Best friends make the best enemies—just ask John Nolan.
The former/current guitarist for Taking Back Sunday and one-time frontman for Straylight Run has had both of his best friends betray him in ways that would inspire the most vitriolic songs you could possibly write.
In early 2002, Sunday’s lead singer and widely hated Long Island transplant Adam Lazarra cheated on Nolan’s sister Michelle, causing Nolan and bass player Shaun Cooper to leave the band and form Straylight Run with her. But life wasn’t exactly simple for Nolan before then. Taking Back Sunday’s landmark post-hardcore masterpiece Tell All Your Friends is fraught with a troubled history of high school drama set against a backdrop of two of New York’s most famous emo bands. But while this drama itself turns Sunday’s song “There’s No ‘I’ In Team” into a borderline transcendent narrative about guy/guy/girl relations in bands, the more startling revelation is its power among social circles. It took one song to a different level than was ever intended.
“There’s No ‘I’ In Team” is firmly entrenched in the Long Island hardcore scene, standing side-by-side with its nemesis, Brand New’s “70 x 7.”
“There’s No ‘I’ In Team” is one of the weaker songs on the largely excellent Tell All Your Friends. It’s an unremarkable song coming in between TBS’s best song, “Cute Without the E (Cut From the Team),” and the sex-emo of “Great Romances of the 21st Century.” But the song is firmly entrenched in the Long Island hardcore scene, standing side-by-side with its nemesis, Brand New’s “70 x 7.” New’s lead singer Jesse Lacey envisioned the song to be a simple breakup song hidden in a simple breakup album, 2001’s Your Favorite Weapon. However, Lacey, who had been friends with Nolan since the two were pint-sized, had forgotten a small bit of drama that would turn “70 x 7” into a companion piece in a war between TBS and Brand New. Because Lacey had just been caught with Nolan’s girlfriend, the two fellow musicians experienced a rift of high school grudge size. “There’s No ‘I’ In Team” was the affirmation of that rift, with the breakdown after the second chorus serving as the first shot. Under a muck of bass drum and hissing, Nolan spits the phrase:
“Is this what you call tact?/You’re as subtle as a brick in the small of my back/So let’s end this call/And end this conversation.”
Taken out of context, the song is pretty boilerplate emo. But when you consider the same quatrain appears in the sparse breakdown of “70 x 7,” there is a little more than mutual lyrical appreciation going on. With Lazarra spouting “that’s right, he said it” after Nolan finished hissing Lacey’s words, it seems that Taking Back Sunday and Brand New were primed for a fight of epic proportions. The songs sparked one of the first Internet emo battles, eventually creating dividing lines that have existed in the AbsolutePunk.net world for years afterward.
However, there is one vastly more interesting facet to the Taking Back Sunday/Brand New feud—it’s all speculation. While Lazarra has always been the most vocal about the feuds between Lacey, Nolan and himself, even he has been reticent to ever talk about the circumstances surrounding “There’s No ‘I’ In Team.” Lacey and Nolan, who rekindled their friendship after Sunday’s messy breakup, don’t talk about the incident at all—Lacey frequently leaving the breakdown out of live “70 x 7” performances. What AP.net creator Jason Tate, an avid Taking Back Sunday hater and devoted Brand New fanboy, and Alternative Press Magazine—the first gossip rag for tattooed skinny kids—did was successfully create the first “frenemy” relationship in emo, turning what may have previously been construed as a simple case of lyric borrowing into a full-on feud that now exists in the blogosphere. The “is this what you call tact” moment of “There’s No ‘I’ In Team” is less about Taking Back Sunday or Brand New and more about perceptions of inter-band relationships and the literal honesty of lyrics. Regardless of whether the entire feud is truth or fiction, it has forever changed the way we view Taking Back Sunday, Brand New and a pretty meaningless (but actually not so) emo song called “There’s No ‘I’ In Team.”