In literature, an interrobang is a punctuation mark that combines an exclamation point and a question mark. An interrobang is often used when something is both surprising and delightful – and with their new album Interrobang, Bayside hope to do just that.
Nearly two decades in to Bayside’s career, vocalist Anthony Raneri reveals that Interrobang is “the first record that we ever conceptualized before we wrote it.” He clarifies that it’s not quite a concept record with a central storyline; but before the band began writing, they sat down to talk about what kind of record they wanted to make. In addition, they set up a shared Dropbox folder to put other songs, pictures, words, and movies that served as a “concept board of what is this record supposed to be.”
When talking about what influenced the record, Raneri references System of a Down, whose music is aggressive, angry, and heavy – but who have “these left turns that are so ridiculous they make you laugh – and you’re not laughing at it, you’re just laughing because you weren’t expecting it.” On Interrobang, Bayside has captured this with a shredding, thrash-metal bridge on “Bury Me,” and an “over-the-top, heavy riff” on lead single “Prayers.” “We wanted to make a fun record,” he says. “We want you to say, ‘oh my god this is awesome, and what the fuck is happening’ at the same time.”
Interrobang will be released on October 4, only two weeks after its announcement. Discussing the short roll-out, Raneri explains that the band wanted to try something different. At this point, Bayside know their fanbase – and are grateful to have the support of Hopeless Records to trust their intuition and experience. Through their 2016 release Vacancy and the 2018 release of Acoustic Volume 2, they’ve learned just how tough it is to keep people’s attention for a standard six-to-eight-week album roll-out. Rather than announcing the record and spending a month or two trying to figure out how to maintain the hype, “why don’t we try announcing it and then releasing it, all before people get a chance to stop paying attention?”.
But even though it’s a quick roll-out from announcement to release, Bayside will still be doing “everything we would’ve done in two months” in a two-week span. “Prayers” was released in late August, and the title track, “Interrobang”, was released along with the album announcement; more singles, videos, and other content and events will be shared in the coming days. Oh, and they’ve also announced a tour.
Bayside’s new material is heavy – something guitarist Jack O’Shea hinted at when talking to Substream last fall. They’ve always had heavier songs with metal influence – Raneri cites “They’re Not Horses, They’re Unicorns” and “Devotion and Desire” as songs where it pops out – but as he and his bandmates were listening to heavier music individually, it was a direction they wanted to lean in to with this release. With Vacancy, they leaned into a more dramatic and whimsical side that’s also been a part of their sound. Eight records in, they want to keep their music fresh, but it’s also “always been really important to us to sound like Bayside” – and making a really heavy record felt like “a safe way to shake things up.”
The goal with Interrobang – as with everything Bayside puts out – was to create something that felt new and fresh while also staying true to themselves. “I think because of Jack’s guitar playing, because of my voice, because of certain characteristics in our music, people who maybe aren’t as familiar with our band might think every record sounds the same,” Raneri reflects. “I’m always going to be singing, and I sing the way I sing, and Jack plays the way he plays, so we were like, ‘how can we really shake it up?'” They reasoned that no one would be disappointed at hearing a heavier record – plus, “that stuff is fun to play. We consider ourselves musicians, we think we’re pretty good… and we said, ‘Let’s really show that off.'”
If you haven’t seen Bayside live before, the upcoming tour may be your best chance yet. They’ll be doing an underplay tour, performing in smaller rooms than usual: whereas they’d typically sell 2000 tickets in New York, this time they’re playing Music Hall of Williamsburg, a room that holds just over 600 people. Raneri is excited to be “packing people into small little rooms and playing loud and fast,” something that naturally lends itself to the new material.
Instead of taking another band on the road with them, Bayside will also be doing a Battle Of The Bands contest to find a local opener in each city. Drummer Chris Guglielmo threw out the idea while they were in the studio; the band ran it up the flagpole at Hopeless, who worked with them to build a site for voting to run the contest itself. Since they’d be playing smaller venues, they didn’t have to think about an opener that would help draw people to the shows – making this the perfect time to reach out to local acts.
The importance of supporting local music isn’t lost on Raneri. “We started out just like everybody else started out,” he says. When they were playing shows locally on Long Island, “most of the time nobody was there, and when we had that rare chance to open for a national touring band and play a well-attended show, it was huge!” For bands that are starting out, it often feels “like you’re not going anywhere – like your tires are spinning, nothing you’re doing matters, nobody cares, nobody’s paying attention. To become a successful band is such a pipe dream, really, when you think about it.”
Getting to actually play in front of a big crowd gave Bayside a much-needed glimmer of hope, and a sign that if people were there, they’d like what they heard. “Everybody in a band thinks that their music is great,” he explains. “The problem is, if no one hears it, what does it mean?”. Playing in front of people is “the real test”, and Bayside are eager to give that chance to new artists in each city.
To be eligible to compete for the opening slot, local bands must be unsigned and not already touring. The changing music landscape, as well as the increased prominence of pay-to-play for support slots, has made it hard for bands to break through. “We made it clear to all the promoters that there wouldn’t be any of that… they can’t make any of the bands sell tickets or pay-to-play,” Raneri shares. Every band will be on the show as if they were the opening band on tour: everybody gets a guarantee, they get use of the dressing room, they get a soundcheck, and they’ll get to set up merch.
As a band that tours often and puts a lot of thought into their live shows, Bayside have sequenced Interrobang “more like a setlist.” In their live sets, they aim to include “rock blocks”: rather than putting fans on a rollercoaster of ups and downs, sequencing a few hard and fast songs together lets the listener get in to groove – but the groove changes by the time they’re tired of it. After a hard-and-fast start with “Interrobang”, “Prayers”, “Bury Me”, and “Tall” – something Raneri calls a “rock block” – Interrobang slows down for the three-song run of “Medication”, “Numb”, and “Heaven.”
While this middle run of songs, especially, is more introspective than much of Bayside’s past material, lyrically, Raneri approached this record the same way he always has. “I’ve never considered myself to be that clever of a person, of a writer,” he admits, “so since the beginning I’ve written lyrics like it’s a journal.” He has notebooks as well as notes on his phone of thoughts and ideas that come to mind; since Bayside typically write the music first, he’s not writing poetry with his lyrics, but rather finding words to fit into melodies that he creates.
But they switch it up one more time, ending on “White Flag.” But this “White Flag” isn’t about surrender; it’s another “metal-y, fast” song that goes to ten, hoping to leave a lasting impression. At their live shows, they’ve been closing with “Devotion and Desire” for nearly fifteen years, because they want the last song to be “this exciting, aggressive moment, and that’s what we wanted you to have taken away from it” – and if there’s anything to take away from Interrobang, it’s an exciting, aggressive record.
Interrobang will be out October 4 via Hopeless Records. To pre-order the record or for more information on the Interrobang Club Tour, including how to register for the Battle of the Bands, head to www.BaysideBayside.com.