Bayside singer Anthony Raneri was on Warped Tour when he got the idea for “Dancing Like an Idiot,” one of the new songs featured on the expanded edition of the band’s reissue of 2014’s Cult.
“We’ve been outspoken about anything we think is bullshit, especially bands and trends,” he says in a recent phone interview. “‘Dancing Like an Idiot’ is [not just about] 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 [the 2006 film] 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.”
At the risk of sounding like a stereotypical old man, Raneri continues to critique the next generation of punk bands.
“As you get older, it’s easy to say that we’re going to be screwed because the kids are getting stupid,” he says. “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 so stupid 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.”
Since forming in Queens in 2000 when members responded to an ad for bands to submit songs for a tribute album to the seminal ska band Operation Ivy, Bayside has stayed true to an ethos that looks back to the time period when bands like Minor Threat/Fugazi and Bad Religion addressed political and social issues in their lyrics. Raneri admits those groups were the band’s initial inspirations.
“They were saying, ‘This is what I stand for,’” he says. “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 [the metalcore band] Attila.”
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 style of punk rock, 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, the band has embarked on the 15 Year Birthday Tour in support of Cult White Edition.
“I think what we’re most proud of a band is our longevity,” Raneri says. “Any opportunity we have to celebrate that is exciting for that. The tours are getting bigger after all these years ad we can really what we hang our hat on.”
The band had to hurdle the tragic death of its original drummer, John “Beatz” Holohan, in 2005. The guys wrote the song “Winter” in his memory but have never played it live. They never intend to play it live either.
“For us, we handled that as a personal loss and we came to that realization immediately,” says Raneri “We didn’t want that to be our legacy. We caught some flack for that over the years. People ask us to play [the song] 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. Who gives a shit about being in a band? For me, I turned that page. John lives in my memory and it’s in my memory.”
Though Holohan’s death is well in the past, more recent deaths inspired the lyrical content of Cult.
“I lost my stepfather and grandfather while I was writing the record,” says Raneri. “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.”
And yet, the fans have stuck with the group.
“The fans came along and that’s awesome,” says Raneri, who adds that the band will start on a new studio album in the fall. “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.”
Bayside, Senses Fail, Man Overboard, 8 p.m. Saturday, March 28, House of Blues, 308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583. Tickets: $17.50 ADV, $21 DOS, houseofblues.com.