Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Keep Calm Presents: Interview with Anthony Raneri

Anthony Raneri has always been a busy guy. From the constant touring schedule that Bayside has developed that even the most loyal members of the "Cult" have a difficult time keeping up with to the acoustic solo shows he will often play when Bayside takes a (rare) few weeks off, it's easy to understand that Raneri is a man who is always thinking forward to his next venture. This year, he was finally able to release his first solo EP New Cathedrals, and even then, he found a way to be involved with every aspect of the writing, production, promotion, and distribution of the album. Aside from re-igniting the DIY attitude that seems to be taking hold of the music scene yet again, Raneri proves on New Cathedrals that his creativity isn't limited to his stinging hooks and soaring choruses that we're so used to hearing from Bayside. And somehow, just before playing at the Rathskellar at The College of New Jersey, Anthony was able to find the time to sit down with Keep Calm and Carry On for an exclusive interview! You're definitely going to want to read this, so check it out below!

Keep Calm and Carry On: 91.3FM WTSR, on the campus of The College of New Jersey, this is Donald WAgenblast, I'm the host of Keep Calm and Carry On, and right now we're here with Anthony Raneri, before his solo CUBRat show. Anthony, how are you today?
Anthony Raneri: I'm doing good, how are you?
KC: Good, thank you. So, you're solo tonight. You've played a ton of Bayside shows, and a ton of Bayside acoustic shows. How do your solo acoustic shows differ from those Bayside shows?
AR: Well, I  kind of get to do whatever I want, you know, that's the nice part. With Bayside, to get four guys on the same page, playing the songs all together, that takes some practice. With the solo shows, if I'm driving on the way, and I hear a song, and I want to play it, I can play it that night, where with the band, I can't really do that. And that's the other thing, I can play whatever I want; I can play covers, I can play stuff from my solo record, I can play Bayside songs.

KC: And you were solo on the Acoustic Basement on Warped Tour, how was juggling your set between your acoustic set and Bayside's regular set?
AR: It wasn't as tough as I thought it was going to be. Going into the tour, as we got closer, I started questioning what I was getting myself into.  I think most of the time, they were pretty good about scheduling me where it was close enough together, where I wouldn't have to get ready to play, cool down for five hours, and then go play again, but also not so close to where I was running to one set while I'm still sweating from the other set.

KC: So what was your approach going into those Acoustic Basement shows? Were you like, "Oh, should I play more Bayside songs?" or did you want to play more songs from the solo record you said you just put out?
AR: I usually feel out the crowd, you know? That's another cool thing about the solo shows: they're living, breathing things, and I can call audibles constantly, so I feel out the crowd. I usually start the set off with a mix of everything, and I see which songs get what reactions. I try to give people what they came to see. It's nice for me to be able to play the solo stuff, and when people know it, it's great, because they haven't seen it before, and it's still fairly new. But then, if I'm doing that stuff and I can tell people don't really know it,  or I feel like I'm losing them a little bit, then I'll start packing in a little more Bayside songs.

KC: Like you said, you had a solo EP come out, it's called New Cathedrals. What sparked the venture into the solo record for you?
AR: I think it was  sort of out of necessity, in a way. I write songs constantly, and I listen to different types of music, and I had all these songs, some of them were as old as 2002. I wrote "Sandra Partial" in 2002. Those songs have just been sitting around for years, and I finally had about six months free from Bayside, which is way longer than I've ever had off, so I figured I'd use that time to record them, and see if anybody wanted it.

KC: Certainly, it's not what you'd expect to hear the lead singer of Bayside singing, you know, "The Ballad of Bill the Saint" to me almost sounds like a country song, and you have songs like "Charleston," and "Sandra Partial," as well, was that by design?
AR: I think, by design, that's what it is. Because if it's similar to Bayside, those songs would have been Bayside songs. I didn't write anything for that record, and say, "This is a solo song," those are all leftovers. They're songs that we said, "This isn't a Bayside song." So by design, it really is different than Bayside.

KC:  So would you say that most of the songs, then, were left on the cutting room floor when Bayside was trying to release new music?
AR:  Sort of. Through the writing process, there are songs that I start writing and then I don't think they're very good and then I throw them out, and then there are songs that I finish and I think that they're great songs, but they're not Bayside songs, so I never even play them for the rest of the band. To say it's on the cutting room floor makes it sound like they were leftovers in the sense that they got "cut" from Bayside records, they just didn't fit with Bayside. Except "Charleston." "Charleston" was a song that I wrote about a month before going into the studio knowing that I needed another song for the record.

KC: New Cathedrals is self-released. What was that like? Obviously, Bayside has dealt with a couple of labels in their career. What was it like actually having to release the EP by your own hands?
AR: It's a lot of fun. I mean, that's the way we used to do things when we first started the band, you know? It was a lot of fun to get back to that. Everything about this record was incredibly rewarding. In terms of success, it's certainly not what Bayside has ever achieved, as far as shows, sales, or anything like that. But it's so rewarding to think that when somebody gets the CD in the mail, I wrote the song, I played just about ever instrument on the record, I produced the record, I engineered it. I even own the merchandise company where we ship it. So when somebody gets it in the mail, I did it all. I touched it, I put it in that envelope you're getting it in. It's really, really rewarding.

KC: Do you think a solo release would be something you'd be interested in doing again? I know it's kind of difficult to look into the future for a guy in such a busy band.
AR: Yeah, definitely. I mean Bayside is definitely always my priority. It's just always going to come down to if I find a bunch of time off from Bayside, if we haven't been touring for five months, and I have a few songs laying around, then I'll do it. I definitely want to, but it's very much a side project.

KC: Earlier this year, you were also on the Where's the Band? Tour, with Chris Conley, Ace Enders, Matt Pryor, and Evan Weiss. How was that?
AR: It's awesome. That's the fourth year, I think, that we've done that tour. It's an annual thing for us. The pieces change slightly, it's been me, Chris Conley, and Matt Pryor have been doing it every year and Dustin Kensrue from Thrice has always done it with us in the past, this year he only did a couple of dates. We added Evan and Ace into it this year. It's so much fun. It's like vacation for all of us. You get four or five lead singers, and you put them in a small box together,  and you think it erupts. But we have so much fun, we're such kindred spirits, we're all musicians, songwriters, singers, we have so much in common. We all just sit around in dressing rooms while we're traveling, and we're all going through the same things. And there are very few people, including some of our own band members, who don't understand exactly what we go through as songwriters and singers, and certainly not your friends and family. So it really is kindred spirits to the nth degree.
KC: It sounds like there's a great sense of community in that tour, with you guys just bouncing ideas off of one another. 
AR: Yeah, totally. We write songs while on that tour. Someone will be working on a song for their band and they'll bounce ideas off of everybody, get opinions.

KC: So, let's move a little bit away from the solo stuff, and get into the big news that's developing with Bayside right now. You guys are set to be direct support for the Tell All Your Friends Tour.  You guys are playing a lot of venues that I've personally seen Bayside sell out before. What led you to say, "Let's support Taking Back Sunday on the Tell All Your Friends Tour"?
AR: If you were to look at it from a business standpoint, like, we've sold out the Electric Factory before. But this is two shows at the Electric Factory. That's an incredible amount of people. But it's their show. It's different people. Even though we may draw  that many people, it's a different group of people, so we want to play in front of some new people. I think also that's a band that we relate to pretty closely, musically at least. I think a lot their fans  are our fans, and if they're not, then they can be. We've been offered some other support tours that are really huge, and we know that those particular bands' fans aren't going to be Bayside fans. When we support bands, it's never about the size, it's about whether it fits. And also, it's an honor. We grew up in the same scene, went to shows together, they started their bands the same time as ours, and I remember just seeing them take off and feeling so proud of them and being so proud of Long Island, and what was happening. So to be a part of this 10-year anniversary of something that I remember really fondly, it's an honor.

KC: Obviously, the big draw of this tour is Taking Back Sunday playing their earliest full-length album, Tell All Your Friends. Is there a chance that we see Bayside playing a little bit more  of their earlier work than fans might be used to on that tour?
AR:I don't think so, it had come up about us possibly doing a record also on the tour. But we don't really want to get in the way. It's their show. A big part of why we're doing this tour is how much respect we have for this occasion. That's their thing. And also, we don't want to necessarily go back and do one of those "record tours." It's not really our thing.

KC: You guys were on Warped Tour this year for the first time since 2009. How has it changed? You guys have been on the tour a number of times. Did you see any distinct differences between this year's Warped and the Warpeds you guys have done in the past?
AR: Yeah, we've been doing it since 2002, so I've seen over the years, and in the 90s, I was going to it. I've just seen it morph into all new things over the years. You know, this past year I think was one of the better years in a while. There were really some neat little niches, but at the same time, everything was blending. You had the Bayside, New Found Glory, Taking Back Sunday, Yellowcard, the Used, you had that generation there, but then you also had Man Overboard, Polar Bear Club, Transit, you had the up-and-coming stuff. And then you also had Breathe Carolina, We the Kings, the pop stuff happening over there, and then they had a whole stage that was almost all hardcore and metal. There's a variety, which is what you come to expect of Warped Tour since the beginning, but this variety bled into each other a lot more. Like I said there was Bayside, New Found, Taking Back, but I feel like those fans could get into Polar Bear Club or Transit, and Transit/Man Overboard fans can be into New Found Glory. And the hardcore bands as well. There was a lot more cohesiveness between genres. In past years, I feel like there was a lot of headbutting, it was really polarizing. You either listen to this, or you listen to that, and if you listen to "this," you hate everybody who's standing over there.

KC: Killing Time presented an interesting situation for you guys. You changed labels, went from Victory to Wind-Up. Wind-Up is a pretty big label, and there's always the worry that the little band goes to a big label and gets chewed up. How has the situation with Wind-Up been for you guys?
AR: It was cool, we're not there any more, it was one-time thing. We're actually not on any label right now, which is cool. It's exciting, free agency. It was totally different ballgame, you know, being on Victory. Victory was great, and they worked really hard to help get our band where it is. We definitely would never have gotten to where we are now if it wasn't for them. It's a great label. When it comes to Victory, if you're having a problem with something, or you have an idea you want to see happen, you call the owner on his cell phone, and then you guys talk about it. If he likes the idea, he gets excited, and he's really passionate about the bands, and he knows all the lyrics to every record he's ever put out. You don't get that at Wind-Up, or a major label. But at the same time, you also can't just call Victory and say, "We want Gil Norton to produce our record, it's going to cost $150 grand." That's what you get at Wind-Up.

KC: Since you guys are all label-less right now, given your experience with self-releasing New Cathedrals, would you consider self-releasing a Bayside album?
AR: We are actually in the process of self-releasing something right now. It's not an album, we're actually announcing it in a couple of weeks, so I can't totally come out and say it. But we are going to be releasing something while we're on the Taking Back Sunday tour. It's going to be similar thing to the solo record where you'll buy it directly from us. We're producing it ourselves, we're funding it ourselves, you'll be able to buy it from us at the shows.

Keep Calm and Carry On would like to thank Anthony Raneri for taking the time to talk with us before the show, and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the special announcement of Bayside's self-released new material!