Taken’s Melodic Hardcore Turns Hard Times into Hopeful Tunes on New EP

Taken (Courtesy of the band)

A decade after their reunion — and just about two decades after their start as a band — one of Orange County’s most poignant post-hardcore bands from the turn of the millennia is back with a brand new EP. It’s been 14 years since the guys in Taken released Between Two Unseens, but they’re all hoping their upcoming release of With Regard To won’t just sound like some old guys screaming over loud guitars

“I want new Taken music to serve two masters, so to speak,” says vocalist Ray Harkins. “One of those is for people who listened to us when we were around the first time. I want them to listen to it and still think it sounds awesome. The second function is for people who have no clue who we are, but they dip in and think it sounds pretty cool and contemporary. I want for us to exist in 2018 and be relevant. I don’t mean that in industry terms, but I want us to be relevant sonically speaking.”

While most bands go through pretty significant changes when they don’t release new music for over a decade, it was a significantly more personal turn of events for Harkins that actually brought about the new tunes as they’ll be released. Back in November 2016 — just as Taken was working on what would’ve been their comeback EP — the singer’s wife was diagnosed with cancer. Watching her battle with the disease gave Harkins a renewed focus for both his life and his lyrics, meaning the entire record needed to be lyrically scrapped and re-written.

With the cancer battle now in the rearview mirror, Harkins can put his entire focus on both his family and his band again. Of course, life in 2018’s version of Taken is a little different than it was back when the members were in their early 20s without adult responsibilities. The band that was once happy to spend most of the year on the road has found themselves enjoying a much more localized life — and occasionally relishing in the attention they still get from diehard fans from time to time.

“So much has changed in everybody’s personal life and from the band perspective,” Harkins says. “We’re not preparing for a three-month tour or anything like that. We’re living our day-to-day lives — and I don’t mean that in a boring way. We’re existing with what’s on our plate, so when people drop in and tell how much our music has impacted them on social media or wherever, it’s weird. But it’s weird in an awesome way. It’s awesome weird.”

To celebrate their new EP, the masters of melodic hardcore will also be holding a release party performance at Chain Reaction on May 12. As guys who have watched the now-iconic venue evolve from an awkward small room to an OC rite of passage, Taken never really considered hosting their big night anywhere else. Not only have they been playing the spot since it was called Public Storage, but Harkins has been in and around the scene for long enough that he could just text his friends who book shows there to secure the night as soon as they had a release date.

Having the logistics taken care of early was of extra importance for this show, as it may end up being the most emotional and personal Taken show ever. Not only will the band be celebrating the new record, but it’ll also be a special moment for Harkins — who will be surrounded by his family after often wondering if his wife would survive to hear the songs. 

“We want to create a time capsule of what it would’ve been if we released this EP back in 2006, and we want people to connect with the band on a real and visceral level,” Harkins says. “It’s going to be an emotional and reflective night for me, so I’m not going to pretend like I’m going to be this exuberant fun person. It’s going to be a complete Taken show, but people can also bring their children to this one because we’ll all be bringing our children.”

Taken performs Less Art, Wanter and Low Speech at Chain Reaction, 1652 N. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 635-6067, www.allages.com, Sat. May 12, 7 p.m., $14. All ages. 

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