you’ve been through all the US cities so many times you start to get comfortable. You orient yourself around your favorite restaurant or record store, or a place you like to go.
Rodriguez: I lived in Paris briefly and loved it, but I missed the convenience and efficiency of how things are done in the US.
Rubano: Yeah, like the tour buses in Europe are quite different. I’m not that tall, so it doesn’t really bother me. The buses are double-decker and the ceilings are low and much smaller, so it’s a constantly, uncomfortable experience. Then again, touring itself isn’t exactly the lapse of luxury.
Rodriguez: New bands seem to have this fascination that touring is glamorous.
Rubano: It is at first. Even your first van tour, when you roll up to a city a couple of hundred miles from where you live and you’re going to play for an audience that’s never seen you before; you feel like you’re on some kind of crusade. Later on, you’re sleeping on the floor somewhere and you’re like, “Wait, where did the glamour go?”.
Rodriguez: And no clean clothes.
Rubano: I’m staying with a friend of mine right now and before I came up to her place I went to the laundromat and dropped off my clothes. I was like, “I cannot bring these up there. She’ll throw up!” (laughs). It’s not just clothes worn weeks and weeks, but show clothes we’ve performed in. And they’re still soaking wet!
Rodriguez: Yucky. I always tell fans that instead of buying flowers or souvenirs for musicians buy them a T-shirt. They can always use it.
Rubano: Yeah, get the guy some socks!
Rodriguez: Your website rocks.
Rubano: Thanks. We have a lot of light bulbs that are constantly blinking and flashing. Bands have websites now compared to when I was younger. You got a stamped, self-addressed envelope and sent it away to the fan club. That was about it. Now there’s MySpace and websites and all kinds of ways to interact with bands you like.
Rodriguez: I sent a letter to Duran Duran once and they replied with a picture.
Rubano: I remember joining the Jane’s Addiction fan club when I was in my first year of high school and getting back a sticker. You brought it to school and people were amazed and asked, “Where did you get that?!”. Now you can get on a webcam and watch your favorite bass player or drummer take a shower somewhere, or some other bullshit.
Rodriguez: What’s currently spinning in your iPOD?
Rubano: I’m listening to We Are Scientists. You know those guys?
Rodriguez: Yes, I do. I love them.
Rubano: Yeah, me too. They’re good guys. We have a lot of friends in common. They live in Brooklyn. I’m listening to them and to a band called Mellowdrone. I definitely recommend checking them out. I’ve also been listening to Pink Floyd and The Kinks, and Miles Davis.
Rodriguez: I saw We Are Scientists for the third time recently. They’ve really grown as a band and it reflects in their live performances. They just get better and better.
Rubano: We did shows with them in London and Manchester, in this big festival. So I saw them a couple of days in a row. I’m not bragging, but they did dedicate a song to me.
Rodriguez: It better not be “Inaction”. That’s mine.
Rubano: No, they dedicated “Cash Cow”. I’m friends with them, but I’m also obviously a fan. I think they have great senses of humor and are fun to sit around and bullshit with.
Rodriguez: I saw Arctic Monkeys in concert and though I really dig their CD, they weren’t as wild and exciting onstage as I expected them to be.
Rubano: The way I see it is people who really like your band are going to listen to your record fifty or a hundred times that year, but they’re only going to see you once or twice. So you’re going to have to give them the experience of hearing your music but also something that will make them go home and listen to your record again because you blew their fucking minds.
Rodriguez: So what’s a Taking Back Sunday show like?
Rubano: There’s almost a bit of chaos while we’re playing. I don’t think you’ll ever hear more people sing along with a band than at our shows. Then there’s Adam’s onstage antics, he’s like a young Mick Jagger who’s drank a half dozen Red Bulls and has no regard for his own physical safety. He’s quite the captivating frontman. I suggest coming and having a look at the band.
Rodriguez: We will, with bells on. We look forward to Taking Back Sunday coming back to Seattle. And we’ve got a fresh pair of socks waiting for you.
Rubano: Thanks a lot! It’s been great talking to you. See you at the show!