Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with Bayside frontman Anthony Raneri. We talked about the band's latest release, Cult, as well as the band's upcoming tour with Four Year Strong, Daylight, and Mixtapes. Check out the entire interview below.
First off - you've been a new father to a little baby girl. How's that been?
It's amazing, amazing. It's the coolest feeling in the world.
Did the birth of your daughter impact the way you approached writing Cult?
It definitely influence my outlook on life on the world and what I started to consider to be important. And that definitely impacted the lyrics for sure.
That's great - I remember speaking with Max Bemis months ago about how having child can impact the writing process, how you view the world, and your mindset entering the studio.
Let's talk about Cult - the phrase "Bayside is a Cult" has been around since the band's beginning. Ten years later, why did you guys decide to named your sixth LP Cult?
I don't think we've ever seen ourselves as a "greatest hits" band or a "discography" band - that's not our style. So when we went back to the record when it was all done and heard all the songs, we really kind of felt it was a really representation of everything the band has done musically to this point. It basically summarized our music career - there are elements of Sirens, Self-Titled, Walking Wounded, Shudder, and Killing Time all played a role in this record, so it's almost like a discography without using any old songs I guess in a way.
Yeah, when I listen to it I can definitely pick out some parts from previous records but it stills sounds fresh. It doesn't sound like a retread of old Bayside albums. You can definitely hear the experience from a veteran band throughout.
We set out to sort of accomplish the same thing with every Bayside record at this point. And that's to make sure it sounds like Bayside because I'm the world's biggest Bayside fan. I love Bayside; Bayside is my favorite band. So it's just like all my other favorite bands and most people with their favorite bands - you want to make sure you know and love. You want to make sure that the same character that makes the band what it is stays there. But at the same time, none of us want to do the same record over and over. It's fresh, but it's unquestionably Bayside and that's what we set out to do all the time and really what we try to accomplish.
Tomorrow (February 11th), Cult is being premiered on the internet but previously you released three songs and the one I wanted to discuss was the way you went about premiering "Hate Me" with that video of a different band performing the song. What was the thought behind that?
To be honest, that just sort of happened. There was no plan about it, we were just kind of surprised as everyone else - we're still looking for answers on it. It looks like some clever marketing campaign but we're still looking for answers on it. We don't know a whole lot about it.
Really? That's interesting. Well, then you guys did the cover contest for "Time Has Come." How were some of the entries the band received? The idea of giving out tabs beforehand and letting fans interpret the song was pretty cool.
Yeah, exactly. It was a cool idea we had a long time ago but it's been pretty hard for us to get tabs done. We really want to do it for more of our music but it's pretty time consuming, pretty hard to do normally. But finally we were able to do it - Cameron, who plays guitar for The Sleeping, did it and that's kind of what he does for a living. So we just called Cameron and he did the tabs for us and that was so much fun for us to watch and get all those versions of songs from people and their interpretation of it. It was awesome and it was super, super flattering. I wish we could do it for more songs.
It was incredibly awesome. So when I listen to the record, I love how it starts with "Big Cheese" and that killer riff Jack unleashes towards the end. I also dig "Transitive Property" and I enjoy your lyrics and delivery on "Stuttering" a ton. What are your favorites - the songs that take Cult to the next level for Bayside?
Definitely "Stuttering." It's a pretty important song to me on the record. It's brutally honest and something pretty out of the box for Bayside. It was a risk for me musically and lyrically, I think. I hope the point gets across to people on that one. As soon as we finished recorded - actually I don't even think the record was mixed yet - I played it for Vinnie Caruana (from I Am The Avalanche) because we were talking about how I tried some new things on this record, especially lyric and I wasn't sure if it'd come across or not. So I played it for Vinnie as the example of something new I'm nervous about. So that's one I'm pretty excited for people to hear. Also as far as new territory goes for the band, I think "Transitive Property" is something that'll be interesting. We don't write a lot of love songs. We don't write a lot of ballads, so I'm pretty excited to hear people's interpretation of that. There's a couple other songs, but then again a lot of it is Bayside - it's what you've come to expect from Bayside and we're proud of that. We're proud that after 14 years we're able to keep things fresh and keep things exciting without taking some crazy left turn like a lot of bands do.
Last month was the ten year anniversary of Bayside's debut, Sirens and Condolences. It's cool that you have a new album releasing around the same time as your debut's anniversary and the album that put your band on the map. How did you look back on that milestone and what does that mean to you?
Definitely. That was the first of many accomplishments that I never thought we'd ever see - that we'd sign to a real record label and that we'd have a real record out in stores. I think anybody who's ever played in a band before can sympathize with that feeling were to really go somewhere as a band; to build a foundation of putting out a real record just seems completely unattainable when you're starting out. It's just like those are the kind of things that don't happen to me, you know? Like winning the lottery or becoming a famous actor. You think, oh that happens to someone somewhere else - that doesn't happen to people like me. I still look back on it and I remember that week the record came out - actually when that came around Jack and I were talking about it and reminiscing about those times.
I gave the record a spin the other day and it still holds up ten years later - it's a great record. It's the reason why I love Bayside. A lot of records don't age well but I feel like this is a record that has over the last ten years.
Yeah, we've always sort of ignored what was cool and I think that's part of why we're in the position we're in now. We've been lucky enough to have this longevity because over the last 14 year we've seen a lot of trends kind of come and go and a lot of bands and we never hopped onto any of those bandwagons. That's why Sirens and Self-Titled, which will be ten years next year, hold up. It's nostalgic because of the place and time for the listener, maybe it sends them back to a place and time in their life, but it's not nostalgic musically, I don't think. And that's part of what makes it hold up, it's not something you used to listen to and are embarrassed to say you did.
You did Killing Time during the band's brief stint with Wind-Up and now Bayside is with Hopeless. And, at least in my experience with the bands on Hopeless, they seem to be a label that cares more about the artist and the music they put instead of just the bottom line financially. What's been the band's experience with Hopeless compared to your other label experiences?
Honestly, I would say, and I think it's why it's the perfect home for us and perfect home for bands like All Time Low and Taking Back Sunday and The Used and Yellowcard is it's stress-free. When you've been a band as long as us and those bands, you've been through the wringer, so to speak. And whether that's a negative thing or positive thing, you've been through the major label game which all those bands I mentioned have been through. It's tough - whether it works or it doesn't. For some bands it works - like The Used and Yellowcard. I mean, it wasn't a super successful experience obviously but then there are other bands that it doesn't work for. But whether it's successful or not, it's a stressful experience. And it's long and hard and tedious. And with Hopeless you really get to go back and just make music. And Hopeless is more of a partner than a label. I think a lot band/label relationships come down to the band looking at the label like a bank and the label looks at the band like a product. With Hopeless it's not like that, you really just in it together. It's the band's job to make music, it's the label's job to get it out to people and it's really that simple with Hopeless.
I know a lot of the people at Hopeless and I think they're great and I was thrilled when they announced that Bayside was a part of the label and Cult kind of reflects that mindset that's stress-free and simple. That comes through in the record. The promotion of the record has been fantastic from an outsider's perspective.
Yeah, at this point in our career we are where we want to be. And I can honestly say that. We've already accomplished more than we ever imagined we would and we've gotten to a further point that we ever could have imagined and we're very comfortable, very happy with our position of our band and the position of our career. Really, our main focus is to make good music and maintain were we are. That's all we really care about at this point. And you know, if the band gets bigger, obviously that's cool and if it doesn't, that's cool too. But we really put no focus into any of that stuff these days. With Hopeless, that's kind of what we're allowed to do with them - we're allowed to say no, we're allowed to say we don't feel comfortable doing that. You know, on the Killing Time cycle there were a couple of points were I just kind of, there was this one point where we were playing on a fucking boat somewhere, in the middle of the ocean off of Virginia Beach for contest winners for a radio station. It was the stupidest thing I've ever done.
There was a really defining moment on the last cycle where we playing a couple of shows with Stone Temple Pilots and Bush. We're playing in upstate New York somewhere and I was standing on stage and we're playing to like 10,000 people there and there was a confederate flag merchandise off in the distance in the back of the show and there's all these people who just did not understand and would never understand Bayside and some of them were singing along - it was for a radio station that was playing the song - so they were singing along but they didn't know they were singing along to and they didn't get it. And the same weekend we were doing those shows, Long Island Fest was happening in like a VFW Hall and I Am The Avalanche was playing. And I remember thinking like I would much rather be at Long Island Fest right now. I don't care, I don't want to be in front of these 10,000 people who don't get what I'm doing and as soon as we're done playing they're gonna go buy a confederate flag beer coozie. I would much rather play in front of a thousand people in a VFW Hall in Long Island right now. And that was a turning point in our career where we really said "how much more do we need?"
Killing Time is really a fantastic record and it's probably the most ambitious Bayside record and I feel like it didn't get the attention and promotion it deserved.
The thing with that is that I don't think the label knew what to really do with it other than taking it to radio. And they did that and it was pretty cool, it worked. I think the single ended up being top 30 at one point. So we got some new fans from it, so that's cool and we got to do some cool things but as far as promotion of the record goes, they didn't know the grassroots, direct-to-fan stuff that we're used to doing. So all those experiences were learning experiences. We learned some things that we took with us as "we should do this all the time" and we learned some things that we took with us as "let's never do that again."
It seems like these situations always end up as a learning experience - I'm glad it worked out in a way that you guys learned from it and could go on to create another great record.
Yeah, we came out of it alive and not a lot of bands can say that.
So next month is the Great American Cult Tour - you're headlining with Four Year Strong, Daylight, and Mixtapes. While it's all rock bands - it's an eclectic mix. How did you go about selecting those bands to tour with?
Well Four Year Strong were definitely the foundation of the support on the tour. We knew immediately - they're good friends of ours and we've toured together three or four times and they haven't done much in the last couple of years but we did know - just from talk with them, we're also good friends with their manager - that they were starting to ramp back up this year. They're gonna start working on a new record. We thought what better way to ramp up than to go back to where you came from. So we thought us and Four Year would be a good package - Mixtapes is a cool band and Daylight...I love, love, love the Jar record. We just took out our friends and bands that we're fans of. I've never met Daylight or Mixtapes so I'm just a fan. So I'm looking forward to it. That's how most tours really get put together on this scale, maybe on a bigger scale there are more politics involved but as far as our tours, we kind of just kind of talk about who were listening to.
Yeah, sounds like a rad tour. I hope I can make the Milwaukee date next month. I saw Bayside with Alkaline Trio last fall, but it'll be cool to see you guys headline.
Yeah, we haven't done a straight headline tour in years. Our last couple of tours were support tours - we did Trio and then we did TBS before that and we did Warped before that. And during the whole Killing Time cycle we were co-headlining with a bunch of bands, so this is our first straight headline tour probably since Shudder came out.
When you have such a vast discography, how difficult is it to put together a set list?
It's definitely tough - at this point we have something like a hundred songs in our discography so it's definitely really hard to put a set together but it's a lot easier to do on a headline tour than any other tour. On a support tour to try to put - we really don't talk much during our set, we kind of jam as many songs as possible. So a support set for us is usually ten songs so that's pretty hard to do. And a Warped Tour set is almost impossible, trying to pick six or seven songs to play is so hard to do. So a headlining set is a little easier to do but it's still pretty hard. We listen to the fans really. Sometimes we'll go as far to ask fans. We'll put something out on social media and look for suggestions. We don't take it to the point of necessarily doing an all-request tour but we will sometimes look for suggestions. Nick and I are always looking at our social media, we're always looking at Facebook and Twitter and seeing what fans are saying, "oh we have to play this song when we come through here, we have to play this song when we come through there, how come you never play this song?" So we try to take all that into consideration.
Totally, it seems the fans want to hear the deep cuts in each set list. That sounds incredibly difficult.
Yeah, it is. You have people who are on drastic ends of the spectrum. You have people coming to the shows who are fans of the older stuff, which is awesome that they've stuck around for ten years, it's really cool. But then you have new fans who want to hear new stuff or fans who have seen us fifteen times and heard "Devotion and Desire" fifteen times and want to hear something different, they want to hear the new stuff. So you really polarize them. Half the crowd is gonna get mad if you play too much new stuff and half the crowd is gonna get mad if you don't play enough new stuff.
Heh, that is very true. Anything else you want to add about the release?
The big thing with this record is that I think there's a big difference in the lyrics of the record. I think past records I've written a lot about situations in my life because those situations have engulfed my thoughts, but with this record, if anything is different about this record from past records, it's in the lyrics. I thought a lot about my legacy, and not only as a musician but as a man. I thought a lot about people like Morrissey who are writing about being a better person, he's calling out this generation on things and saying "be a better man." That sort of really worked its way into this record where I'm really talking much more about how I want to be remembered not just as a musician but also as a man. Because I think that's important and I think it's a good message. I'm really interested to see what people think about that line of though on this record.
That's really evident throughout the record. And it's another great Bayside record and I've had my advance of this record since November and still play it every day. It has a ton of staying power and I believe Bayside fans are going to love and I'm excited to read the discussion on it on our site.
Cool, yeah thank you. I think it's really funny to see some of the responses. It goes back to what I was saying about trying to please everybody with a set list. It's funny to see the response to the songs we've released so far. 90% of it is positive, 90-95% of it is positive so that's great, you can't really ask for much better than that. But what's funny, out of anything anyone has negative to say, half of those people think that our old stuff was better - they wish we sounded like we used to. And the other half of those people say we sound too much like we used to and we haven't changed enough. So you really can't please everybody but I'm interested to see what people say.
Big thanks to Anthony for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk with us. Bayside's fantastic new record, Cult, is in stores now. Go pick it up and check the band out on its headlining tour starting next month..