An Interview With Bayside: Pretty Vacant

An Interview With Bayside: Pretty Vacant

—by , August 17, 2016

08-17 AQ Cover - Bayside 1 (Photo by Megan Thompson)

A year after celebrating their 15th anniversary milestone as an active touring group, New York-based pop punk heroes Bayside return to celebrate the release of their seventh studio full-length, Vacancy, with a month-long tour alongside The Menzingers and Sorority Noise to close out the summer on a strong note.

The band’s leading frontman, Anthony Raneri, hails Vacancy as a uniquely personal record that was written while he was holed up in a hotel, as he was trying to figure himself out and find solace through a place to call home. Highlighted through catchy singles like “I’ve Been Dead All Day,” “Pretty Vacant” and “Two Letters,” the band channels traditional elements of their classic sound with a narrative that conveys lingering themes of isolation and uncertainty. Picking up right where they left off from their last effort, Cult, Vacancy proves to be one of their darkest and lyrically honest releases to date.

Before Bayside embarked on their North American run of headlining shows to support Vacancy, I had the pleasure of speaking with Raneri to talk about their upcoming tour, his admiration and appreciation for The Menzingers as a longtime fan, and the writing and recording process of Vacancy.

A few weeks from now, Bayside will be finishing out the summer with an epic North American tour in support of your forthcoming release, Vacancy. What are you looking forward to the most about this upcoming month?

Well, it’s an exciting month for sure—there’s a lot going on. We’ve been pretty much off the road for nine months or so? It felt like that at least for me. So, I’m definitely starting to get the itch to get back out again. It’s funny, when I was younger and when we were starting the band, we would just want to be on tour all of the time. Now, it’s become more of a blend where I love being at home, but I also love being on tour.

We’re definitely ready for that, and I am totally ready for everyone to hear the record. We’re really super proud of it, and I am really excited for people to finally hear the rest of it.

For this tour, you’re going to be inviting The Menzingers and Sorority Noise to share the stage with you as opening support. Tell me a little bit about your relationships with both of these bands. What are some of the unique qualities about each act that sparked your interest to bring them on the road with you guys?

Sorority Noise we came across just as a mission, you know? We really didn’t have anybody in mind to open up the tour. We always get a list of bands that are submitting for the tour, so we just listened through them all, and I liked what I heard. We have lots of mutual friends who say that they were good dudes, so that’s how we came across them.

But The Menzingers, I would actually say they were playing one of my first solo shows like years ago, in 2008 or so? I was playing in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania—it was just all local bands opening up and The Menzingers actually opened for one of my solo shows. They were just a local band who was opening the show. They didn’t have a record deal or a record out, nothing like that; they were just local guys. And I remember they gave me a copy of the demo that they were selling, and I just loved it. They blew my mind when they played, and I loved demo.

I just kind of followed them over the years, and they started getting more and more popular. I was really stoked for them when they signed to Red Scare and eventually Epitaph. I’ve been just a fan ever since the demo really. We’ve wanted to do a tour with them for a while. I’m glad that we finally got to make it work because I’m a legitimate fan. We’ve hung out with those guys a good amount. We did some festivals together in Europe, we’ve hung out in Jersey a couple of times, and for the most part, we haven’t got to spend solid time together, so I’m looking forward to it.

Sounds like a lot of fun! I am a fan of both bands, and I am definitely looking forward to seeing this tour at the Starland Ballroom date in Sayreville.

When Cult, the last record came out, we did an in-store in Philly and The Menzingers were playing at the Asbury Lanes. After our in-store, a couple of us got in a car and drove from Philly to Asbury just to go watch them just because I’m a fan.

That’s awesome! Now, last year, Bayside celebrated its 15th anniversary as band. With the release of Vacancy, how have you been able to create songs that continue to reflect the progression of the band’s sound over the years?

You know, it’s always been really important for us to maintain “the sound” the developed over the years. We always try to add to that and try to spice it up, keep it fresh, and try to just get better, you know? Like, better at our instruments and our songwriting. But with that said, it gets harder and harder with every record to spice it up and keep it fresh, because it’s so important to us to maintain that “Bayside sound.” I think that we stepped out of the box on this record more so than any other record, but it’s still undeniably a Bayside record.

Of course! Within the timeframe since releasing Cult, both you and the other members of Bayside have each moved to different parts of the county. Being geographically separated for the first time, how did that make an influence on the writing process of Vacancy?

Yeah, I mean the record is about feeling like I am trying to find a home, and try to make a home for myself. At that time, I was bouncing around the country and figuring a lot of stuff out, but that was the entire theme of the record I would say, very much.

Cult dived into a lot of personal milestones including your marriage at the time, moving to Nashville along with your transition into fatherhood. With that being said, how do you think Vacancy lyrically picks back up right where you left off?

This is probably the angriest that I’ve written in like, ever, but certainly since I was a kid. You know, I’ve been trying to figure myself out, and this was the first time that I’ve written a record about what I was currently living through, whereas most of my records, especially Cult, we wrote about hindsight and about the future.

I usually write about hindsight. I write about things that have happened in the past, and even the recent past, but with Vacancy, I wrote the whole thing sort of living in this apartment that I was renting for a couple of months, and I wasn’t sure how long I was going to live there or where I was going to go, or where I was going back to New York, or if I was going to end up staying in Nashville, or if I was going to stay in that apartment, or if I was going to buy that house. There’s a lot of uncertainty while I was writing Vacancy, and it really, really comes out. I mean, there’s a lot of lyrics on there that were things that I either said to a friend while I was venting, or things that I said to myself while I was laying in bed—like, said out loud to myself. It’s a uniquely personal record.

Since then, do these feelings of isolation and uncertainty still sort of remain with you in any way? Or was this something that you’ve been able to overcome?

The one lyric referenced in the song “Two Letters” that says, “I’m trying to find out how to leave the past behind when it’s around all of the time,” that’s pretty much my life indefinitely, you know? There’s definitely a lot of things sort of going on with me in my life that are not going to change anytime soon. I mean, that’s what the record is really about—just like making due and making the best of your situation, because there are some things that you could leave in the past and move on from and learn from, and there are things that can happen that just change the course of your life.

Considering that Vacancy will be the group’s seventh studio release, are there any messages or themes that you would hope for your fans to take from this record?

Whenever I write songs, I rarely ever talk about the meaning of particular songs because I want them to mean whatever it means to anybody who’s listening to it. I’ve written songs in the past that are about one thing to me, and they mean something completely different to somebody else, and I think that’s perfectly fine.

For me, it’s cathartic to put on paper whatever’s happening to me in life that I need to get it out. A lot of times, there are people who are going through exactly what I’m going through when I write and they can connect with that, and sometimes, it means something totally different. I’ve written political songs in the past, and people have thought they were breakup songs. If that’s what gets you through, then that’s totally cool.

As you will be celebrating the official release of Vacancy on the road, should fans anticipate hearing a good amount of new material arranged into your sets each night?

Oh, it will be a big variety for sure. We’re going to play a bunch of new songs, but even when Cult came out, or when Shudder came out, or Killing Time, we always sort of slowly work all of the new songs in. We play a couple a night and change them from night-to-night sometimes just because we want to see how people react to it. Especially with this tour, the record is going to be coming out I think in the second week of it. Even more so, we know what our favorite songs are, but we don’t what’s going to connect for everybody else.

We’ve never been a band to jam all our new stuff down people’s throats. We obviously want people to hear it and we want to expose people to it, and it’s up to them whether or not they like it. All of our sets are a mix of the records, and this one is going to be no different. Aside from the new songs, we’re going to play all of the classic Bayside songs—like, the singles over the years that we always play, but we’re actually bringing back a bunch of old songs that we don’t usually too. We’re really changing up the setlist this time I think.

What do you enjoy the most about supporting new album releases on tour? From your past experiences, did you always prefer to tour right when the record is fresh and new, or would you like for fans to become fully engaged with any release beforehand?

Yeah, ideally we usually want to tour a little bit after the record comes out. We do want the fans to be engaged and see the feedback online about what songs people are reacting to, and what songs they want us to play on the tour. Things didn’t work out like that this time, but usually that is what we prefer.

Once the tour is all said and done, what’s the next step moving forward with Bayside as you begin the early stages of Vacancy’s album cycle?

We’re pretty much planned out through what seems like the next full year. Pretty much, we do this tour and it runs until the middle of September. Then, in November, we’re doing an Australian headlining tour, and we’ll probably do something around the holidays—we’re not exactly sure yet, but we always try to do something around the holidays back home. Then, we’re already talking about the next U.S. tour for next year, so we always plan pretty far ahead in advance.

 

Bayside are currently on the road with The Menzingers and Sorority Noise to support their forthcoming studio effort, Vacancy. This week, the band will be making their triumphant return to the area, where they will be playing the Electric Factory in Philadelphia on Aug. 18, PlayStation Theater in Manhattan on Aug. 19, and the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville on Aug. 20. Their new album, Vacancy, will be available Aug. 19 through Hopeless Records. For more information, go to baysidebayside.com.


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