||Bayside Ė 08.01.08
by Jonathan Bautts on 2008-11-16
This is an interview conducted with Bayside vocalist/guitarist Anthony Raneri and bassist Nick Ghanbarian at Red Bull Studios in Santa Monica, CA.
How does it feel to be on album number four at this point?
Anthony: It makes me feel old (Laughs), but weíre not, though. Weíre really not old at all. We just got started really early.
Nick: Weíve just been prolific for the last four years.
You guys have been churning out records about every year and a half, which is pretty unusual these days.
Nick: We try.
Anthony: We like making music, you know? Thatís the point.
The new album is called Shudder. What led you to choosing that title?
Anthony: We wanted to try and come up with a one-word title that was going to be powerful and timeless, kind of reminiscent of the Ď90s indie rock stuff like the R.E.M. records and the Nirvana records. Murmur and Nevermind and stuff like that, you just kind of see it in lights. Itís like a big, powerful thing.
Did you have everything pretty much written before you came into the studio?
Anthony: Pretty much, yeah. A lot of stuff Ė leads and solos and lyrics Ė some stuff kind of took shape while we were here, but this was by far the most prepared weíve ever come in for a record.
How do you compare this recording process to your previous ones?
Nick: Itís been smoother. Weíve been out here since June 31st, and we were so anxious that we worked quickly. I feel that weíve always tried to work quick with every album but something just rolled so much smoother out here. Maybe it was the sun, Iím not sure, but we have so much space in the studio and everyone was just so prepared that the experience has been almost easy, I want to say. Itís really adding to us and how we all performed on the album. It was kind of carefree, you know? So far itís our tightest album and the performances are probably our best, most energetic performances. Everythingís coming through on the album and thatís like a dream for us.
Anthony: So much of the record is done in like two or three takes, so it was awesome to really keep that attitude and everything Ė very fresh and not fucking so sick of playing the same thing. We really wanted it to have a very youthful, excited kind of energy in the record.
Is this the longest time youíve had to work on a record?
Anthony: The crazy thing is this is definitely the longest weíve had to work on one and probably the shortest weíve ever made one. Weíre just so ahead of schedule, itís awesome.
How do you like living here in L.A.?
Nick: Coming out here I was definitely skeptical because we always passed through on tour for a day, maybe a day and a half. I always knew there was kind of something I was interested in, and now being out here for six weeks I definitely understand it and found my place here. I think everyone has too.
Anthony: Yeah, we donít hate it as much as we thought we would.
Nick: (Laughs) Weíve always thought it was like the antithesis of New York Ė most of it is, you know Ė but at the same time thereís plenty of similar things. Just like anywhere else if you find your niche no matter where you are youíll be happy. The weather is absolutely amazing so that makes everything worthwhile.
Anthony: The traffic is out of fucking control, though.
Have you guys been doing anything fun while youíre out here?
Nick: We try and go out as much as possible, which is expensive. Weíve gone out to the Sunset Strip as much as possible. Weíve made fun of people at the Rainbow Room.
Anthony: I go to the Rainbow Room four nights a week pretty much. I live there. I go by myself and shit. I just go and get food. I love it there.
Nick: Weíre a rock band in L.A. We try and do rock band things. (Laughs)
Now I know thereís always that whole thing about being on Victory and Tony Brummel and whatnot. What has that experience been like for you guys and is it as bad as people make it out to be?
Nick: I think weíve always kept good report with Victory. Weíve done everything that we could to always be a successful band, and theyíve done everything they could to help us along the way.
Anthony: I think weíve always had one of the better relationships with Tony and the label since day one, and I really think we just kind of learned to work within it. I think we understand Tony and he understand us. Itís kind of about blurring the lines between a label and a band and kind of making it one thing. We have such a good relationship with them and weíve really brought it to the point where weíre friends and working together on things.
I think thatís where a lot of bands will go wrong with their label, regardless of what label it is. A lot of bands will go wrong if the labelís treating you like a product and if youíre treating the label like a bank. You really got to learn that youíre one team and how to work together on a common goal.
Is this your last album for Victory and if not how many more do you have?
Anthony: This is actually the last album in our contract. Weíve been talking about whatís going to happen next, but itís still really early for us. Weíre just really focused on doing this record, you know? The business thing has never been much of our concern.
Thatís kind of like the non-fun part of being in a band.
Anthony: Yeah, we just want to have a good time, you know? Fuck it all. Who gives a shit? I donít really care whoís putting out our records anymore as long as people are hearing them and weíre having a good time making them.
So this record sounds a little bit faster paced with more energetic type stuff than your last one at least. What was that process like? Did you want to do anything differently this time?
Anthony: Well, that was definitely a conscious decision.
Nick: I think thatís how our live sets are. We concentrate on the energetic songs that we have and the crowd feeds off that. We want to continue having fun, so we wrote more songs like that. I mean itís mostly what we all grew up on is the energy of punk rock. Once we figured that out, we were excited to put that energy into songs. Iím extremely excited about it.
Anthony: Youíre really influenced by the music that youíre listening to, not just lyrically but also the vibe of it. Youíre influenced by what it sounds like. For us, weíre extremely influenced by what weíre playing. I feel like itís better for your life to play music like this. Weíve all been just so positive and having such a good time making this record that I know that the next year and a half of touring on it and talking about it is going to keep us just as excited and just as happy as it was to write it and make it. If we can put some of that excitement and happiness into the people that are listening to it, weíve succeeded.
I saw the blog you wrote a little bit ago about Metro Station. Thereís that whole popularity thing with those types of bands, while you guys are maintaining more of the old school punk feel, which is a lot more real.
Anthony: I donít see it as new school dance whatever-you-call-that-stuff versus old school punk. Itís like real versus not real. You know what I mean? To me, Miley Cyrus is real because sheís not pretending to be something she isnít. Thatís a pop singer, which is perfectly fine. Britney Spears is perfectly fine. Sheís a fucking pop singer and everybody knows it. People write her songs for her, people play the instruments, she shows up for a day and sings, and then a bunch of people in lab coats make it sound like sheís actually singing. Thatís totally fine but thereís a stigma on things like that now.
A dude gets signed to a record label and heís just a singer. They canít market him like Justin Timberlake because thereís a stigma against that now. Thereís a backlash from what happened with *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys. Itís like pop isnít cool anymore, but punk rock is cool. We have this Fall Out Boy band and Green Day is back. We have all these cool things that are selling all these records. Thatís where it is right now. So letís get this guy or these guys, letís get them a couple of other guys and put them on the Warped Tour and then everybody will think theyíre one of them. Then we can sell records and everybody will think theyíre cool also, so we killed two birds with one stone. Thatís whatís offensive to me.
If thatís your vibe, than just be a fucking pop singer and stay out of my scene. Youíre just using everything that bands and people way before my time have spent all their time and effort building up this scene. Bands like Fall Out Boy and My Chem and all these bands that paved the way for bands like us to have actually lucrative careers playing punk music. Then you get bands like that on major labels who are just getting the money and the songwriters and all this shit pretending to be punk bands because they donít want to be called Justin Timberlake. Itís all fake. Katy Perry Ė all that shit Ė itís like stay the fuck out. Just be a pop singer.
Nick: I think that every once in a while the industry dips into the scene for ideas. After Green Day then people tried to sign a bunch of Green Day bands. Then a couple years later Blink hit and they tried to do that. Itís the same thing thatís going on now. They see that that type of stuff is always cool and reputable and actually has an image, which is pretty important with pop music, and then a bunch of those false bands try to portray that. What can you do? Iím sure itís happened on many levels for forever, but we certainly want to distance ourselves from that.
Anthony: Like all these bands donít even write their own songs. How are you going to masquerade as a punk band? Thereís nothing real about it, you know? They donít play their fucking instruments. Itís a joke.
How do you feel about a show like American Idol where they arenít expected to write their own material?
Anthony: To me American Idol isnít that bad because those people win contests that say theyíre pretty good singers and then they go on to be pop singers. Kelly Clarksonís not going around pretending that she writes her own songs. Everyone knows the deal. Theyíre pop singers. I donít mind American Idol in theory. I donít watch it because I canít get down with the whole reality TV culture of I watch this because I hate it. I watch it because I hate the people and I canít wait to hear what they say next. I donít have fun doing that.
Lyrically with this album was there anything you wanted to address that you hadnít been able to before?
Anthony: I really wanted to try and let kids know that itís alright to think for yourself. Basically that main idea takes shape in all the songs in different ways. Thereís songs about having sex Ė when itís right to do it and when itís not right and whether you should or shouldnít. Thereís songs about the way you dress and how you should dress to express yourself and do what you want and not whatís cool to do. Thereís songs about hypocrisy in music, different scenes that I think are a joke, exploiting things Ė exploiting God, exploiting punk Ė stuff like that.
How do you guys usually write a song? Are you the one that kind of brings the general idea to the table?
Anthony: Yeah, Iíll write on an acoustic guitar a chord progression and a vocal melody. Basically when we do our acoustic stuff thatís where the songs start. Here are the parts, here are the chords, here are the melodies, here are the lyrics. The songs from there can go anywhere and can go in any direction because I keep them really bare at first. Then Nick and Jack and Chris take those melodies and chord progressions and we make them what the songís really going to be about. From where they start it could be a country song or it could be a metal song, and then itís a collaboration on where the song goes.
Nick: I think we all certainly listen to different stuff but at the same time we know what we want Bayside to sound like. Itís not going to venture off too far to the left or right, but this album specifically has a lot of different moments where thereís different styles of music that we havenít really ventured off into. It still sounds like us and itís exciting for us Ė the energy and overall feeling of Bayside is still in those parts. Itís a great thing to be in a band that can do that. Itís like if we want to write a verse with a ska part it still sounds like us somehow, or Operation Ivy or Rancid and us, that type of thing. Itís cool and itís good to have the freedom to do that and hopefully not piss people off.
I think obviously youíre able to do the loud rock stuff well but when you do acoustic versions and stuff itís really good too.
Anthony: Cool, thank you.
Nick: Like Anthony said thatís where everything starts, so itís got to sound good there first.
Anthony: A great song is something thatís a great song no matter how itís dressed up. If you can take one song and play it country and then a punk band can cover it and itís still an awesome song, or you can make it a disco song or whatever. A good song should be a good song no matter how itís dressed up.
Youíve been doing some solo acoustic shows here and there. How have those been going?
Anthony: Theyíre a lot of fun. I really just do them for fun. Itís not something I take super seriously right now. I play mostly Bayside songs. I think people enjoy hearing the songs where they started, just really stripped down. Especially when I play completely solo, thatís exactly what the song sounded like when I wrote it sitting on my bed. So thereís that and then I play a bunch of covers of songs I wish I wrote. Stuff like that. Itís really as if I was going into coffee shops and playing an open mic, just playing for the love of playing and nothing more. People just happen to want and come and see it, but itís really no different if I was just playing at a bar in a corner somewhere.
It seems like a lot of bandís frontmen are doing solo, acoustic-based stuff these days. Have you ever thought about doing a solo thing at some point down the road?
Anthony: I donít really give it much thought. For me doing the solo stuff right now is really just playing music for the love of playing music and not having to think about business or think about doing anything. If I write a song that I know isnít right for Bayside then Iíll play it. You know what I mean? But I donít write songs specifically for my solo stuff. I donít section off time where I can go off and do a solo record or do a solo tour because I donít want that kind of headache.
For me, itís really bringing it back to when I was twelve years old and playing in bands. ďOh, this place wants me to play. Sweet, I got to go play. I got a show tonight.Ē The excitement of I donít know what Iím going to play. I donít know if Iím going to mess up. I donít know if theyíre going to like me. I donít know if anybodyís going to be there. Itís kind of like that excitement of when you were a little kid just starting to play.
I have a fucking blast of course being in Bayside but itís a different kind of fun. Itís like a sweet, letís go play this huge show and have everybody sing along. Then weíll go back to our tour bus afterwards and itís going to be fucking sweet, which is amazing. Itís an amazing life. So the solo stuff for me is to get back to the roots and be nervous and be on the spot again, like I donít know what Iím going to say between songs and stuff like that.
In addition to music I know you guys are big supporters of To Write Love On Her Arms, which is really cool for bands to get involved in that kind of stuff. Is there anything else out there that you guys support and what are your thoughts on that whole aspect?
Nick: We definitely got involved on that because we got to meet Jamie on a tour we did with Anberlin about a year and a half ago. That was like the first person who approached us with some sort of charity that wasnít force fed down our throats. He really seemed to genuinely care and have a first hand experience with something that happened, which I think is where a lot of his passion came from Ė the time he spent with his friend, which is what the whole story is based off of. I think a lot of other charities have come up to us and itís not that we donít necessarily want to support or donít believe in their causes, but I think that it needs to be presented to us like Jamie did with his passion and story. A lot of places just say, ďHey, hereís this. Support us just because weíre a charity.Ē We could have never worn a shirt in our life from To Write Love On Her Arms but we would have somehow figured out a way to support it.
I think that culture today is making people think that theyíre depressed when theyíre not depressed and making people think that itís OK to embrace that. I think a lot of things that Jamie does and what his cause is good for is to enlighten people on the subject and get people on the right foot. Itís really easy to think somethingís wrong with you and then make your life a downward spiral from that, when in all actuality maybe all you need is a couple of friends or some good music or something like that. I think with reality TV and all that type of stuff, that stuff emphasizes not thinking for yourself or not being proud of yourself. Itís all just spoon-fed bullshit, basically. People get so far into that where theyíre upset and depressed and they donít know why.
Things like To Write Love On Her Arms I think sheds light on that, and it has a big focus on music too, which is obviously something we can stand behind. Music has been such a huge impact on all of our lives and we want to show people that thatís a possible way out from outcasting yourself from life. Thatís our main focus when we do deal with To Write Love On Her Arms Ė the music part of it. That music can help you. Your favorite song or ďHey, this song really helped me. I think you guys should listen something.Ē Something like that.
We took them out on tour after the Anberlin tour and have kept in touch since. Itís still going great for them. I know theyíre doing something with a hotline now, which heís always talked about getting enough money to do something like that. Itís great that itís still evolving into something for him. Iím excited. I just sent him an email yesterday saying hi and just keeping in touch. I think I sent him a comment the other day on MySpace just saying I missed him and a couple hours later he said, ďHey, I was just thinking about you.Ē Itís cool that with as much as Iím sure he has going on heís still reading comments and even commented us back. Heís a good, down-to-earth dude.
Anthony: And they have the incredible Josh Hartzler working for them now, whoís one of my best friends. Heís a counselor and heís kind of heading up the hotline and stuff. Theyíre also actually thinking of opening a whole treatment center down in Florida.
So what kind of stuff have you guys been liking so far this year? Have there been any bands or CDs that have caught your ear?
Anthony: I donít know. Iíve been pretty disappointed all year to be honest with you. Iíve gone back to 1997. The new Trio recordís amazing.
Nick: I thought the new Weezer is different for Weezer. Thereís definitely some cool songs on it. I donít know if itís this year or not but all Iíve listened to for a good solid year, year and a half is like Rilo Kiley and the latest Cardigans Ė that type of stuff. None of that stuff really came out this year but I play that stuff out so much. Itís so good. Itís uplifting to me and then itís also I want to lay in bed and listen to music. Itís both to me. I think the older Iím getting Iím starting to get more into girls with pretty voices who are sweet and have a good outlook on life. So Iím trying to find those types of singers in my life.
Anthony: Iím going in the opposite direction. (Laughs) I listened to an Oxymoron record on the way here.
Nick: Yeah, I still listen to Bad Religion more than anything else. (Laughs)
Do you have any favorite songs from the new record?
Anthony: Itís so hard to pick. Right now I think itís a song called ďBoy.Ē Itís probably my favorite one.
Have you started working on the track listing process at all?
Nick: Not at all. I said earlier that I feel like when I hear a song Iím like, ďThatís a good first song on the album.Ē Then I hear a song and Iím like, ďThatís a good last song on the album.Ē I kind of feel like we have six ways to start it and six ways to end it. We got to figure out what makes sense. Itís definitely a big deal to us. Things have to make sense. When I make a mixtape for my girlfriend or something, I sit there like itís a track listing of an album I just did to make sure it flows. Thatís a big deal. How you end a song and introduce the next one. Maybe what people are thinking at the end of that song and what would be cool to go into from there. Itís definitely a big deal to us. We still write complete albums, so itís not just, ďHereís the single. Put it second and everything else is fine.Ē
Anthony: Yeah, weíre trying to make a whole album here.
Nick: The days of the single are back and weíre still trying to make an album. Not that there arenít singles on our album, but we want people to sit down and listen to our album for 40-45 minutes. Thatís something weíre fans of. When we listen to the new Alkaline Trio album, we listen to the whole thing. Bands like that Ė theyíre bands. They write complete albums and every part of every song is good. Maybe thatíll be outdated or whatever and the single will live on forever. I donít know. Itís way more fulfilling for us and maybe half the people understand that itís a full album and not just one song. Thatís the type of band we want to be, definitely.
On picking the single Ė do you guys get to do that or does the label?
Anthony: Everybody. Us, Tony, our manager.
Nick: We kind of pick the four or five that we thought were awesome, and it turns out thereís probably two or three more now that theyíre more done that should have been on that list, but we said these are the ones weíre thinking of and we sent them to everyone. From there we take an objective opinion from everyone because weíve been playing these songs for ten months now and itís easier said than done to step back and really think about a song. Do I just like this song? Is a fifteen-year-old girl or a thirty-five-year-old guy going to like this song as much as I do? So itís good to get within our own camp different demographics of people.
Didnít your last video get some TV play from what I remember and some fans got mad or something like that?
Anthony: People just get mad. People are mad that I bleached my head. You canít make everybody happy all the time.
Nick: You know they can say whatever they want in an email or on MySpace or whatever, and if I wrote back to them asking them what theyíre really mad about they would have been complete nonsense. People speak on their first reaction way too many times, but I canít possibly have a good argument with a fifteen-year-old person saying we sold out. We didnít go to them and ask TRL to put our song on for twelve seconds. They wanted to do that and I was born the same year MTV came out. You know what? I want to make my parents proud once in a while and let them tell their friends that their son was on MTV. (Laughs) Itís not we all went out and bought fucking BMWs after that. It didnít do anything, basically.
Anthony: It really didnít do anything except stir up the interest of people.
You guys obviously havenít changed at all. Youíre still the exact same as you were before.
Nick: Itís not a hard thing to do to not change. Hopefully weíre getting better and thatís how weíre changing.
Anthony: I actually do think that itís a conscious decision to not change, though.
Nick: Yeah, definitely. Weíre not putting out the next Guns Ní Roses album, you know? Like I said earlier we have a way we want us to sound.
I noticed yesterday there was a thing online of you guys playing some new songs and the comments were like, ďThis sounds like Bayside but thatís a really good thing.Ē
Anthony: We just want to get better at being Bayside. The way I always describe it is so many bands keep taking steps up, which is really important to take steps up. But then you start thinking way too much of yourself and you just miss that next step. You wind up over here, and it seems youíre dodging your fans because your fans are coming with you. Everyoneís coming with you with every step you take, and now all of a sudden youíre over here and your fans are like, ďWhere did they go?Ē You know what I mean? You canít do that. People start listening to the Beach Boys and Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepperís and all of a sudden they think thatís what their bandís supposed to sound like. Thatís not the case. Youíre not John Lennon so donít try.
Nick: Thereís definitely a band out there who openly admitted to not listening to The Beatles within the past two years and then their new album sounds like The Beatles. Itís like címon.
So anyways do you two have any closing thoughts?
Anthony: Listen to our whole album, please.
Nick: And come to our show and buy a T-shirt. (Laughs)
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