“I thought I’d like to live forever/ But it just reeks of patience and effort/ This is the calling I’m waiting for,” yells Bayside vocalist Anthony Raneri as he masterfully paints a symbolic portrait onto the melodic landscape of “Time Has Come.”
My favorite underdog stories are the band’s that disregard the trends and continuously push their sound into newfound heights of excellence. If I were to surmise one band that encapsulates this attitude – Bayside immediately comes to mind as one of the hardest workers in modern rock. Most veteran acts reach a point in their career where they lack a crucial hunger, however, this group defies the status quo and continues to master their sound with each release.
Look no further than the band’s sixth studio LP Cult, this is unequivocally one of the best pop punk records in the last decade. Once the pulsating drums launch into the gargantuan riff of album-opener “Big Cheese,” the hard-hitting chord progressions fire away while Raneri’s lyrical intimacy echoes with fervent intensity. Simply stated, the organic honesty within Raneri’s vocals makes the listener feel the painful metaphors in his poetry. Alongside classics like Sirens and Condolences and The Walking Wounded, Cult features a healthy balance between relentless angst and retrospective self-examinations. The group’s hometown New York attitude creates a hard hitting yet thought provoking dynamic that far exceeds the stereotypical carelessness typically found in pop punk.
Here’s what makes Bayside special, these four musicians share a genuine vision and recognize how each performer respectively adds an irreplaceable element to the fold. In today’s music industry, this band’s D.I.Y. attitude speaks volumes to the core ethos of old school punk. Unlike most bands pursuing a music career for superficial reasons, Bayside’s long-term success is a testament to each member’s commitment to pushing the barriers of their legacy.
In an exclusive interview with Pop-Break, I spoke with Bayside vocalist Anthony Raneri for in-depth conversation examining his band’s fifteen-year history before they headline the Starland Ballroom on Saturday April 4, 2015.
Let’s start off by talking about Cult. Take us through the creative process. What was the band looking to musically accomplish this time around?
As far as every record – we’re trying to accomplish or achieve a similar aesthetic. We’re very happy with the Bayside sound that we’ve created. We want to make sure that our music still sounds like Bayside. We still have all the main characteristics of the band and we also want to push ourselves to expand our sound. We never really start a record from scratch. As far as the creative process, I’ll write songs at home on my acoustic guitar and I’ll send a couple ideas to the guys to further expand upon. We’ll eventually get together and hit the studio. It took us a really long time to write this record. Once we landed on songs we were happy with, we went into the studio. It was the longest album to write but the shortest to record. It actually took us 14 days to record.
Since three-years had passed since Killing Time, how did you piece together all of your collective ideas when you demoed the material?
Some bands will write a ton of songs and when it comes time to enter the studio – they’ll go through all of those songs and pick the ones they like the best. We assess songs as they’re being developed. We’ll usually start by writing a verse and chorus or an intro, verse, and chorus. We’ll write about a minute of music and we’ll assess whether or not it’s up to par. If it’s not up to par, we’ll throw it away and start working on other stuff. If we don’t think it’s great, we won’t even finish it. Even though we had a ton of time to write, there are tons and tons of one-minute pieces of music sitting on a hard drive that we may revisit or revamp. When we went into the studio – I think there are 11 songs on the record – we recorded 12 since we knew which twelve songs would make the record. We didn’t even finish writing anything that we didn’t think was great.
How was the experience of reconnecting with Shep Goodman on a personal and musical level? It had been a few years since you last collaborated so what was his role in coaching the band?
It was awesome. At this stage in our career, we know what we want and we know who we are. We’re obviously well past the point of needing help to write a song, tune a guitar, or EQ an amplifier. As far as tastes and styles go, that’s why it was great to work with Shep because he was there in the beginning when we created those sounds and styles. He’s just as much apart of it and it’s like having another head in the gang. As opposed to working with someone totally new that doesn’t exactly understand what we want, we would wind up overruling a lot of their ideas and it’s not the best creative environment. When we were younger, we were looking for new ideas and guidance. Having someone like Shep who understands what we want and helps us get there – it’s really nice. I think it’s a huge reason why we were able to record the album so quickly.
After working with David Schiffman and Gil Norton on your previous albums, what was your biggest takeaway working with Shep from a learning perspective?
Mainly, it was writing. When I met Shep, I was 21 or 22 years old and it was a really long time ago. He really taught me how to write songs. He coached me from someone who sat down with a guitar and stumbled around and if something sounded cool, than it would became a song. As a writer, I would get attached to the songs. The songs would sometimes be six minute longs and I would be like, “This song is really cool because this part is going to happen and that part is going to come after.” Shep taught me how to listen as a listener while I’m writing. He told me, “You have to step outside your attachment to the song and listen to it like someone who didn’t write it.” He taught me that and coached me on the self-titled record and Walking Wounded. Like I said earlier, I attribute anything I learned about songwriting to what Shep taught me.
Your lyrics always drew from very personal experiences. What’s the key to translating such a wide of arrange of emotions through a melodic capacity?
I mean; it’s the only thing I know. When it comes to songwriting, I didn’t grow up studying bands and I didn’t grow up writing songs. I didn’t know how to write lyrics. Bayside is the first band I sang and wrote lyrics for. When it came time to write lyrics, I would write whatever was on top of my mind. I couldn’t fake it or be clever. I just wrote whatever came out. As far as putting words to melodies or making it catchy, that’s what I’m attracted too in music. I love any music with a good melody and it sort of comes naturally.
Talk about the term “Cult,” it has a special meaning to Bayside. How does “Cult” metaphorically represent your latest album?
We thought the album was a good representation of everything the band has done to this point musically. We felt “Cult” was a good title because it sums up our whole career.
On tracks like “Time Has Come,” could you go in-depth about the stories or influences behind those lyrics?
“Time Has Come” was something I wrote and it was really different for me. I do a lot of writing on the side for other people. I’ll do pop and country songwriting. I actually wrote “Time Has Come” during a session for Avril Lavigne. I was in a writing session for her new record – well, it was her new record at the time and I came up with the chord progression and chorus melody for the song. Obviously, it didn’t wind up on the Avril record. It kind of sat around for a long time. Just because of where it came from – maybe because I wrote it for Avril Lavigne – I thought it was too poppy or too simple and it shouldn’t be a Bayside song. I actually wrote it while Killing Time was being recorded and I didn’t put it on there because I thought it was too poppy. It sat around for three or four years and when we were writing Cult, I brought it back to the band. We all played it and said to each other, “We could definitely turn this into a punk song.” That was definitely an interesting one.
Truth be told, I feel the guitar tandem of you and Jack O’Shea is criminally underrated considering how Bayside is a very guitar driven band. How do you and Jack share ideas or bounce riffs off one another?
I’m really driven by melody and that’s my big thing. With a lot of Jack’s parts, he’ll usually come up with intros or leads for his parts and obviously his solos. I’ll usually get on him if there’s a part that is really catchy or sticks out. I’ll tell him to revolve around that or repeat it more often. With my rhythmic stuff, I drive off what Chris is doing. Whatever rhythm he’s playing, I’ll try to follow that. Chris will give me notes on things I should be doing rhythmically that compliment whatever he’s playing. We all work together on all of the parts.
Are there times where you’re blown away by Jack’s capabilities? In terms of his leads and solos, he could really play some mind-blowing licks from a technical perspective.
Yeah, I think he does what he wants as far as how technical it gets. We have no leash on him (Laughs). The crazier it gets – the better as far as we’re concerned. Like I said, we want to make sure that whatever he’s playing is catchy and pulls people in. I’ll help him mold something towards that vision. The one word we throw around a lot when we’re writing is “drama” – we want everything to be dramatic. We always want the listener to say, “Wow, what the hell is that?’ Jack’s guitar playing could definitely make people say, “wow,” and it’s pretty awesome.
Correct me if I’m wrong – you guys released guitar tabs for Cult before fans actually heard any of the tracks? You wanted to see how fans would interpret the idea without having any pre conceived notion of what the song sounded like?
We did that for “Time Has Come.” We had a contest where we released the guitar tabs, lyrics, and vocal melodies before we even released the song. We had people record covers of the song without ever hearing the song. We listened to all of the covers and picked the three, which we liked best.
What made those three renditions stand out?
We definitely wanted creativity and we wanted to see the renditions where people did the most with it. The winner was a girl who did a really cool version with a ton of harmonies. We loved the renditions where people made it their own. There were people who made covers that were like, “This is what I think Bayside would sound like,” and that wasn’t what we were really looking for.
I heard you mention how this upcoming tour will be like a big birthday party. What should fans expect from this 15th anniversary show at Starland?
We’re going to base the set off some shows we played last fall. We played some small venues in smaller cities and the fans loved those shows. We mixed it up a lot and we played some songs that we haven’t played before. We’re going to shake it up a little more from there and we’re going to base it off those setlists since people liked it so much.
Looking back at your fifteen-year history, what moments stand out as pivotal in launching or progressing your career?
I’m always the most proud of what we accomplish on our own. We’re a band that kind of lives on its own island and that’s the way we always wanted it to be. We do our own thing and we created our own style and that’s definitely what we wanted. We’ve done some cool tours where we opened for some big bands and played some huge festivals or arenas. As fun as that is, I’m proud that after fifteen-years – this upcoming tour will be our biggest one yet.
Some of your contemporaries from the early 2000s fell off due to your typical industry issues, what’s been the key component to Bayside’s success over the last fifteen-years?
It’s just honesty and doing our own thing. All trends come and go. Warped Tour is the best example and we’ve played Warped Tour multiple times over the last twelve years. We did Warped Tour twelve-years ago and I saw what the trends were back then and we didn’t do any of them. We played Warped Tour seven-years ago and I saw what all of the trends were and we avoided them. I see what the trends are now and it’s like one band makes a tie-dye shirt and it does well so every band makes a tie-dye shirt. Bands put giant curse words on their t-shirts and everybody buys them so everyone makes t-shirts with curses on them. I’ll tell you there is very little difference in Bayside in 2015 verses Bayside in 2005.
Since Cult represents your entire discography, does this record have a special place in your heart compared to your previous records?
Oh yeah, I love it. It was a huge accomplishment since it was really difficult to write. The longer we go – the harder it’s becoming to write records. I want to keep Bayside’s sound intact but at the same time – I want to make it fresh and better than last time. I’m constantly trying to one-up myself. With every record, you obviously have to one-up yourself over and over again. I stressed really hard about it. It wasn’t an easy record to make at all so I’m really proud of it. I’m really nervous about having to one-up myself again but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it (Laughs).
Bayside performs their 15th Anniversary Show with Sense Fail, Man Overboard and Seaway on April 4th at The Starland Ballroom. Click here for tickets.