For more than a decade, Bayside have been captivating audiences with their punk anthems, raw lyrics, and live energy. Celebrating the 10th anniversary of their debut record in January, the band released their sixth studio album, Cult, in February. The disc’s name pays homage to their notoriously dedicated fanbase.
Spending the majority of the past few months on The Great American Cult Tour with Four Year Strong and Daylight, vocalist/frontman Anthony Raneri took a moment to fill us in about his views on the modern day scene, what it means to be from the New York area, and what exactly goes into a Bayside record.
When the band sits down to write and record, what is the creative process like?
Musically, I try to take inspiration from as many different places as I can get. When it comes time to write an album, I’m really digging into old records. I’ll go to vinyl stores and buy a bunch of 50-cent records that I’ve never heard and see if I can find some inspiration in them.
Lyrically, I just pull from what is going on in my life. I always keep a notepad, so whenever I come up with something, I’ll write it down and I’ll go back to that notepad when I have to write lyrics. Throughout a touring cycle, I’ll come up with like, 15- or 30-second clips of music, I’ll write a verse or a chorus and then I’ll catalog them, and when it comes time to record, I’ll go back to that whole library of song clips and I’ll pick the ones I like the best and try to put them together into a song. I work on that at home, then I send it around to the band and they give me some feedback and start working on putting their own parts on top of it.
Did you pick up any cheap vinyls when it came time to write Cult that influenced you?
Actually, I didn’t. I had been listening to a lot of electronic music leading up to Cult.
Music is tough. On the guitar, there are only so many notes, you know? So you have to sort of come from a different place. But if you listen to a lot of rock music and a lot of punk rock music, you limit yourself to that line of thinking, and there’s a finite amount of combinations. So you need to start pulling from different things.
When people write electronic music, they’re coming from a completely different place. It’s completely random because you’re using a mouse to move notes around. It’s a totally different approach to writing. So that stuff got me thinking about different ways to position notes and arrange them.
When you write, do you tend to isolate yourself?
Yes, very much. We definitely lock ourselves away within our houses, into our own little home studios. We don’t see our friends, we don’t see our families, and our wives think that we’re crazy. When you try to have dinner with people, they can tell you’re not really there. You’re staring off into space thinking about whatever you were working on before you left the house. You don’t want to be around a writer when he’s writing. He’s no fun.
Has the creative process changed since your first album, 2004’s Sirens And Condolences?
Definitely a lot. With Sirens, we didn’t really know what we were doing, musically. Over the years, we really learned sort of the “art” of songwriting and how to get into a listener’s head. Something that you can do with a song to evoke an emotion from somebody and they don’t know how you’re doing it, but you know how you’re doing it, if that makes sense? Like a key change. We do a lot of key changes in our records; it really lifts or drops the emotion drastically. And people might not know what a key change is or that you just did it but you know. You know where you put it and why you put it there. The songs are a lot more thought out now.
Is there anything you hope to accomplish with Cult that you feel you haven’t previously?
I don’t think so. We figured out what Bayside was supposed to sound like a long time ago and what each of our records is supposed to sound like, and we really just want to get better at that. I say Bayside is my favorite band, and I don’t want my favorite band to do something wrong and lose the plot. A lot of our records just have better songs, have better lyrics, and have better emotion that connects better than the last one, but always kind of stays with the same formula.
The name Cult pays homage to an old term used to describe hardcore Bayside fans. How did that come about?
I don’t really know. A fan site came up with it on their own in the early days of the internet. We started seeing it pop up like on different message boards, like Bayside message boards. There was a Bayside LiveJournal one million years ago in the early days of social networking and bands using the internet to connect with fans. We just started putting it on t-shirts and stuff like that and it just kind of took on a life of its own.
The band recently signed to Hopeless Records. Why choose to sign with another company as opposed to sticking with Gumshoe Records, your own label that 2012’s Covers – Volume 1 came out on?
Bayside has grabbed a lot of fans from a lot different places over the years, and it’s very hard without the staff of an entire label to reach all of those corners of the world. We wanted to make sure all of the fans knew there was a new Bayside record out.
We’re at a point where we are very comfortable with where we are in our careers, we are very proud of where we are, and we really don’t think about how we can get bigger. We really don’t care. We are very happy with where we are, and we thought it would be perfect for our fans. And if more people come, that’s cool too.
On our last record, “Sick, Sick, Sick” was on the radio fairly often and there are a lot of fans now who are radio listeners. Same for those who follow us on Facebook or Twitter. It’s so hard to reach those people without a label staff helping you out.
What are your favorite songs to play live? Any you’re sick of?
I’m not sick of any. The songs we play more than any other are probably “Devotion And Desire” or “Duality,” because “Duality” we played a lot on TV and stuff like that. They’re also my favorite songs to play. “The Walking Wounded,” too. I like the songs that people sing-along to. That’s what I live for on stage: the crowd participation.
Do you feel like being a band from New York City affects your music?
Yeah, it does. There’s a sort of swagger to the music. It’s who we are as people. Anyone who is from New York, New Jersey, or the Northeast in general, there’s definitely a confidence there as opposed to other places in the world. I definitely think it comes across a lot. They will tell you like it is. There is blunt honesty in our music.
Bayside has been a band for over a decade. How has the scene changed since you began?
The crowd isn’t one anymore. There was a real scene of people who were clued into something that not everybody was clued into. If you met someone who was a part of this club that you were a part of, there was this instant connection. Then the whole thing went mainstream and got diluted. If you saw a kid at school wearing a t-shirt of a band you liked, that didn’t mean there was a connection anymore, because everybody listened to that band. They probably heard about them on the pop radio station, whereas when you were younger and you saw a kid wearing a Saves The Day t-shirt in ’98 or ’99, or if you saw a kid wearing a Movielife t-shirt, then you knew each other, even if you didn’t.
But then it morphed into if you saw a kid wearing a Fall Out Boy t-shirt or a Green Day t-shirt, there was no connection there. Who doesn’t listen to those bands? It never recovered. There are definitely scenes happening, but they’re broken down into subgenres. When we were kids, Glassjaw would play shows with Midtown, who would play shows with Dashboard Confessional. It didn’t matter if you were an acoustic singer-songwriter or in a hardcore band, you were all part of the same thing.
How does the band prep for tour?
We spend weeks talking about what the setlist for the tour is going to be. That is probably the biggest hurdle each tour, coming up with the setlist that is going to make the most people happy. You can’t make everybody happy, but we spend a lot of our time trying to, especially when you have six records and everybody has a favorite. We spend a lot time leading up to the tour working on different songs and practicing different sets and then try to fine-tune it. It’s pretty tough.
Bayside will play at The Trocadero in Philadelphia on April 3 and the Best Buy Theater in NYC on April 4. Their latest album, Cult, is available now through Hopeless Records. For more information, go to baysidebayside.com.