During some time off in Nashville, Bayside’s rhythm guitarist & vocalist Anthony Raneri tells me that it is indeed hard to come back home to his daughter, family, and friends after so long on the road, a sentiment which I’m sure is echoed by many a touring musician. When listening to the fine new record that is ‘Vacancy’ (out now via Hopeless Records) you find a man battling the strenuous balance of working in a touring band and maintaining the intricacies of his own personal life. The record’s emotional depth is furthered still by being thematically fueled by the end of Raneri’s second marriage in late 2015, and with him now having fifty-fifty custody of his daughter, it weighs on the singer’s mind frequently these days.
“Anyone who tours for a living can relate to this, there are times when you feel selfish”, Raneri tells me over the phone, “but being in a band is how I support her. But I think a lot about that she’ll grow up and see me doing something that I’m very passionate about. That it’s more than my job, that it’s what makes me, me. So being a good role model for her will hopefully make up for the time that I miss with her. She’ll get to grow up and see that you can make your passion your career”.
The opposite of that is the outlook many families tend to have; of safety and security over what you actually love to do. Because as Raneri states, it’s the “pipe dreams” that many people don’t want to chase for the fear of failure. But if the frontman had of never believed in his own pipe dreams, who knows where he would be now. Of course, youthful dreams of success may not have gifted him with the foresight of seeing himself spending parts of late 2015 and early 2016 living out of a motel in Franklin, Tennessee (to be closer to his daughter in Nashville) and his band then looking towards their seventh album.
Of course, going through such deeply personal experiences was nearly always going to play a big part in the thematic direction of the next Bayside release. Which is exactly the case here, with the lyrics for ‘Vacancy‘ being as honest and as open-diary as ever, with the frontman writing most of the lyrics while he lived in the aforementioned motel (there’s the album title at play and the cover shows the very motel Raneri stayed in too).
So a song like say, ‘I’ve Been Dead All Day’ shows the singer revealing a very honest tale about marriage and the issues that leave to a relationship romantically dissipating, with the lines “Man and his wife to be, planning their event/One couldn’t contain themselves/The other was on the fence/So they silently agreed it’s best to practice and pretend/Cause keeping up appearances is key”.
While it’s easy to see that the band retained their poetic lyrical ideas, the singer is clearly leaving a huge portion of himself in these songs but he states that his experience isn’t that unique or one of a kind from that of others. And he mentions how those life-defining events can become “your new normal” in a way.
“There are things that happen in your life that you can move on from. But there are things that happen that you can’t move on from; they just change the course of your life. They become your new normal. And that’s what I’ve gone through. It’s not unique at all. What I’ve written this record about is a very common occurrence, I just have an outlet for it. You make the best with what you have”.
However, a nine-date tour in Australia – that kicks off this week – is sure to make for a solid break from that new normal. After years of festival appearances and a support slot or two, Bayside will finally be touring the nation for a full headline tour. As such, Raneri goes over the band’s history with our country and how they’ve always approached the tricky beast that can be touring.
“It’s only our second ever club tour in Australia, and we’ve come over three times now for Soundwave. We have an idea what to expect now that we’re seeing the ticket sales come back. We called the promoters and connections we have in Australia and asked if this would make sense; if we have any fans there? As in the US or in Europe, we’ve always done small support tours and then headline tours and then just done sixteen years of that. You can never tell from a festival show how many fans you have in one particular place. Looking at the ticket sales, though, we can say that this has been a good choice. Because sometimes we hit up promoters in different parts of the world to see about coming over to play and they say ‘No, Don’t!” laughs the singer.
He also imparts some sage-like wisdom that he’s learned from playing in the band for so long, saying that “Being popular in one part of the world doesn’t mean you’re popular in another”. That’s something I think more bands should address or at the very least, prepare themselves for when they leave the comfort of their home state or country.
The New York group has been around for sixteen years and with age comes the strategic nature of where you and your band plays and tours. At that age, you now have to consider playing to the right markets, getting on the right shows, festivals and on the right tours, and making sure that your most precious commodity – time – is being spent wisely. This is something that really weighs on Bayside’s internal business decisions, now more so than ever.
“At first, for a long time, we wanted to play everywhere we could”, recalls Raneri. “At this stage, we’re getting to a point where we look at certain cities or certain countries and we decided we don’t need to go there anymore. With having families that we need to come home to, it’s hard to go on tour for ten or so months of the year so we can play these small countries or cities that you’ve never heard of and there’s barely anyone there. That’s not worth being away from home for. That’s just the brutal truth of it.”=
Well, once this November tour wraps up, let us all pray that Australia will make the cut-off line for Bayside’s totally really list of ‘Places We Need To Keep Touring’. While it may be brutal of the band to cut out certain places from their global planner, that’s just the band playing it smart, and as Raneri tells me, it has always been about playing it smart.
“Every decision that we’ve made since the very beginning, was always about ‘Will this embarrass us in the future and will this add to the longevity of our band?’ It was never about getting big fast, but about lasting a long time. From the style that we invoked, the album art, the clothes we wore; it was always about ‘Is this timeless? Or is it a moment in time?’ We always asked ourselves that. Now if we want to still tour ten years from now, we just can’t tour ten months a year. We just can’t keep going back to Croatia twice a year”, he says with a slight chuckle.
In Homer Simpson’s voice, ‘Sorry Croatia, you’re cut’.
With seven albums under their belts now that ‘Vacancy’, Bayside’s “punk rock show tune” sound hasn’t really changed that much since ‘Sirens & Condolences’ and their self-titled effort, well, not to me at least. The vocal style, the tempo’s, the riffs and how the guitars play off each other, the melodies used; it’s all very consistent and similar across their discography. And considering that the band’s music has forever remained under the wide banner that is alternative rock and pop-punk, it means that when you hear a Bayside song, you’re most likely going to immediately tell that it’s a Bayside song. All of this is actually on purpose I’m told, and with a band as invested in their careers as these guys are, that actually comes as a shock to me, as I would’ve thought the formula would have been shaken up long before now.
“There’s been a conscious effort not to change the formula, to just build on what we’ve done and sprinkle in a few new characteristics but making sure the consistent aspects of the band are there” the singer explains. “We labor over that when making songs, to make sure that it sounds like Bayside. I’ve seen a lot of bands that I love not sound like my favourite band anymore, and I never wanted to do that to our own fans. From an industry standpoint, we all know why people do that. As I love country music, I started a side-project to use that as an outlet for that music. I don’t feel pigeonholed in Bayside, I don’t feel stagnant as an artist; I just get it out somewhere else. I think that a lot of bands have made that decision to change because maybe they do feel stagnant as artists or because they want to take a bigger swing for the fences.”
He continues, “Every decision that we’ve ever made hasn’t been about our popularity, but rather our longevity. Because my favourite bands growing up were NOFX, Lagwagon, Social Distortion and right now, I love the new NOFX record and the new Bad Religion record. No matter what changes in my life, whether I was a sixteen-year-old kid skateboarding in the park or a 34-year-old taking his daughter to school, I can put on the new Lagwagon record and nothing has changed. And I love that!”
While I do think there’s a big difference between consistency and simply resting on one’s laurels, I must admit that when I heard the new Hatebreed album earlier this year, it sounded exactly like a Hatebreed album ought to and I absolutely loved it. So, I think Raneri may have me there. Following this thought process further, he turns the mirror back on himself and his band’s sound for some self-analysis, and on being true to yourself, regardless of your current scene’s trends.
“To me, I see a giant difference to our musicianship and writing ability between our first and second records. From our first to our third, and our first to our fourth and so on; I see incremental improvements. So I think early on, it’s hard to find yourself, as there’s always a scene happening where a lot of the bands sound the same. I’m not gonna name names as some of those bands are friends of ours, but to me, it’s always been important that once we found what Bayside sounded like to stay with that.”
Which has perhaps been one of the crucial elements to their continued relevance, and another being their time under the Victory Records banner. Many bands from the early/mid-2000’s era of that label are still alive and well today, and it’s those early years on one of alternative music’s biggest (and most controversial) indie labels that helped shape many bands into the kind that can create and maintain careers. For Bayside, this work ethic was instilled in them quite early and it was exactly that – work.
“I tell this to our managers, label, and publicists nowadays, and that’s that all we’ve ever wanted is an opportunity to work. We’ve never wanted anything handed to us, just give us a place to be, a show to play, an interview to do and we’ll be there. Victory Records was great for us for having work to be done and things to get done. I once was told that if the phone is not ringing, then that’s the worst thing possible. That’s still how I feel to this day. That’s how it was on Victory, and you could do what you wanted and not do what you didn’t want to and that’s why some bands made it and others didn’t. For us and Thursday and Taking Back Sunday, that work ethic was instilled in us very early.”
“For a lot of those bands and ourselves, we’re all working class bands. There were definitely points early on when some of us were reaching critical mass. It’s hard not to compare yourself – and you never should – but you start seeing other bands are doing better or are more comfortable. But you know, Chris Connolly of Saves The Day once told me “If you get to make another record, that means that the last one was successful”, concludes Raneri.
Saves The Day’s frontman aside, that phrase rings true for Bayside now in 2016. After all, if the response to 2014’s ‘Cult‘ was anything to go on, then ‘Vacancy‘ was always going to be a sure thing. And when you listen to that new record, when you fully digest it, when you (hopefully) catch the band on this fast approaching Australian tour, you’ll know that an eighth album and much more is more than likely.
Killyourstereo.com is proud to co-present Bayside’s national November tour, with supports from Brisbane’s Young Lions and Melbourne’s Far Away Stables. Go grab tickets to a show here, and you can read our review of ‘Vacancy’ here. (Spoiler warning, it’s really bloody good).
Thursday 3rd November – 8:00pm
The Prince Of Wales, Bunbury, WA (18+)
Friday 4th November – 8:00pm
Amplifier Bar, Perth, WA (18+)
Saturday 5th November – 7:00pm
Fowlers Live, Adelaide, SA (Lic/AA)
Sunday 6th November – 7:30pm
Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC (18+)
Wednesday 9th November – 7:00pm
The Basement, Canberra ACT (18+)
Thursday 10th November – 7:00pm
The Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle NSW (18+)
Friday 11th November – 8:00pm
Manning Bar, University of Sydney NSW (18+)
Saturday 12th November – 8:00pm
The Brightside, Fortitude Valley QLD (18+)
Sunday 13th November – 7:00pm
Miami Tavern Shark Bar, Gold Coast, QLD (18+)