It started with a girl. Last weekend I went to a punk show in Philadelphia. Rancid, Pennywise, and Suicidal Tendencies are all on tour together with a few other bands and they played a well known Philly venue that we all still refer to as the Electric Factory. I was supposed to attend with my friend Ashley and her friend Kelsey, but when Ashley took an offer to sell merch for Rancid, that left me and Kelsey to attend together. I just met Kelsey earlier this month so going to Rancid together really gave us the chance to hang out and get to know each other. We started talking about music and eventually got into talking about Brand New and Taking Back Sunday. They were two of my favorite bands in high school and Kelsey’s all time favorite bands. Since my Rancid hang with Kelsey, I’ve listened to both bands a couple times and for nostalgia’s sake, started reminiscing about how wild it is for someone to love both bands so much given their history.
Again it started with a girl. Jesse Lacey of Brand New and John Nolan of Taking Back Sunday were childhood best friends. They both were part of the famed Long Island music scene in the early 2000’s. As rumor has it, at some point in their friendship there was a girl that got in the way. No one knows the exact story of what happened. From what I know, it was something along the lines of Jesse was with a girl that cheated on him with John. It incited a well-known emo music feud between both bands. Songs from both bands’ first albums pointed anger and hatred towards each other (Brand New’s “Seventy Times Seven” and Taking Back Sunday’s “There’s No “I” in Team”). There was even band merch that did the same (“Because mics are for singing not swinging”, a dig at TBS frontman Adam Lazzara’s mic swinging style and “Proudly Swinging Since 1999”). Yet, while listening to these bands in high school, I loved both of them. Sure, I favored Brand New over Taking Back Sunday, but I definitely loved both and listened to each during certain periods of high school. Most of my friends did too. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who has chosen one and hated the other? Do those people even exist?
That’s what got me thinking about it this week. It’s crazy that we loved both of these bands. The songs they wrote that took aim at each other had some incredibly violent lyrics. “And you can think of me when you forget your seatbelt and again when your head goes through the windshield!” or “Best friends means I pulled the trigger. Best friends means you get what you deserve!” I mean come on! These are intense words. They’re actually threats! But when you’re in high school in the mid-2000’s, you don’t think of it that way. You just love the music and you relate to the lyrics.
I will say though “Seventy Times Seven” was the fuel for a lot of my own teen angst towards friendships. In fact, I think both of these bands taught me about friendships through their songs. I realized the importance of calling someone a best friend and what that meant. Of course, actions speak louder than words, but…words can be powerful. You don’t want to waste words on lower cases and capitals. You want them to mean something. So in high school, I started using the term “best friend” sparingly because in my mind “best friends” meant friends forever. I learned that from Brand New. It’s still something I hold with me to this day. I actually took those words for granted recently and I needed to remind myself to not do that again after it happened so again I looked towards “Seventy Times Seven”. This is why it’s still relevant 15 years later.
Sadly though, in recent years, a lot of people began to have mixed feelings about Brand New. In late 2017, Jesse Lacey was accused of sexual misconduct and a lot of fans were upset by the allegations. Mostly, I think people realized that Jesse Lacey wasn’t who they thought he was. Before that happened, Brand New released one final album, Science Fiction, before calling it quits last year. Taking Back Sunday however is still touring. They’re embarking on a 20 year anniversary tour this fall. John Nolan is still part of the band even though he took a brief break from the group in the mid-2000’s to form Straylight Run. On the tour they’re playing their first album Tell All Your Friends in full. It’s definitely going to bring up a lot of feelings for fans and maybe even for the band. Who knows maybe we’ll find out exactly what happened between Brand New and Taking Back Sunday? Maybe not though. I will say I think the feud might have been blown up out of proportion and there’s evidence of that as well (cue the video of Jesse and John playing with Say Anything). It was still enough that we never got a Brand New/Taking Back Sunday tour. Despite everything surrounding both bands, I’m glad they gave us the music that they did. It was the soundtrack to my youth. Even if I no longer feel like a failure by design or a wishful thinker with the worst intentions, their music is still relevant to me at times and I still love connecting with people over it.