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SAY ANYTHING and BAYSIDE

Reggie and the Full Effect

“As sad as it is, part of rock ’n’ roll is the glory of self-destruction,” explains Say Anything braintrust Max Bemis from his home in Tyler, Texas. He’s currently enjoying the last weeks of domestic solitude before embarking on a national tour to promote the band’s upcoming sixth studio album, Hebrews, out June 10 on Equal Vision Records. “You have to write about the joy of misery.”

Over the years of Say Anything, Bemis has become both a devout and mythic character in the alt-rock scene. He’s always strived to find a balance between truth and fantasy. Though, when he starts to lean too far to one side, the band’s ethos always brings him back to center: Do better. Be better. Or at least have the hope that better exists for you. “It’s a cycle of rebirth, renewal and destruction,” Max says about his life, musically and personally. “I do believe in hope and I do believe, at the core of everything, there’s a truth and a hope to our existence. At the same time, we’re only human. We’re animals and we’re going to constantly try to re-evaluate.”

Hebrews is a collection of songs that examine, analyze and test that truth — and all without picking up a single guitar. Yes, all 12 songs trade traditional rock-band instrumentation for more refined and orchestral stringed arrangements. But that doesn’t mean it sacrifices any spit or spirit. The album’s mission statement is set from the opening notes of “John McLane,” which is drenched with analog-sounding keyboards and Bemis’ dramatic vocals, welcoming the listener into his head and his heart, singing there’s “no need for ambivalent music.”

“I think there’s a journey every human being goes on and if you can tap into that, you can speak to personal experiences,” Max says about his outlook on songwriting. “That’s what fables are, tapping into the shared experience. I’ve been through a lot in the past couple years and, although the record can be dense and specific, I tried to speak of the cyclical journey we all go on to better understand ourselves.”

One of the major life events Bemis experienced while writing, recording and producing this record was the birth of his first daughter, Lucy. Though tickled by impending fatherhood, Max was soon plagued by past demons he’d spent years working hard to bury. The same destructive and deprecating thoughts that inspired some of his greatest songs were now starting to reemerge. But Max, now older and stronger, wasn’t going to let them take over without a fight.

“People, in general, kind of assumed that all my problems got solved, which, on some level, they did,” Max says of the years he spent working on his inner peace, which improved immensely when he met and later married Eisley’s Sherri DuPree. “I’m happy most of the time. But there’s no ending until you’re dead. The human condition is like a disease and that’s what makes life so cool. Life is never perfect and you’re going to have moments of doubt. A lot of things were solved, but I moved to a different stage of self-examination.”

This musical (and mental) voyage is explored on songs like “Six Six Six,” the first single off Hebrews, which features additional vocals from Max’s wife, Manchester Orchestra frontman Andy Hull and Balance & Composure singer Jon Simmons. Backed by a beautiful string section, Max sings about how the Devil exists inside all of us and, sometimes, it feels like we’ve fooled everyone around us into thinking we’re better than we actually are. The result is a fist-pumping rock song that’s also deeply personal. Another example of turning the magnifying glass inward can be heard on “Judas Decapitation,” which features guest appearances from British indie-pop imports Gareth and Kim Campensinos (Los Campensinos!). “It’s half about my anger towards people for their opinions about me and the band,” Max admits, “and then it’s half about me being such a brat about it.”

A theme that blankets the entire album is that of religious identity, which is something Max has been singing about since the early days of Say Anything and the band’s 2002 Menorah/Majora EP. “A big part of the journey was also understanding my lineage and my culture,” Max expounds. “That’s why the record’s called Hebrews. Whether you’re Jewish, Catholic or whatever, you come from a [larger] culture. It’s not a record about being Jewish; it’s about understanding where my neuroses come from. Is it from society, my parents or from the dawn of man?”

Thankfully, Max doesn’t have to go through the journey alone. Over 16 artists provided guest vocals to Hebrews, including Chris Conley (Saves The Day), Matt Pryor (The Get Up Kids), Chauntelle DuPree-D’Agostino (Eisley), Keith Buckley (Every Time I Die), Brian Sella (The Front Bottoms), Aaron Weiss (meWithoutYou), Stacy King (Sucré), Bob Nanna (Hey Mercedes), Christie DuPree (Merriment), and Jeremy Bolm (Touché Amoré) and Tom DeLonge (blink-182).

For Max, music stands alongside Sherri and Lucy on his list of great loves, and he’ll be able to conquer anything with all three there to support and encourage him. “Sure, there’s a part of me that craves attention. There’s a part of me that needs to be validated. But I really do think I wouldn’t have been able to write a single song if it wasn’t for the drive to make things better,” Max admits. “As much as my music has always been dark, I could never sit down and write a song about how the world is cruel and nothing matters. As much as I’ve been through so much pain, I’ve never truly believed that life is pointless, there’s no hope and you should just give up.

That’s the point of Say Anything, under all the layers… To fix things.”

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Bayside fans don’t call their relationship with the band a “Cult” for nothing. After a string of much-adored releases, Bayside has one of the most dedicated fan bases in rock, and the group steadfastly rewards those devotees with the musical salvation they seek. Six albums and more than a decade later, Bayside has never lost touch with that mission and, in fact, they’ve only grown bigger. While veteran bands take breaks and regroup, Bayside haven’t taken that route and instead, soldiered on, building up and growing more and more into themselves… to the point in which they are the most “Bayside” that they have ever been. The fact that their audience has grown is testament to that.

Now continuing that legacy is the band’s latest creation, an explosive 11-track collection that captures Bayside in prime form, combining classic elements from throughout their career. Guaranteed to rock the faithful, the new release is appropriately entitled Cult. 

“When we were done with the record we were like, ‘This is every Bayside record,’” explains singer/guitarist Anthony Raneri. “It has the honesty and rawness that we’ve had since Sirens And Condolences, and those risks: those weird key and time signature changes, and the different styles of music we explore. The Bayside ‘Cult’ is something our fans have been talking about for a long time, and it seemed like a good name for a greatest hits album, which is kind of what this is: a Bayside discography. On the cover, there are even little symbols to signify each album.”

That’s a lot of history for an album cover. The band—which also includes lead guitarist Jack O’Shea, bassist Nick Ghanbarian and drummer Chris Guglielmo—formed in the winter of 2000 in Queens, NY, undergoing numerous lineup changes in the early years. At first through Raneri’s sheer persistence and dedication Bayside progressed, eventually cutting two embryonic EPs with Dying Wish Records. Those efforts bore fruit, leading to a contract with Victory Records in 2003, resulting in the band’s 2004 full-length debut, Sirens & Condolences. But it was just the beginning, and the group released three more quintessential LPs with Victory, cementing their place as one of the most important bands in the modern underground music scene—Self-Titled (2005), The Walking Wounded (2007) and Shudder (2008)—then briefly moved on to Wind-Up Records in 2010 for Killing Time (2011), their most widely visible album to date. After that record cycle Bayside opened another exciting new chapter in their career, signing with punk powerhouse Hopeless Records in 2013. Cult marks the band’s first Hopeless release. 

For latest effort Cult, Bayside spent roughly two years writing new material, then returned to producer Shep Goodman (who’d previously helmed two of Bayside’s most beloved releases, Self-Titled and Walking Wounded), as well as Goodman’s production partner, Aaron Accetta. Raneri says Goodman was a catalyst for the band’s obvious progression from debut Sirens to sophomore album Self-Titled, and this latest collaboration sought to rekindle that spark.

“Shep was very instrumental in teaching me about songwriting. He taught me a lot about drawing a listener in and getting inside the mind of the listener, and not just sitting down with a guitar and playing whatever comes to mind,” says Raneri. “He’s sort of my mentor as far as songwriting goes. I loved working with Gil Norton on the last record [Killing Time]—he’s a legend, and it was an amazing process—but with this record, I really wanted to get back and hone in, try to get better at my songwriting again. I knew that working with Shep has always done that for me.”

Sonically, Cult is perhaps the band’s most confident and resonant work to date, featuring turbocharged rhythms and the consistently blistering guitar work of six-string whiz O’Shea. But as much as the album is a return to the band’s musical sweet spot, on the other hand Cult’s lyrical content breaks new thematic ground, showcasing Raneri’s ongoing personal growth as both the man and the songwriter. Instead of dwelling on past romantic failings, this time the lyricist points his pen at the hard matters of life and death, having recently lost his grandfather, stepfather and stepbrother.

“[Cult] is pretty different because it’s not about broken relationships as much as other records; on a personal level, my relationship has been great, my marriage is good and I’ve started a family. Instead a lot of this record deals with mortality, without it being morbid,” says Raneri. “I lost a lot of people who were close to me, and it really just started making me think a lot about what my legacy was going to be. What am I going to leave behind and what is my entire generation going to leave behind? What are they going to be saying at funerals 40 years from now? It’s wondering if life is about leaving a legacy. Is that what we’re all here for: living a life worth remembering?”

Raneri channels these universal existential questions into personal inspiration on tracks like first single “Time Has Come,” which finds the singer challenging himself to rise to the occasion over intricately interwoven guitar lines. “It’s meant to be more of an uplifting thing,” says Raneri. “If I want to make something of myself, build a legacy, accomplish something, then I’ve got to just go do it. The time is now to do something if you ever plan on it.”

Other tracks like “Stuttering” and “Bear With Me” put the music business under the microscope, as well as Bayside’s place within it. “[“Bear”] has a lot to do with my career and my legacy as a musician. You look at bands like mine, and it’s hard to ignore that a lot of pop-punk or mid-2000s emo bands just sort of disappeared,” says Raneri, who’s instead had the good fortune of seeing Bayside’s popularity continually grow. “Fortunately for us our band has been able to make it through a lot of that. There are definitely days when I feel like I’m a novelty, but like the line in the song, I think I’m twice the man I used to be.”

Even when Raneri does return to issues of the heart, he does so with a newfound perspective. A prime example is the song “Transitive Property,” which Raneri wrote during Warped Tour 2012 for his girlfriend—now his wife—as a heartfelt apology, as the couple was on the verge of a breakup. Although never intended for public ears, when bandmates heard the song they insisted it be included on the new album.

“That’s the most personal song I’ve ever written. It’s like sharing a letter to the world; sharing my actual diary that I didn’t think anybody would see,” Raneri says. “I always write a song with the intention of sharing it, but that lyrically was the first song I wrote that was so personal because I thought nobody would ever hear it. I think it’s a great song; one of the best songs I ever wrote.”

Bayside has already toured the world many times over, sharing stages with a virtual “who’s who” of like-minded artists and enjoying regular main-stage spots at major festivals like Warped Tour, but the band’s plans for the coming year are no less ambitious. After Cult drops in February, Bayside will head out on a U.S. headlining tour, then travel to Europe with Alkaline Trio in the spring. From there Bayside will likely play still more high-profile North American dates during the summer of 2014.

“I’m excited about the tour, because it’s sort of a combination of underplayed and big shows,” says Raneri. “We’re in certain cities playing bigger venues than we’ve ever played, and in some cities we’re playing in smaller venues.”

Now six full-lengths into their career, making the setlist each night gets tougher than ever. Raneri says the band is cautious of including too much new material live, for risking of disappointing fans awaiting the classics, but once listeners have Cult in their hands it’ll be easier to gauge which new tracks to perform. Inevitably though, Cult will stand up well next to past material. If there’s one thing immediately clear, it’s that Cult is as classic Bayside as it comes. 

“We don’t play anything we don’t want, but at the same time, we listen to our fans, and we know what makes Bayside, Bayside. We try to grab all those things that we all love about Bayside and try to do more of them,” says Raneri. “People’s lives change. You go from high school to college to adulthood to parenthood, and everything in your life changes, except there’s always going to be a new Bayside record, and you can always go home.”

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Showings

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  • Thu, May 11, 2017
  • Doors - 6:30 PM
    Concert - 7:30PM
  • Upstate Concert Hall
    Clifton Park, New York
  • Reggie and the Full Effect
  • $22.00 adv / $26.00 day of show
  • 16 and over admitted unless accompanied by parent or guardian.