Interview with Bayside vocalist/guitarist Anthony Raneri | By Nick Harrah
It would be hard for punks in their 30s not to identify with Bayside’s Anthony Raneri. Born and raised in Queens, N.Y., coming of age in the ‘90s, raised on a diet of skateboarding and punk rock, he fell in love with NOFX, Bad Religion, Nirvana, and would go on to find like-minded individuals at Warped Tour. After moving to Nashville with his wife, he found himself divorced, taking care of his now 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter, living in an apartment, and being pretty much all alone.
It’s out of Raneri’s isolation and struggle that Bayside’s seventh full-length album, Vacancy—out Aug. 19 via Hopeless Records—was born. For him, the personal and professional challenges make this one extra special. “The tough thing is, my family’s not here,” the lead singer and guitarist explains, after moving the phone interview back a few minutes due to punk rock dad duties. “But, I have my daughter. It’s a lot to manage.”
According to Raneri, managing to pull off Vacancy wasn’t a fun challenge: it sucked. Since lead guitarist Jack O’Shea, bassist Nick Ghanbarian, and drummer Chris Guglielmo were spread out across the country, finding a compatible studio and producer in Nashville was a problem. Yet, the loneliness provided a release of sorts for Raneri. “Writing the record was incredibly cathartic and super therapeutic,” he admits. “In the past, I’ve written from hindsight, pulling from past experiences. This was the first time I wrote a record about where I was at the moment. I was kind of in between about what was going to happen with my life. So much of the lyrics are, like, that’s what I was saying to myself sitting alone in an apartment. Like, the lyrics in ‘Pretty Vacant,’ the chorus is: ‘I can’t believe this is my life.’”
Following up 2014’s Cult and keeping things Bayside, while not taking things “too far out of the box,” was the next step. “We developed a sound on the first couple of records that we thought was unique, and one that we could be proud of,” Raneri says. “That’s always been important to us, to maintain Bayside’s sound. I think we’ve done that. This one, we took a lot of cool chances on it, while keeping it very Bayside sounding. We felt like we shook it up more than usual,” Raneri adds of the 11 songs that comprise Vacancy. The band released “Enemy Lines” as a teaser track, and “Pretty Vacant” will be the first official single. Raneri thinks Bayside fans will be pleased with the final product, saying, “With ‘Enemy Lines,’ the conversation was, ‘Wow, it sounds just like every Bayside record,’ and I can’t believe that’s the conversation, because it’s like, ‘Wait until everyone hears the rest of the record.’”
Raneri says he appreciates the bond his band have established with fans over 16 years and seven albums, but at the end of the day, it comes back to making music he and his “brothers” in the band enjoy playing. “You can’t worry about what people are going to think. There are going to be some people who hear our new record and think it’s boring or more of the same. Some aren’t going to like it because it’s too different, you know? The same record!” he says with a laugh. “But to get it back to bands like NOFX and Nirvana, they didn’t give a shit what people thought about them. They didn’t care about radio or how much money they were going to make. You can just do something that you’re proud of and move on.”
Having pride and moving on is just what Raneri has done with the new album, and now, his life. Bayside will embark on a U.S. tour in August with The Menzingers and Sorority Noise, and Raneri says he loves what he does and who he is. “My hope is [that] the time I miss with my daughter from working is made up for by having a role model,” he says. “Her mother is a tattoo artist who owns her own shop. I’m just really happy to know that she will have two role models who do something they’re passionate about, who do something they love, and she’ll know that’s a possibility.”
The final song from Vacancy seems to sum it up for Raneri: “It’s Not as Depressing as It Sounds.” In fact, it’s pretty kickass. “I love it,” he says of his life. “The guy from Bayside is not who I am. I’m just a guy from Queens, and I love my family, my daughter, I love my friends, and that’s who I am.”