Will Buckley

Bayside No. 9

Bayside is performing at Starland Ballroom alongside a stacked lineup of Finch, Armor for Sleep, and Winona Fighter on April 4, so if you want to ring in the new album dropping at midnight with both them and us, clear your schedule for Thursday night.

On April 5, Bayside will release their ninth studio album, There Are Worse Things Than Being Alive. That’s right – this week, this Friday, and from the operatic choir on the opening number to the explosion of a closer with heavy guitars and howling vocals, it is clear that Bayside has returned with a vengeance. Album No. 9 is yet another stellar release to add to the band’s already impressive catalog. If you listen to There Are Worse Things Than Being Alive front to back, you’ll notice that every song stands out and each of them sound like they are going to become live show staples. Everything about Bayside right now fits perfectly into the sphere of what the band does (and has been doing for two decades). 

This album is also polarizing to say the least. Surprisingly, not because of the music, either, which is what normally causes a response like this. It is the fact that the whole album was slowly released as singles over the last two years has fans divided. Some, like ourselves, praise the band for the unique way to release their music, while others condemn them for these songs being known and lived with long before the whole record releases. Whichever side of the fence you’re on, the music can’t help but stand tall. It’s that good, and it showcases what Bayside does best, so we’ll say what we’ve said many times before: an album’s release does not determine the quality of the music.

The Aquarian caught up with friend and Bayside vocalist Anthony Raneri to talk about this can’t-miss new record. We dove into the songwriting process, the divisive rollout, touring, festivals, and more!

Your new record, There Are Worse Things Than Being Alive, comes out on April 5. With that release date so close, how are you feeling?

I’m excited! It has been a really long time coming. We’ve been making this record for like two years. 

The last record came out five years ago – half a decade. 

Yeah! Early in our career we were putting out a record like every year, so it’s nice that at this stage we’re able to take our time making records.

With this record, you spent two years planning it out. Did you have all the songs drafted or was it a one-by-one basis? 

Sometimes when you’re making a record, you have a batch of songs and you then have a quota to fill. You wind up rushing through ideas or using ideas that, when the record comes out, leave you with things you want to change or you would have done differently. Really, the approach on this record was, “We’re not going to record unless we’re inspired and we have ideas.” We were just going into the studio every few months whenever I’d write a couple of songs that everybody was excited about – that’s when we went in and recorded them. 

That is so cool. We talked about this in our interview a year ago, but I love the idea of not having to wait three years for a new record; instead you get a little taste of it every few months. 

I think so! There have definitely been some people and some fans who appreciate that approach. There have also been some fans who it sounds like wanted to hear 10 or so new songs all at once. It would have taken five years to do it that way! It would have been five years with no new music!

I do want to discuss the roll-out of this release, with an EP here and there, a few singles. Fans love it and fans hate it. There’s really not a middle ground. 

I see that same thing. It seems like there are people who love it and people who hate it. I think what we really wanted to do is crack – not the Spotify algorithm and not the digital algorithm, but crack the human algorithm. The [human algorithm] is that you make a record and people spend time with the singles, as time goes people don’t listen to most of the record – like 75% of the record. We know that for a fact. There are a lot of fans I’ve heard say they listen to the whole record and they like the deep cuts, but when I see the streaming numbers, I know for a fact the majority of people do not listen to 75% of the record. That sucks for us, you know? We want people to listen to every song. We think every song is great on a record. This way, we force everybody to spend time with every song, and now we know for a fact by looking at the numbers that people listen to every song and not just two or three singles. Every song was a single, really. 

Also, the first song from this record we released was “Strangest Faces” and that was almost two years ago. If we had released a whole record then, we would not be talking about that record now. If that song came out 18 months ago, we would have stopped talking about this record or the fans would have stopped thinking about this record 16 months ago. We get to keep talking about this record! We get to go on tour and play new music!

You make a good point. A track like, “How To Ruin Everything” is going to get the same amount of hype that a track like “Castaway” because they both had a lot leading up to it, despite being a year apart.

Exactly! We can go out on tour and play almost about any song that’s on this record and people are going to know it and vibe to it. You can’t say that about any traditionally released record. When it’s your eighth or ninth record as a band and you’ve established yourself with the early songs…. You just can’t tell a band who put out their ninth record to go play ‘Track Nine’ live and expect everybody to know it. We figured out how to do that!

You did! I do have to ask about building a setlist for this upcoming tour: how do you begin to do that when – you’re right – all 11 of these tracks have the staying power in a Bayside set?

It’s hard. It’s really hard. At this point there are singles that we can’t even play because there’s just not enough room. It’s a good problem to have. We are really lucky that our fans like our new music and it’s a good problem to have too many songs to play. We are playing more new songs than your average band but that’s because we try to make setlist for what the fans want, and it seems like people do want to hear this. 

While we’re talking about how you arrange the tracks, what was it like making an album tracklist with these songs? As we’ve discussed, they’re all singles. I feel like that’s got to be difficult to determine which track is going to flow into the other.

We just started from the beginning. We erased from our minds the release strategy and erased how these songs were sequenced on their respective EPs or whatever. We approached it as if we had recorded them all right now, what songs felt right into what songs. 

I like that! Clear your mind and focus on what would work.

I think the fans would probably disagree, but, to us, it’s still very much a record. 

I would very much agree, as well! 

It doesn’t feel like a collection of songs to us. I can understand how it feels that way to fans who have digested it as a collection of songs, but it still feels like a record to us.

Probably one of the best compliments I can give you is when I was listening to this front to back, even though I knew these songs, it took on a new life. Having “Go To Hell” after “Castaway” made them feel each like a new song. 

Cool! That’s good for me to hear, because I actually haven’t spoken to many people who have heard the record all the way through yet. We hope to be vindicated in the comments sections!

Diving into some album specific questions, where did the chanting on the beginning of “The Devils” come from?

It’s a group of us. We had to do an interesting thing with gang vocals on this record. Usually when we do gang vocals on a record we just call buddies and whoever is around, just invite a bunch of people over to the studio, but with this one the gang vocals are more singing parts. It’s more like a group of people singing as opposed to gangs where you’re yelling atonally. We did the record in Orange County. We just called some buddies that were around: singer of Versus The World [Donald Spence], our buddy Brian Diaz whose a singer, Jen [Razavi] from the Bombpops, Kayleigh Goldworthy, and everybody in the band can carry a tune. We really needed to build a chorus of people as opposed to a gang for it. 

The intro to “The Devils” was actually a bridge idea I thought of while walking my dog and I recorded it. It kept developing. When we first recorded it, it was just me singing it as a bridge. Then we added the gang doing it, then we thought it sounded so cool that it should be the intro to the song, then it sounded so cool that we thought it should be the intro to the record. It kept building that way. 

That’s unique in how it’s like a choir. Of course, since we’re talking about this record, one of my favorite Bayside songs to date is now “I’m So Happy I Could Die.” It is the last song on this album. How did that build to the explosive instrumental happened?

I think it’s a classic Bayside final track. It’s bittersweet. It goes along with the title of the record. The title of the record, to us, means, “I’ve done all this complaining, and, yes, it’s another record of me complaining about everything, but it’s not so bad.” So, “I’m So Happy I Could Die” is just another classic Bayside album ender, about how you’ve heard me complain for 40 minutes or so, but in hindsight, maybe it’s not all bad. 

Reminds me of “It’s Not As Depressing As It Sounds” off of Vacancy [2016]. 

Exactly! Right, exactly!

You mentioned the album title, as well. This is the longest album title you’ve ever had. The last three were one word each. Was that conscious? 

It just kind of happened. We had a list of running titles we were writing down as we were in the studio. It felt like it summed up the record. For such a long title, you wouldn’t think it rolls off the tongue, but I feel like it does for some reason. It’s Bayside’s patented brand of positivity. We can’t ever be overtly positive because it’s not how we are as people. It’s like, “Eh, I guess life’s not so bad.”

That reminds us of tracks like “Stuttering” and how you’ve got to sing a little negatively. Switching gears, the tour comes to Starland Ballroom here in Jersey and Terminal 5 in New York City this week. What was it like chasing Finch and Armor For Sleep as openers?

They’re just old buddies! Finch we met on Warped tour in 2002 when we were this brand new band. We had been a band for 18 months at that point. We were in way over our heads, we weren’t signed, nobody knew who we were, and we were on the 10th stage out of 9 stages. We didn’t even have backstage passes! We were on the tour for two weeks and got wristbands everyday that only got us onto our stage. We were this black sheep of the tour. Finch were rising stars. It was a big year for them. They were well on their way to a gold record. They were so kind to us that summer. We were just this band they didn’t even need to recognize existed on that tour and they were so, so kind to us back then. We’ve always had a special place in our hearts for those guys.

Armor we toured with in 2004. We were both opening for Fall Out Boy at the time. We just hit it off really well with them. I’ve kept in touch with Ben ever since! That was 21 years ago! We wanted to get some old buddies back together. That’s the main thing we’re looking at when building a tour package, “Who do I want to spend five weeks with?” Winona Fighter whose opening up, too, is a really great up-and-coming band that I think everybody its going to know soon. I feel like we were lucky to snag them for this tour. I feel like they’re going to be too big for that spot by the time the tour is over. 

I’ve got to bring it up, too – When We Were Young. Bayside will be playing the self-titled in full. How are you feeling? What is going through your head?

Man, I have this ounce of nervousness to relearn it all and revisit it all, but I’ve put it to the side of my brain for now. It’s one of those things I’ll tackle when it’s time to tackle it. I’m excited about it! I think it’s going to be fun! We did the first When We Were Young. It was an unbelievable experience. It is Emo-Coachella. We’re really excited they keep including us in it. Us, for sure, and most bands in our scene, and probably 99% of the bands that play When We Were Young, do not get booked for all of these other festivals. We are not nearly cool enough to play Coachella or Lollapalooza. For 99% of us it’s really vindicating to have a festival that’s as big as When We Were Young is! It’s us telling the rest of the music community and the industry side, “Yeah, we are important, even if we’re not important to you. We’re important to somebody.” 

Emo-Coachella is perfect! I love it. When the festival pitched the idea to you, “Hey, we’re doing album plays,” was the first thought for it to be the self-titled? Or did you have other records you were kicking around, as well? 

They told us what they wanted us to play. It makes sense. It was probably between that [self titled] or Walking Wounded for it to have made the most sense. That was definitely our breakthrough record. We’re pretty lucky that our breakthrough record isn’t necessarily our biggest record. We’re extremely lucky that isn’t the case, but it certainly is the breakthrough record.