Bayside lead singer/rhythm guitarist and founding member Anthony Raneri has been waiting 10 years—since he formed the rock group in Queens, N.Y. in the winter of 2000—to make an album like Killing Time, which represents a number of firsts for the band named after his hometown.
The album is the band’s debut for new label Wind-up Records after four releases on Chicago-based indie Victory Records, including Sirens and Condolences (2004), Bayside (2005), The Walking Wounded (2007) and Shudder (2008), steadily growing their following through tireless touring. Recording their latest at Dreamland Studios in Woodstock, N.Y., and Water Music in Hoboken, N.J., with renowned producer Gil Norton [Foo Fighters, Counting Crows, Pixies, Jimmy Eat World], Bayside finally had the time and resources to fulfill their creative vision.
The group turns Raneri’s acoustic songs into full-blown, deceptively complex rock epics that touch on bitter endings (like that of his marriage on the first single, “Sick, Sick, Sick,” and the angry, full-throttle rocker “The Wrong Way”), fresh starts (“The New Flesh”), band camaraderie (“It’s Not a Bad Little War,” “Sinking and Swimming on Long Island”) and even a hopeful ballad, complete with a 20-piece orchestra and a horn section (“On Love, On Life”).
“This is a new chapter, a new beginning for us,” acknowledges guitarist Jack O’Shea, who joined the band in 2003 and has played on all five of their albums. “This feels like our debut release. Gil really encouraged us to push the boundaries of what we do, and not to become timid. Having that kind of encouragement from someone so accomplished really gave us the confi dence to be more creative.”
One can hear that in O’Shea’s various guitar sounds, from the Dick Dale/Link Wray surf guitar rumble which opens “Already Gone,” to the gnarled, twisted solos in “Sick Sick, Sick” and “It’s Not a Bad Little War,” to the pneumatic rush of “Sinking and Swimming on Long Island” or the frenetic jam that ends “The Wrong Way.”
“We wanted to make a big, detailed record, but still retain the pop sensibility that makes us who we are,” states Raneri about the studio process. “Gil helped us stay on an aggressive rock track without losing sight of the music’s commercial appeal, its ability to get on the radio. To achieve that balance was the plan.”
For Bayside, the rest of its career leading to this moment feels like Killing Time, according to Raneri. “We had the time, the producer, the label to support it and fans who are ready to hear it. Everything was in place for us to make our masterpiece.”
Indeed, Killing Time takes everything Bayside has learned in its decade in the music business and puts it on display for all to hear. On “Mona Lisa,” another song Raneri wrote about his ex(“Someday, I’ll forgive you/But it still hasn’t happened yet”), he tried an experiment in writing. “I half-jokingly call it my greatest accomplishment,” he laughs. “It was an attempt to write a song with as many chromatic key changes in it as possible, without it sounding like mathematics. I was sure it would never make the album, but everyone seemed to love it.”
There are also glimpses of the hard road Bayside has traveled to this point in “It’s Not a Bad Little War,” a song about being on the front lines and trenches with your bandmates (“We are the only friends we ever had”), and “Sinking and Swimming on Long Island,” about all the ones that got left behind (“The harder you work/The harder you fall/You wake up one day/With nothing at all”).
“Seeing Sound” has an operatic, almost Queen-like vibe, refl ecting Raneri’s own love of Broadway show tunes, while the dramatic “On Love, On Life,” is driven by piano and acoustic guitar, with pop tunesmiths Bacharach and David and Welsh crooner Tom Jones as the touchstones. The title track shows off the band’s metal chops, with ominous Blue Oyster Cult overtones.
“I really think this album has the best elements of all our previous releases,” says O’Shea, whose own guitar heroes include metal speedsters like Metallica’s Kirk Hammett and Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine as well as Slash, along with such jazz-rock muses as Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Allan Holdsworth, Al DiMelola and John McLaughlin. “It’s the most representative of what we’ve always gone for as a band. It encompasses what our fans like best about us.” With 10 songs weighing in at 38 minutes, there is no filler on Killing Time, an album, while not a concept, with songs that are organically connected and of a piece, like Green Day’s American Idiot or Nirvana’s Nevermind.
“We were trying to make the perfect album,” says Anthony. “We’ve been trying to make this record for 10 years. We finally had all the elements we needed to do it. We wanted these to be the 10 best songs we’ve ever written.”
“Now I don’t ask for much/But this could define a lifetime” – “It’s Not a Bad Little War”
“Everything has been leading up until right now,” says Anthony. “Killing Time is about new beginnings, changes. This is our moment, the album we were supposed to make. A lot of bands that came up with us, we’ve watched form, get signed, get huge and then disappear. And we’re still here… People continue to listen and care. We’re living the dream.” On Killing Time, that dream becomes reality.
“We’re all just excited about the possibilities of what the next year holds for us,” concludes Jack. “We’ve always approached our career with a cautious optimism. We hope for the best, but we’re OK with whatever happens. We roll with the punches… but this time it all seems so much more tangible.”