Posted March 1, 2015 by Jeff in Tunes

Bayside: Sticking with what matters


Many punk bands don’t last past a gig or two, so it’s all the more remarkable that the Queens-based punk band Bayside has persevered for 15 years now. The group’s punk, which often borders on pop, features introspective lyrics and catchy hooks. That’s part of the reason why the band’s been such a steady presence on the scene. To celebrate the anniversary, Bayside is embarking on the 15 Year Birthday Tour with supporting acts Senses Fail, Man Overboard and Seaway. Singer Anthony Raneri phoned in from his Nashville home to talk about the tour and the reissue of the band’s most recent album, Cult, as a special edition double LP. The Cult White Edition will feature four bonus tracks, including the brand new “Dancing Like an Idiot” and “Indiana,” a track from the band’s Record Store Day 2014 exclusive 7-inch. Bayside is releasing Cult White Edition on March 3.

How’d you come to the decision to do something significant to mark the band’s 15th anniversary?
I think what we’re most proud of a band is our longevity. Any opportunity we have to celebrate that is exciting. The tours are getting bigger after all these years is really what we hang our hat on.

How did the band first come together?
We started by way of a message board. There was a Long Island music message board and someone was trying to put together an Operation Ivy tribute album. We all started talking. We were all trying to get our individual bands on the comp. We just decided that we should get together and try to start our own thing.

What were your musical inspirations? Did you have singers you liked?
I sort of sang in Bayside by default. I never sang before that. I didn’t treat it like the craft that I treat it like now. Now, I’m a student of singing. I don’t know. I didn’t even think to model it after anyone else. I’ve always been into singer singers. I’ve been a big Sinatra fan since I was a kid. My dad got me into that early. The punk rock version of that would be someone like Morrissey or Danzig.

Was there a good music scene in Queens?
Not in Queens. I think the rock music scene in Queens died with the Ramones. There is plenty of hip-hop and 50 Cent came later on. In the late ’90s and early 2000s, for the punk and underground scene, Long Island was thriving . . . Glassjaw, Brand New, Taking Back Sunday and The Movielife. There were bands that never left Long Island too. That was close enough to us to get to. The shows would be at the VFW Halls. There was so much going on there. I grew up about ten miles away from a great music scene. Long Island had a great scene and in ten miles in the other direction was Manhattan where you could go see anybody you want.

And you came up with the band’s name on the way to a New Found Glory show?
Yes, we had just recorded our first demo and we didn’t have a name yet. We were going to see New Found Glory at a VFW Hall in Long Island. We knew we had to write something on the CD when we gave it to them. We were driving to the show and we passed by the Bayside train station. We just put that on the disc. You never think when you start the band that that will be your name 15 years later.

If people actually knew what they were doing when they named their bands, there wouldn’t be ridiculous band names out there.

You signed to Victory Records. Some bands have had good experiences on the label and others have had bad ones. Looking back on it, was that a good decision?
Oh definitely. We owe everything we have to Victory. They were the only label that wanted to sign us. Nobody else wanted to sign us. There wasn’t a bidding war or anything like that. They were responsible for turning us from a local band into an internationally recognized one. We were there for seven or eight years and they promoted the hell out of us. They did everything they could to make sure people heard Bayside. It’s up to you to get people to like it. No one is capable of making you popular. They made sure that we had a chance.

How difficult was it to move forward after the tragic death of your original drummer in 2005?
For us, that was difficult but we handled that as a personal loss and we came to that realization immediately. We didn’t want that to be our legacy. We caught some flack for that over the years. We wrote the song “Winter” in John’s memory but never played it. People ask us to play at every single show and we never have. We didn’t want to plaster “rest in peace John” over every t-shirt and every record. Some people saw that as us not doing enough for him. We wanted to handle losing John as a friend and not losing John as a bandmate. When it comes to something like that, the band doesn’t fucking matter.

So you don’t play the song because you want to keep it as a personal thing?
Yeah. I get messages all the time and people say they played it a friend’s funeral or that a friend just passed and it’s helping them get through the loss. That’s awesome. For me, that song is for me. I don’t want to share that moment with 2000 other people each night. For me, I turned that page. John lives in my memory and it’s in my memory.

Talk about the process of writing songs for Cult. I read that it was a two-year writing process.
Yeah. It was a long time. It wasn’t because we were stumped. We weren’t locked in a room for two years beating our heads against the wall. We would write for a while and then we would make plans to go into the studio. Then, Taking Back Sunday called and they were doing the ten-year anniversary of Tell All Your Friends and figured we had to do that. That happened a couple of different times with a couple of different tours. We pushed the recording aside. It was for the best. It bought us a couple of more months of writing and more songs came out of it.

What was the studio experience like?
It was the simplest we’ve ever had. We went back with Shep Goodman who was producing our records in our formative years. I tell everybody that he taught us how to write songs. I always says that we know what we sound like. We don’t try to reinvent the wheel. We do what we do. Shep was there when we were figuring out what we were.  It was a natural experience with him. He knows what we’re going for and what we want to sound like. He helps get it there.

It must be different when you know what you want.
Yes. We recorded the album in 14 days. That speaks to the fact that we went in knowing what we wanted.

Talk about the lyrical content. You’ve had a few deaths in the family. Did they influence the lyrics?
I lost my stepfather and grandfather while I was writing the record. I also had my daughter. All of that made me see the world as a bigger place. It got me out of myself. It became harder to write songs about how I had a bad day. That’s what I’ve written about for years because that’s what mattered. You realize that other things matter and it’s hard to keep writing about having a bad day or getting into a fight with your girlfriend. It was time to change things up. I was nervous that my fans might not follow along. They have come to know me after all these years as this brooding and repressed guy and I’m not that. But over the years, we’ve been lucky to gain the fans’ trust. Any slight changes we make to the plan, the fans trust us and they come along.

The opening tune “Pigsty” has a reference to “losing your mind.” Who is that song directed to?
Yeah, I guess it’s a call out to past people that I’ve had trouble with but not any one person in particular.

Talk about the new songs that will be on the expanded edition of the album.
There’s a brand new song that we wrote just for the expanded edition called “Dancing Like an Idiot.” We’ve been outspoken about anything we think is bullshit, especially bands and trends. “Dancing Like an Idiot” is written from my perspective while I was on Warped Tour last summer walking around and looking at all these bands. It’s more so than being a bad band. You’re allowed to be a bad band. There are lots of bad bands that speak to people and they find a fan base and that’s fine. Bad music doesn’t offend me but what offends me and what I think is a real problem is bad messages. I think that anybody who has seen Idiocracy or follows along with tech speech or things like that can see that the world is screwed. Idiocracy is coming true. The world is getting dumber. As you get older, it’s easy to say that we’re going to be screwed because the kids are getting stupid. I’m saying that it’s your fucking fault. That’s what that song is about. You have a responsibility to make people smarter and to make people better people. Instead, you’re making money off stupid shit. Putting giant curse words and ridiculous messages on T-shirts. You bitch about the future but they’re wearing your T-shirt. They’re singing along to your songs about being misogynistic or being a general asshole. And yet you’re singing about how the youth is stupid. So challenge them.  That’s what that song is about.

I used to have the sense that the Warped Tour bands were on to something and would amount to something. I don’t feel that way anymore.
Totally. They don’t’ give a shit. Think about Minor Threat or Fugazi and why it all started. Think about any of these older punk bands. They were saying, “This is what I stand for.” It doesn’t have to be punk rock. Look at classic rock bands. Look at Neil Young or Bob Dylan. They stand for something. That’s why the older generation that grew up listening to Bob Dylan and Neil Young is smarter than the people who grew up listening to Attila. They’re being taught to stand for something. Warped Tour has a responsibility. They’re just as guilty. It started out as something that was supposed to be more. You own the tour and can do whatever you want with it, so don’t turn around and talk about how stupid the kids are.

Dancing has nothing to do with being good or bad musically. It’s all about being a bad influence.

Where do you go from here?
We have a bunch of touring planned for the year. I’m working on a new solo record at the moment. I’m just about done recording it. I’ll work on that for the summer and then I’ll do a solo tour. In the fall, well start working on the new Bayside record and hope to have it done in 2016.

15 Year Birthday Tour Dates

Mar 5

Mar 6

Mar 7

Mar 8

Mar 10

Mar 11

Mar 12

Mar 13

Mar 14

Mar 15

Mar 17

Mar 18

Mar 20

Mar 21

Mar 22

Mar 23

Mar 25

Mar 26

Mar 27

Mar 28

Mar 29

Mar 31

Apr 1

Apr 2

Apr 3

Apr 4

House of Blues Orlando, FL

 New Orleans, LA

Gas Monkey Live! Dallas, TX

House of Blues Houston, TX

Press Room Phoenix, AZ

House of Blues San Diego, CA

Observatory Santa Ana, CA

Hard Rock Live Las Vegas, NV

House of Blues Los Angeles, CA

The Fillmore San Francisco, CA

Wonder Ballroom Portland, OR

The Showbox
 Seattle, WA

The Complex Salt Lake City, UT

Summit Music Hall Denver, CO

Granada Lawrence, KS

Ready Room St. Louis, MO

The Rave Milwaukee, WI

Concord Music Hall Chicago, IL

Crofoot Pontiac, MI

House of Blues Cleveland, OH

Opera House Toronto, ON

SoundStage Baltimore, MD

House of Blues Boston, MA

Best Buy Theater 
New York, NY

Electric Factory Philadelphia, PA

Starland Ballroom Sayreville, NJ


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at jeff@whopperjaw.net.