We recently had a chance to catch up with Bayside as they were wrapping up their spring headlining tour around the US. We sat down with vocalist Anthony Raneri to talk about their latest album, life on the road, and their legacy after over a decade of making music.
SOS: You guys pulled a huge April fool’s joke on your fans that spanned over a couple of days, claiming that you could no longer use your logo because a Mexican telecommunications company copyrighted it before you could. Tell us more about your prank.
Anthony: It was super last minute actually. We were at the hopeless office, we filmed a bunch of things, and did a bunch of photo shoots that day. We were just kind of creating a bunch of content and it came up that April fool’s was coming up. Hopeless was putting together this sort of reel where they were gonna do like totally unbelievable pranks for each band. So we said “what if we do this.” There was a Mexican phone card company that used our logo years ago, so that popped up and we thought that we should pretend that that company used it. And then people might remember that that got posted and it will all tie together and make it that much more believable. Then we started it before April fool’s day to make it even more believable. So it actually came together like super quick; we filmed the video and put it out and we were like “yeah let’s see what happens.” You know how on social networks you can trace like how viral a post is, like how many shares and views it had? It was the most viral post we’ve ever had on our facebook. It had more views than anything we’ve ever posted.
Did anyone get really mad over it?
There were people who were saying like “if this is a joke I’m gonna be really mad,” which doesn’t make any sense at all. But since we said it was a joke, nobody has seemed that mad. Everyone seems to think it was a pretty good joke.
Getting into the real questions…it’s been a little over a month since you’ve released your latest album, Cult. How has the reception been so far?
It’s been really good. We definitely set out to make a record the fans were gonna love. At this point in our careers it’s really what we’ve set out to do every time. We just want to keep our fans happy and keep feeding into what we have going. We’re never really trying to reinvent the wheel and trying to like, break through to be some kind of pop sensation, you know what I mean? We’re kind of through that.
It’s nice that you’re open about not trying to constantly reinvent your sound. You guys have released six albums so far and when I listen to every album, I know that it’s a Bayside album. You have your trademark sound. During the span of the band’s existence, do you think there were any pressures to really reinvent yourselves?
Not really. I mean we’re really satisfied with who we are as well as where we are in our careers. I think that a lot of other bands are not, and I think some bands roll the dice on records in an attempt to grow their fan base very large, very quick. You figure if all these people aren’t fans yet, we should try something different and you sort of neglect all of those people who already are your fans you know? So we have just sort of stuck with slow and steady you know, as far as our career goes but always focusing on the fans first.
Do you think even when you were starting out there was no pressure to go along with the crowd?
Well when we were starting out there really was pressure to change, but we never did. You know, when we were first starting out in 2000 and throughout the early 2000’s, scream was really popular. People were wearing makeup and it was all very different. We never jumped on that. We didn’t start screaming in our songs, we didn’t start adding breakdowns. Even now, like the pop punk stuff is really popular and breakdowns again are very popular and all that stuff but we just do what we do and ignore all of that stuff. I think it’s really helped us to maintain for so long, because a lot of those bands who jumped on that bandwagon are gone now.
Cult was also your first record on Hopeless Records. What did they bring to the table as a label?
They’re awesome. It’s very comfortable for us. We’ve been a band for a really long time and we sort of know what we want and we know how we want things done. We know what we want to do. They’re just great partners in the sense that they let us do all of those things and they’re there to facilitate anything that we need, but they don’t do anything that we don’t want them to do and they don’t do anything we don’t need them to do. It’s just very comfortable.
Let’s talk a bit more about the content of Cult. You’ve said in the past that the album stands out to you primarily because of the lyrics, can you elaborate a bit?
It’s very different I think from a lot of the other records. Mainly the past records I’ve talked a lot about situations. I write a lot about a situation and how I feel or how that situation happened. With this new record I write much more about kind of the bigger picture and life and death and sort of what multiple situations lead up to.
Were there any specific experiences that you think really contributed to this album in your mind?
I definitely had a lot of experiences throughout the writing of the record. I lost a couple of family members last year but I also gained a daughter. It was very eye opening, you know what I mean? It also comes with maturity I think. It comes with age. When you start seeing the world that way, getting into a fight with your girlfriend doesn’t stand out as much anymore.
Has becoming a father influenced how you go about making decisions as a member of your band , or how you write?
The decision making process as far as the band goes doesn’t really change a lot. I mean it has made me think about my place in the world and my legacy and how important that is. But I’ve always been the kind of person where I don’t do anything on tour or in my public life that I wouldn’t do in front of my mother or my wife. It continues to solidify that mentality.
A lot of the lyrics on Cult seem to be pretty brutally honest. I know that “Stuttering” especially stands out to me in this respect. Do you think the songs were more difficult to write.
Yeah I would definitely say I dug a little deeper for this record, for sure.
Getting back to the record, when it comes to sticking with your trademark sound, do you consider that to be something conscious or something that’s just become organic at this point?
It’s conscious, but of course as we’re writing we do find ourselves going off on tangents and we have to catch ourselves. We sort of reel it in. But we’ve kind of always done that. We bring a lot of different influences to the table. Jack is really into like metal and jazz and I’m really into a lot of pop and oldies and stuff like that. When you’re in a rock band you don’t want it to go too far in any of those directions. You don’t want a song to suddenly sound too much like a jazz song so you gotta reel it in. So we’re used to that. But also we want to be an aggressive punk band. That’s still the kind of music I listen to and what I want to do. I haven’t grown out of that you know?
You guys still have a pretty wide appeal. If you look at this tour and compare it to the run you did last year with Alkaline Trio, you’ve toured with a lot of different types of bands. I assume sticking with what works is part of maintaining that broad appeal.
I think so. We try not to pigeonhole ourselves too much. But I think every band thinks they’re doing that, so it’s not up to you to decide you know? If we have a broad appeal that’s cool. We just sort of make music and everyone else decides who it’s for.
Right on. Jumping over to the tour…how has everything been going so far? You guys are wrapping up pretty soon right?
It’s good, it’s real good. It’s pretty cool after 14 years this is our most successful tour we’ve had. The west coast just about sold out at every date. We did a few weeks straight of just sold out shows. With the exception of maybe three or four dates on the tour, every show has been the biggest show that we’ve had in that city.
This is the first headliner you’ve done in a while isn’t it?
Yeah we co-headlined a lot over the last few years. The last year and a half we only supported. Then before that we co-headlined for about a year and a half so it’s been almost three years since we did a straight headlining tour.
I’m assuming the bigger crowds are a nice change of pace?
It’s cool. I mean it’s stressful when you have all of the weight on your shoulders you know? It’s nice to support when you don’t have to worry about whether people are gonna come or not you know. But it’s a lot of pressure for sure. It’s also difficult to play for so long. IT’s also fun.
You guys have a pretty unique lineup as well. Did you guys get to choose who you went out with?
We like to take out bands that we’re listening to or bands we’re friends with and htose are usualy one in the same. Mixtapes was a band that we thought was cool as a new young band. Daylight is a band that we really dig a lot, we really loved their record. Four Year [Strong] have been friends of ours for about seven years now, so we’re good friends. It came together pretty organically.
There are a lot of kids who started listening to you in the early 2000’s and grew up listening to your music. Have you seen a shift in the demographic of your audience as you’ve grown as a band?
Definitely. It’s gotten really noticeably older. It’s cool though you know what I mean? It’s one of the most flattering things for us to see that our fans grew with us instead of growing out of us. I think we’re nostalgic for people as far as we remind them of a time and place, but it’s not nostalgic in the sense that you’re embarrassed to say you used to listen to us. I think that happens a lot. A lot of people started listening to us when they were 14 or 15 years old and now they’re almost thirty. It’s pretty cool to appeal to a 30 year old the same way you’d appeal to a 16 year old. We’re pretty proud of that.
I think a lot of that goes back to how you said you were never trying to reinvent yourselves.
Yeah I think so. But you can take a lot of more poppy bands or bands with maybe less substance that appeal to a younger audience and those bands grow out of it because it becomes cheesy to them you know? So we’re pretty happy that nobody ever started calling us cheesy.
After six albums of material, how do you choose what gets on your set list?
It’s one of the hardest things we have to do. At this point we have songs that we have to play you know? On this tour we’re playing between 17 and 20 songs a night depending on the night. Out of that there’s probably nine songs that we have to play you know? “Devotion and Desire,” ”Duality,” songs like that we have to play at every show from now until forever, which is cool because those are some of my favorites to play live and those are the crowd favorites. So then that leaves us with somewhere around nine or ten songs that we get to play with for each headlining tour. We have a new record out so we obviously have to play a good chunk of that. We’re playing three or four songs a night off of that, so that gives us five or six songs to play with as far as trying to throw in some older deep cuts. With every record we put out it gets way harder to make a set list.
Do you think a lot of fans have been excited to hear some of these older, “deep cuts?”
Definitely. We’re playing “I and I” from The Walking Wounded record. I guess it’s kind of a deeper cut on that record. We haven’t played it for years and we’re all so stoked about it when we play it. It’s like a real moment and it definitely resonates with the audience. So that one’s definitely working. Throughout the course of the tour we’ll give a song a couple of days and if it’s not working we’ll swap it out with something else and wait until it clicks. By the time we’re about a week into the tour we have a setlist that’s all clicking. If something’s not getting a good enough response then we’ll replace it.
You must be pretty aware of what works and what doesn’t?
We’re very aware. We pay attention to social networks and listen to what people want to hear, what people are really requesting. We pay a lot of attention to the reactions to the songs. We don’t just make a set list that we want to play and just stick with it and not care if anyone is enjoying it or not you know? We really are trying to make the perfect setlist.
It’s interesting that you say that. A lot of bands tend to play newer tracks and put the older ones on a shelf, especially when supporting a new record like you guys are.
Yeah I mean we’re music fans first. Even when a band puts out a new record that I love, I still want to hear a mix of everything you know? I don’t want to hear the entire new record and nothing else.
After this tour you guys are hitting Europe and then heading back to the US for Warped this summer. Any special plans?
Europe should be a lot of fun. We’re going with Alkaline Trio and those shows should be really cool. We’re going to a couple of countries for the first time. We’re also doing a couple of really great festivals over there that we’re really looking forward to. As for Warped….Warped is fun. Warped is easy you know? We’re playing an hour and 15 or an hour and 20 minutes on this tour and Warped tour is 35 minutes. Trying to make a set list for Warped is beyond impossible though. We have a hard enough time pleasing everyone with 20 songs, and on Warped tour we can only play like seven. So what do you do?
Do you guys switch up the set list at Warped?
Probably not. We just figure out what works and do that because as far as everyone’s concerned, that’s the show you know? We don’t need to change the set from Orlando to North Carolina because those are completely different people. We could tell all of the same jokes and it wouldn’t matter. If you find something that works, then why not just put on the best show that you can? Why would you risk whether songs are gonna go over well or not? Why roll the dice every night?
I know you’re personally going to be doing some solo stuff on Warped as well. Anything going on with that?
Not really. That’s really a hobby for me. It’s something I do in my spare time and Warped tour is nothing but spare time. You’re there, you’re parked up at the venue for 16 hours a day with nothing to do and you have 35 minutes of real work to do. So another 30 minutes gives me something to do. I really enjoy doing it. I get to play covers, I get to play songs I wrote on the bus earlier that day. I can play whatever I want so it’s a lot of fun for me.
Check out our exclusive gallery of images from the show below:
I am a music photographer and journalist, currently located in the Baltimore/D.C. area. I own Monster Moments photography and my work has been published in ads and magazines both in the US and internationally.