Join the Bayside ‘Cult’ – An Interview with Anthony Raneri

Interview with Anthony Raneri | By Nathaniel Lay  |  Photos by Alyson Coletta

With the last couple releases, it seems like the Bayside sound has been gradually becoming larger and more confident. Have you guys noticed this maturing, or has it kind of gone unnoticed to you all?

I would say that from Sirens to Cult, we have gotten substantially more confident. For one, we have really become better at our craft and more trusting of our fans; but mainly, we have gained the trust of our fans. We know at this point that our fans trust us to deliver them good honest music. Because of that, we don’t have to worry about anything when we write. We can be as confident as we want because we know they will listen with open ears.

The new record takes all the great energy of Killing Time, and brings in a new level of honesty to the lyrical content served up. In one song in particular – “Stuttering” – you out right address the bullshit of the industry, and feeling a need to appeal to expectations. What can you tell us about writing that track, and the related lyrics that appear throughout Cult?

Ever since the self titled record when I wrote “Strong Hands”, I have been a little worried about some of the things I say in songs and how people will interpret them and judge me or our band based on them. “Stuttering” is definitely an extension of that, where I really just vented on paper. The thing about “Stuttering” that I want people to understand is that it’s not only about the expectations that the industry or the fans put on me but it’s about my own expectations. When I say “I’m the voice of the depressed and that’s what everyone expects”, I’m being very sarcastic and I’m also talking about how I invent a lot of those expectations and put them on myself. That’s what I get into in the second verse.

Bayside - Cult cover

What led you guys to choose “Big Cheese” as the opening track?

I think the lyrical content is the perfect introduction to the record. The concept of “what am I doing here and what is the mark I’m leaving” is the biggest theme on this record. Also, we love to start all of our records off with a slingshot. The intro and entrance for “Big Cheese” just seemed like a nice punch in the face.

How did you come to joining Hopeless Records? What was the appeal to make the move after spending so much time with Victory and doing a single record through Wind-Up?

When we were shopping some of the Cult demos around to labels, Hopeless was one that kept popping up in conversation. We would talk amongst ourselves and our team and amongst friends in bands and in the industry and Hopeless kept getting mentioned as a perfect fit. We talked to a lot of different kind of labels and Hopeless felt like home to us. It felt like the people and the environment that we came from and grew up as a part of. It is like minded people with a common goal as opposed to a business relationship.

How would you compare Cult to your last outing, Killing Time? Then, against all other Bayside releases?

To us, Cult is a great representation of our musical history. We really think it sums up everything that we have done musically with a few new tricks. We always say that it’s sort of a discography without using any old songs. That was why we added all the old nods to past album covers to the cover of Cult.

You’ve always kept personal and honest in your writing, but there were several especially intriguing sections of Cult that got me really curious; what kind of things were scratching at your brain while you wrote the lyrics to this album?

I always write very honest and personal, because I don’t really know how else to. When I was younger, I wasn’t an exceptional creative writer or anything. I didn’t write poetry in high school. Writing lyrics for a band was a really scary thing for me when I had to do it for Bayside. The only way I could really figure out how to do it was to just write down exactly what was on my mind. I had a long year personally while I wrote this record. I saw a lot of death and a lot of new beginnings on my life. It made me feel tiny for the first time and I wrote a lot about that.

It’s been a long run so far, but hopefully no end in sight. How does it feel to have Bayside just getting stronger with age? How long do you think you guys can keep this going?

Every once in a while I do stop and realize how crazy everything is. It’s amazing that after all these years, the band keeps getting bigger and better. That’s not normally how things work in this industry. Bands usually have a big moment, slide down and then hopefully plateau at a comfortable level. We have just been slowly trucking along forever and we probably will keep doing just that. I don’t know if there will ever be that “big moment” for us and hopefully there won’t be. It’s much better to always have something else to look forward to.

What tours do you have planned for the new year, and in support of Cult?

We will be doing the Great American Cult Tour this Spring in the US. We’re taking out Four Year Strong, Mixtapes and Daylight. Should be a great tour. Then we go to Europe for a month with Alkaline Trio and support the record over there. We’ll be out all year and getting to most places all over the world. It will be a busy year.

Why the title Cult?

Our fans have always called themselves a cult. We thought it was not only an homage to them, but a nod to our own past.

Bayside 2013

What can you tell us about the images of the cover, which were also used to tease fans prior to the album’s official announcement?

We have felt that this record is a great representation of all of our music. We feel like it embodies everything we have done until now so we have little symbols on the cover to correspond with our past albums.

Were there any particular songs that were harder to write and record than others?

“Bear With Me” was one song in particular that took a long time to finish. I had two or three different choruses that I wrote for that song before I landed on the one that is there. The melody for the verse took me forever to write. I must have tried ten different things. I was writing it on the bus while we were on tour in the Spring, and I was driving everyone crazy. Every different idea I had, I would drag whoever was closest into the room and make them listen to every one. Then they would say it was good, and I would say it wasn’t good enough and do something else.

Which songs came the easiest?

I wrote the intro riff, verse and chorus to “Big Cheese” one night while we were already in the studio. The next morning I showed it to the guys, we finished it that same day. Once, the intro riff was written, the rest of the song pretty much wrote it self. It had such an identity right away.

Which songs do you expect to be the major players during live performances? Why?

It’s always hard to tell. Every record there are a few that we expected to be popular that are but we’re always wrong about some too. This time around, I think “Pigsty” and “Time Has Come” will for sure. I think “Hate Me” could be, “Big Cheese” maybe.

Where did you guys record Cult, and with who? What was the experience like?

We recorded for a couple of days in Woodstock, NY at Applehead Studios and a couple of days in Bewster, NY at Raw Recordings. Shep Goodman and Aaron Accetta produced the record. We worked with Shep on Self Titled and Walking Wounded so it was great to get back in with him. We spent a really long time writing and doing pre-production on the album. It helped us to be really comfortable with the songs and really prepared so when it came time to actually track the album, we finished it in thirteen days.

One of my personal favorites on this new record is “You’re No Match”. It feels like a culmination of Sirens & Condolences and your self titled record. How did that song come to be?

I wrote that one early on in the process. At least a year ago. I wanted to do something that was real poppy and catchy with a Weezer kind of vibe but at the same time heavy. Everything until the bridge came together pretty naturally. The bridge we wanted to try something interesting so we played around with switching time signatures from 7/4 to 4/4 every other measure. Nerd stuff.

Were there things you set out to do different when making this record, whether it be in the sound, lyrics, or just the steps taken in creating it all?

We never really try and specifically be different. We like what we do and what we sound like. Taking chances with experimenting in different genres has always been pretty common for us but we never say “this just sounds like a rock song, let’s shake it up”. If it feels right, we just do it.

If you had to describe Cult as a whole, what would be some things you’d like to focus upon?

I really see Cult as sort of a crowning achievement for us. We worked harder on the writing of this album than ever before. We questioned ourselves constantly and lost a lot of sleep over this album. It was so difficult that when it was done I couldn’t even listen to it for over a month. When we left the studio, I couldn’t tell people who asked how it was because I really didn’t know. I was so close to it. When I finally listened to the album as a whole a month or so later, I just smiled through the whole thing. I’ve never been more proud.

Seeing you guys live back during a previous Take Action Tour was a great experience, seeing that I’ve been a big fan since Sirens & Condolences. During the set, you guys set out to bring in the old favorites and new singles for that time. How do you go about creating your set list? Does it change from city to city, or do you have like a plan you follow?

The sets don’t really change much from city to city. I’m a big proponent of putting on a show. I like to create a show and that is our show for the tour. We usually come up with the set before the tour starts and rehearse it as a full set with transitions and everything. Within the first couple of days of a tour, some things change as we fine tune it and figure out what’s working and whats not. Once we feel like we nail it, we put on that show every day. We really try and listen to the fans when making set lists. We listen to what people want to hear and what they’re asking for and try to come up with something that will please most people. You can never really please everyone though.

I haven’t heard too much in the form of reviews of Cult just yet, but I’ve been listening to it nonstop for weeks now and just love it. What are some things you hope people will pick out about it? Any particular sequences or characteristics you’re especially interested to hear comment on?

Really, the whole thing. We hope people connect to it the way that we do. We think it is a special record.

Could you pick a favorite lyric from Cult and explain it? And why it’s your favorite?

“The Whitest Lie” was one that I worked pretty hard on and I was very proud of. It’s one thing to capture a situation or a mood in a song, but when I can sort of capture a much bigger picture like a philosophy, I get very proud. I thought that I laid out a lot of my outlook on life in that song.  |  |

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