Last year Bayside celebrated their 15th anniversary as a band and a lot has happened since their journey began. Dealing with the fact that every member is living now in different cities and with some inevitable personal changes, the band are about to release their seventh album, Vacancy. We caught up with frontman Anthony Raneri to find out more about their new effort and how they dealt with those challenges.
Last year you guys did a tour to celebrate Bayside’s 15th anniversary with Senses Fail, Man Overboard, and Seaway. How does it feel for you to look back to those years as a band?
It’s nostalgic and it’s happy. There’s sad moments and there’s hard moments, but most of all, we feel proud to have been a band for this long, succeed for this long, maintain this career for this long… There’s so many bands that had more success than us and made more money than us, they dream with that, so we’re just incredibly proud. When we started Bayside, we wanted to be the kind of band that would last a long time. We wanted to mean something to people so that they would stick by us, and that seemed to all happen.
How much has changed for you guys since you started the band?
In some ways a lot and in some ways not at all. We’ve always been the kind of band that we’ve always wanted to stay true to our sound. We think that in our first couple of albums we toyed around with a few different ideas and a few different styles and we sort of landed on something that we felt it was unique and something that we love. We’ve just always wanted to maintain that. We think that Bayside has a recognizable sound and seven albums later we try to make sure that every album you know is Bayside as soon as it comes on, but at the same time experimenting and trying to work within that, but like I said, make sure that you know it’s Bayside as soon as you turn it on.
It’s been 2 years since you released your latest album, Cult, and a lot has happened to you guys. What had you been up to during that period of time?
In between Cult and Vacancy, I moved to Tennessee, which is in the south. I lived in New York City my whole life, I was born there and I never lived in anywhere else until coming to Tennessee. I felt like a stranger in a strange place, I didn’t really have my family here anymore, except my daughter. My parents aren’t here and I don’t have a wife anymore, and now I’m in like this strange state that I’m having a hard time getting comfortable with. It’s a very uncomfortable time for me and that’s what really the record is about. It’s about trying to find where you belong in a new place.
So, the aftermath of being married and moving to Tennessee had a massive influence on your writing for this new album.
Yeah, I didn’t want it to be about my marriage breaking up, I didn’t want to be a break up album. I wanted it to be about putting everything back together afterwards.
Working on this album must have been a way for you to deal with those situations you went through.
It was really therapy… I mean, there’s certain sentences on the album that were things that I was actually saying out loud to people. I would be talking to people or even talking to myself and thinking to myself and I would think of sentences and I would write it down in the album. I was literally writing it as I was experiencing it. I always write from what I know and I always write from my past experiences, but I think it’s the first time I really wrote an entire record while living in the situation.
Even though you had some drawbacks while working on this album, Vacancy sounds invigorating and really cohesive. What stands out the most about the writing and recording process for you?
Another big change for this album for us, besides my big move and everything I’ve gone through, is that all the guys in the band have moved all over the country. Everybody is living all over the country now and we’re all a plane ride away from each other, we’re at least 1000 miles away from each other, if not more. That made really interesting with writing this record because we all used to live in the same place for 15 years and in 6 albums we used to just all meet up every day or every couple of days or so, we would work on stuff in a room together and then we would go into a studio. But this time there was a lot of working from home, recording ideas at home and emailing to each other. It was like this guy works on this part and email us back. We discussed it that way and then when we got into the studio, we still had a lot more work to do really. It was an interesting and very different process than we were used to.
Was it stressful for you guys to deal for the first time with distance issues while making music?
It was incredibly stressful! While it was happening, it was very stressful, but now that we’re done and we could look back on the process and the product, I’m thankful for it. It was a better process. Back then, we would come with an idea and then we would play that idea together a 100 times, and then by the time we would get to the studio, that was just the idea. It was no longer really up for discussion because it had been so ingrained in our minds by then. And with this new approach, it left everything much more open to interpretation. No idea was solid until the album was done. Every idea was open to being changed or being improved on all the way until the end.
“When we started Bayside, we wanted to be the kind of band that would last a long time. We wanted to mean something to people so that they would stick by us…”
You guys worked with Tim O’Heir (Sebadoh, Say Anything) and the result is just amazing. How was it like to work with him?
He really made us to rethink a lot of the habits that we got into, which I think we really needed it and it’s one of the reasons that we hired him to begin with. You know, it’s our seventh album and there’s a lot of ideas and a lot of habits musically that we just keep going back to. There’s a lot of times where we still go back to this core and that we always go back to this idea because it feels right. We’ve got into a lot of habits, but we can break them and it can still sound like Bayside if we think outside of the box. He really helped us with the way that we were approaching our parts.
Vacancy’s artwork is a photo of a hotel entrance, so what does that mean to you in regards to the album’s content?
When I first moved to Tennessee, I bought a nice house here with my family and I was really proud of it. I was the first person to ever live in it and I had it built just for me, so I was really excited about it and it felt like a big step in my life, like I really accomplished something and then when I split with my wife, I had to move out of the house and moved into a little apartment. I haven’t lived in an apartment in like 8 years, so I moved into this little apartment all by myself and it was very isolated and very lonely. I moved all my stuff in there and the whole time I was there I was just kind of figuring out my life, you know? There’s a lyric in the song “Pretty Vacant” where I say “I can’t believe this is my life […] And I’ve got no home.” That was literally me lying in bed in that apartment and just thinking “I don’t even know where I live anymore. I bought a house that it’s not my house anymore and I don’t know if I’m going to move back to New York. I don’t know if I’m going to buy a new house in Tennessee. I don’t know if I’m going to live in this apartment for the rest of my life. I don’t know what’s going to happen to me next.” On that apartment, I didn’t unpack any of my boxes, I just had boxes all over the place. I didn’t unpack, I didn’t hang anything on the walls because it was so transitional. It was just like “I might move out, I might move back to New York tomorrow or I might buy a new house here or I might live here forever.” It just felt like I wasn’t going to bother to unpack. I was like basically in a hotel, like “I’m just kind of crashing here and this isn’t really my house. I’m just staying here for a minute.” So, that’s where the album’s title Vacancy came from and putting the hotel on the cover, because I wrote the whole album in that apartment. I was sitting in that apartment and living there by myself, and so I wrote the whole album in the bedroom of that apartment. I knew I didn’t want to write a break up album, I knew that I wanted to be something more than that.
At your seventh album, what do you still find challenging about the music industry and its setbacks?
When we first got signed, people still sold albums. Our first four albums came out on Victory Records and while we were on Victory we had other bands on the label that sold a million albums. [laughs] Can you imagine a punk band selling a million albums right now? It will never happen again. I was like around 21 years old when we first signed our first deal, I didn’t know anything about the music industry and so I was always trying to learn it all and figure it out how it worked like “Can one day I make a living doing this?” Just when I started to figure it all out, everything changed. [laughs] Now the music industry is completely different and now I have to learn it all over again. I kind of like where the music industry is going, though. It’s harder, but I’ve spent my whole life playing in a punk band and I was never going to be on the radio. I’ve never been on the radio, never come close to sell a million albums. I had to figure out how to make a living without any of that stuff, so I really dedicated myself to learn about touring, merchandising and how to be a blue color band, you know what I mean? We’re not fancy rock stars, we go to work. We go on tour and we work hard. We hustle and we make a living. It seems to me that that’s what the entire music industry is turning into now and all these guys who used to be rock stars don’t want to get their hands dirty, but they have to learn how to get their hands dirty now.
Besides Bayside, you started your own solo project and last year you released your second EP, Sorry State of Mind. It was a really great EP. How’s going your solo adventure and how’s the feedback been?
I love it. When it comes to the solo thing, I am my own manager. The first EP I put out myself with no distribution and no anything, it was literally me in my house and I was selling it through the website. I was literally putting it in envelopes myself and mailing it to the people who were buying it. That’s so much fun because that’s what being in a band was when I was like 16 or 17 and that’s what I was doing with my friends in the basement. It was so much fun and of course that’s not how Bayside operates. For me, with the solo stuff, I’ve never wanted to sign to a big label or a big management and I kind of take it on and trying to build it into something to where Bayside is, because for me, I just want to keep it fun all the time and I want it to remind me of when I was young and when I was in a punk band like working from a basement.
Musically, your solo project is quite different from the music on Bayside, which is really refreshing.
Yeah, it’s very different from Bayside. Like I said earlier, when it comes to Bayside music I really always want to sound like Bayside, we never really wanted to change that up too much. I don’t wanna say that it puts me in a box creatively because I love doing all the Bayside stuff, but sometimes I write a song on piano, sometimes I write a country song and I want people to hear that and I’m not gonna put that on a Bayside album. It’s a cool outlet for me and it’s also fun that the genre has never really been defined and because of that I’m able to really just do whatever I want. Every song can be completely different, it’s whatever I want.
Are you currently working on new material for a possible full-length?
I actually am! I won’t be able to get into the studio for at least a year, probably more than that to work on it because I’ll be on tour with Bayside for the next 8 months probably. Last week I sat down with a friend of mine and we started to talk about some ideas for the next solo record. It won’t be for a while, but yeah, I am starting to think about it.