Interview: Anthony Raneri (Bayside)

joe zorzi speaks with the Bayside frontman about his new solo record …

I tend to think of Anthony Raneri as one of the more consistent songwriters in alternative rock. He’s been fronting Bayside for over a decade and has continued to keep things fresh without straying too far from the band’s original sound. Raneri released his debut solo EP, New Cathedrals, last month, and it’s yet another album filled with solid songwriting. It’s a bit of a departure from what people are used to hearing, with some reggae and country style tunes, but it’s still very obvious who wrote it.

“Sandra Partial” starts off the album with a fresh acoustic sound. It’s a catchy pop rock song with a southern rock twang that showcases Raneri’s vocals and melodies. It leads into “Charleston,” a bouncy jam which features some organs and upstroke guitar riff-age. Raneri has a great way with words, and he’s great at telling a story (see: “The Ballad Of Bill The Saint”). He keeps it simple but intriguing. “Lead, Follow, Fail” is the the closest track to Bayside, darker and riff-heavy. The bass in the verses is really fun and keeps the song moving. The album ends on the acoustic “Please Don’t Leave.” It’s my favorite track on the EP, an upbeat song with miserable lyrics. The minimal percussion really gives the track the extra boost that it needs.

New Cathedrals isn’t anything groundbreaking, but it’s a great listen. It mixes a variety of genres but all with that classic Raneri sound, allowing them to fit together nicely as a whole.

Pop-Break: You just released your first solo EP, New Cathedrals, and the reception seems pretty awesome. How does it feel to finally put out an album all by yourself like that?

Anthony Raneri: It’s cool, man. It’s something that I do for fun and I’ve had a lot of fun throughout the whole process, so …

PB: And Billboard contacted you saying that your record was the first without a barcode to actually hit the charts in a long time?

AR: Well they contacted my publicist and they said, “Hey, what’s the barcode number on the album? ‘Cause, you know, we need that for the charts” and he’s like, “Well, there is no bar code, really.” It’s like the demo, you know? It’s not sold in stores or anything. And they were like “We have to see kind of what the protocol is with that, ’cause I don’t really know the last time that that’s happened.”

PB: Oh, that’s so funny. And do you know which charts you made it onto?

AR: It made it in the Top 200, like the Top 200 in the country. And then like the Top Independent and the Heatseekers and Top Digital. Yeah, it’s pretty cool.

PB: When Bayside first came out in the early 2000s, alternative rock was dominating the radio and everything. But these days, there’s really not as much room for alternative rock in the mainstream, it’s all like club bangers and hip-hop. But you got the fans to still pull that off, that’s awesome.

AR: Yeah, that’s really what I wanted to set out to do with this. I wanted to make music and record the records just for me and to have a good time with it. But you know, as far as the sales of the record goes and self releasing it, doing everything on my own, I wanted to try to prove that as long as you make good music and you connect with your fan base and the fans support it, then you can kind of accomplish a lot of cool things without help of labels or money or anything.

PB: What would you say with this album was your biggest challenge?

AR: Just the release of it. Getting the distribution together and you know, getting it pressed, and you know all that. Yeah, mainly doing the release and the pre-sales, online sales and stuff on my own, that was kind of the hardest part.

PB: And the songs themselves, you already wrote most of those beforehand, right?

AR: Yeah, the reason I wanted to put it out really is ‘cause I just had all these songs for years that didn’t really fit in with Bayside, so I figured I would put it out.

PB: Did you do most of the instrumentation yourself or did you have other people helping you?

AR: I played everything on it except the drums.

PB: What was your favorite instrument to play?

AR: I don’t know, I guess I don’t really have a favorite. It’s really about the song for me. The instrument is really more of a vehicle for the song.

PB: Being mainly a guitarist and singer, do you usually make all the songs on guitar first or does it depend on the song really?

AR: Guitar or piano. It kind of depends on the song.

PB: You recorded the EP in Hurley Studios in California. What were the vibes like out there?

AR: It was cool, man — it was real laid back.

Photo: Michael Scott Slosar

PB: Have you recorded out there before?

AR: We did a Bayside record in L.A. once. Santa Monica. But this is the first time I’ve done something in like Orange County, in that sort of real laid back kind of surfer vibe over there.

PB: And does the recording space your in ever affect you? Do you think that ever has a big affect on how the songs come out?

AR: No, not really. Once you get into a studio they’re all the same. Whether you’re in the country or you’re in LA or you’re in New York City or wherever.

PB: Have you ever thought of collaborating with anybody?

AR: I’ve thought about it and I’ve talked to some people about it. When I have some more time, it’s definitely something I want to get more into.

PB: Any plans to do a full band tour for this record, since a lot of the songs are full band?

AR: Possibly, if the opportunity presents itself than I will. But it’s a little tough to get like a band together for this kind of thing.

PB: So was this just like a one off thing, or do you think you’re going to be doing more of it in the future?

AR: Yeah, I think sooner than later. It’ll probably become a pretty constant thing.

PB: Anyone you’ve been listening to lately? Any newer artists you’ve been interested in?

AR: Really into Balance and Composure right now, probably one of my favorite new bands right now.

PB: Do you listen to stuff outside the alternative rock scene?

AR: Oh yeah, mainly. I mainly listen to a lot of country, a lot of pop.

PB: Who’s your favorite pop artist at the moment?

AR: Hmm. You know what, to be honest when it comes to pop I’m really a fan of the songwriting. I could care less who’s singing it.

PB: That’s cool, do you write songs for other people or have you thought about doing that?

AR: Yeah, yeah I have. I do that pretty often actually.

PB: Anything right now that you’re working on?

AR: I actually have been working on a couple of tracks for the new Avril Lavigne record which I’m kind of excited about. And I wrote three songs on the new I Am The Avalanche record also.

For more on Anthony Raneri and Bayside, check out Pop-Break’s interview with Anthony from summer 2011.