Bayside Shows That Emo Music Has Grown Up

Anthony Raneri, lead singer and guitarist of the emo rock band Bayside, doesn’t care what other people think of him or his band. He is proud of what the group has accomplished throughout their 16 years together and the seven albums they have released.

“I learned that you can’t make everybody happy, so I never really think of a fan’s reaction to music, lyrics, or melody,” says Raneri. “I’ve learned that the best thing you can do is to make the best thing you stand behind and are proud of, and hope for the best.”

The quartet’s latest album, the deeply personal Vacancy, was written about Raneri’s experiences after the dissolution of his second marriage and the struggle to, in his words, “sort himself out.” He wrote song after song as he spent months alone in an apartment and reflected on how isolated he felt. You can hear him go through a range of emotions: solitude, frustration, and anger.

“That is what I was living,” describes Raneri. “That is what I had to write about. I knew I might have to hurt some feelings while I was doing it. I was saying, ‘I’m sorry that I have to do this, but I have to do this.’”
Some regard the genre of emo as trendy, childish, and unsophisticated; Raneri’s songwriting on Vacancy defies the stigma. The record cycles through the basic reactions to the singer’s anguish in the aftermath of his situation, but it is also filled with moments of intense intimacy. It is the equivalent of peeking into the diary of a heartbroken man. The most remarkable and telling aspect of the album’s breakup theme is that these intense feelings aren’t directed at anyone in particular. Anyone other than himself, anyway.

“I think anyone who has been through the specific thing I’ve been going through will relate on another level, for sure,” Raneri says, “I tried my best to make the album semi-relatable to everybody … If I try to write stories about other people or abstract, heavy, literary things, I don’t think I’d be very good at it.”

Raneri brought what he wrote to the other members of the band. They were taken aback by the maturity of their leader’s confessional tale.

“They thought it was great that I was tapping into what I was feeling and that it was really honest,” he recalls.

Guitarist Jack O’Shea joined Raneri in documenting the process of bringing the record to life in a series of YouTube videos titled “Inside The Track.” It gives a glimpse into the creativity and tension that permeate the studio when putting an album together. Laced throughout the duo’s recollection of Vacancy’s construction are tiny nuggets of knowledge about creating a song. Raneri has always felt like he was a student of everything he was doing as a member of Bayside. His hope was to inform and inspire up-and-coming musicians who are looking for some tips and tricks in the recording process.

“Those were cool to do,” says Raneri. “It’s not the most viral thing or the biggest promotional idea, but we figured there would be certain people who would find it interesting.”

Despite the album’s somber origins, Raneri has enjoyed touring with Bayside in support of Vacancy night after night. Fans have responded to the album in a positive way. The one person whose reaction he’s not very concerned about: his ex-wife.

“I have no idea [if she has listened to the record], actually,” he says. “It has not come up.”

Bayside is scheduled to perform Saturday, September 10, at The Pressroom.

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Jason Keil was the Phoenix New Times culture editor from August 2019 to May 2020.
Contact: Jason Keil