Long-haul punk rockers Bayside have just released their sixth studio album, Cult, almost a decade after their first smash, Sirens and Condolences, which saw fans begin to devote themselves to the New York boys in a manner that may, indeed, reflect a cult.
“The terminology has been bouncing around in our fanbase since the beginning,” explains Nick Ghanbarian, the band’s long-time bass player. “This album seems like an achievement to us; very few bands get to put out six records in this day and age and we wouldn’t be here without our fans.”
Bayside recognise the name could be seen as a little odd, though – Nick says that whilst it could be perceived as something negative, he hopes that the album art, which is “very celebratory and positive” will prompt new fans into looking up the meaning before making assumptions.
“It could be the first Bayside album that you hear, and then you realise there’s five more that you’ll love too.”
After a decade and a half of relentless writing, touring and being in one another’s pockets, one would assume a rock band would have gone through several changes in lineup, representation and musical style. Yes, the boys are now onto their third record label, the rest could not be further from the truth. In fact, they stress consistency during their writing process, not for their own sake but for their fans’.
“[We’re] super comfortable with the songs we write and we don’t want to piss our fans off! We’re so appreciative that we don’t wanna take a chance and lose fans. We grow as a band within the existing mold of what Bayside is.”
With Cult boasting songs that speak directly of the music industry, it’s not hard to imagine Nick and co. sitting around in the studio working out how best to exist in the strange world of punk rock entertainment whilst staying true to themselves and those who love their music.
“It’s a hard time for rock bands! Rock is 4th 5th 6th on the list of popular music right now, it’s just not what it used to be.”
Stressing that their longevity is part of who Bayside are, Nick says that the way to survive in an industry that is both cutthroat and dying is to find a good thing and run with it, run as far as you can, not necessarily as fast as you can, and have an amazing time doing so. An example, he reckons, is a band who plays to a crowd of ten thousand right off the bat; they aren’t going to connect with their fans on such a deep level as the boys from Queens have, and they’re certainly not going to be naming their sixth album after those who’ve stood by them for over ten years.
“We are close with our fans.. Through social media and reading everything they have to say about us. It keeps us hungry, it helps us know what we’re doing right – for us, it’s a constant journey.”
This far down the track, Bayside wouldn’t change a thing about their career, save a few questionable hair and fashion choices along the way. When making music comes so naturally to a group of people, regrets don’t make even one blip on the radar.
“I can’t name one decision that we’ve made correctly or incorrectly, it’s always just been what comes next?”
What comes next right now, apparently, is an album for the fans who’ve grown up with Bayside on their stereos, and in a way, vice versa. Though there are only so many songs to be written about heartbreak, Nick says, the overriding message of the band will always be the same.
“It’s still [Anthony’s] voice, it’s the same perspective, just dealing with different topics. It’s still relatable.”
How to stay relatable? F**k fad bands, scenes and genres, apparently.
“We never were a trendy band and we never were a part of something that took off in a trendy way and that has lent itself to us being a band that people can trust.”
Cult, according to the band, is an active statement against the less-than-genuine nature of rock n’ roll music at the moment.
“If you think that your wardrobe will matter, your popularity, anything other than the songs you’re writing then I think you’re doing things for the wrong reasons. It bums me out when I see a band and it’s all about the image and a lot less about musicianship; seeing that they have an effect on kids; that bothers me because I grew up with a lot of good music that helped me navigate my way.
Whenever I hear a horribly written song with a negative connotation, I cringe that people are learning some kind of lesson from it. If you’re gonna be in a band you have to realise that your ultimate goal should be being able to effect people and help them in a positive way.
You gotta carve your own way and believe in what you do, and you gotta be good, that’s for sure.”
CULT is available on February 21, 2014 in Australia and New Zealand