Jack O’Shea on Bayside’s New Album, Their Dedicated Fans and Supporting Local Musicians

Jack O'Shea (far right) and the rest of BaysideEXPAND
Jack O'Shea (far right) and the rest of Bayside
Photo by Megan Thompson, courtesy Big Picture Media
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Less than a year removed from their last performance in Houston, the Queens-based punk rock quartet Bayside will return to the Bayou City in support of their eighth studio album and first proper release since 2016.

Arguably the band’s heaviest record to date, Interrobang has been met with critical acclaim. But the three years between its release and its predecessor Vacancy weighed heavy on the full-time musicians, who felt that they had to put something out in the interim to satisfy their fans.

“We knew we were going to take a lot of time to make Interrobang,” Bayside guitarist Jack O'Shea tells the Houston Press. “We wanted to do something that was heavier, but we also wanted to spend time writing and recording and living with these songs.”

Unfortunately, time is a rare commodity for acts like Bayside.

“The way that we traditionally operate as an indie-label band, we’re kind of forced to create and produce as quickly as possible,” O’Shea says. “We don’t have the luxury of spending years writing a record. For a band of our size, going away for that long is suicide.”

But Bayside had another outlet to explore. Having previously released an acoustic record in 2006, they realized they could put out another collection of stripped-down favorites while they worked on new material.

“It goes to show that Bayside is capable of living in a lot of different places,” O’Shea says of Acoustic Volume 2. “Fans were super responsive, and it really solidified the fact that we can live in those different avenues.”

O’Shea attributes his band’s staying power to Bayside’s dedicated fanbase, who enjoy songs like “Bury Me” and “Don’t Exist,” even though he thinks those tracks should appeal to two very different crowds.

“Because of the time and place that we came out, because we emerged on Victory Records in the early 2000s and we came up with a lot of bands that would be more genre-specific – a lot of pop-punk bands, emo bands and screamo bands – I think people have always had a misconception of what we really are,” O’Shea says. “Our inability to fit neatly into one specific style or be packaged onto a tour that would be very on the nose… I think we always considered that to be a curse in the past, but it has been a key factor in our longevity because the people who’ve gravitated toward us see us as something that’s unique.”

That dedication has created a special bond between the fans and the band, who feel indebted to all the folks who have been attending their shows for the better part of 20 years.

“As an artist, you really want to be able to put your own expression out there, but you want to be mindful of the people who’ve stuck with you,” O’Shea says. “We feel like we owe it to our fans to continue to create in a style that they love.”

With Interrobang, Bayside wanted to create something that longtime fans would enjoy that could also catch the ear of new listeners.

“With this specific record, we wanted to make something that would appeal to people who’d never heard of us,” O’Shea says. “When we see bands like Coheed and Cambria or Rise Against – heavier bands with pop sensibility that are massive – we think, ‘How do we get songs that would appeal to their fans?’ And we’ve experienced that a lot with this album.”

Despite wanting to grow, Bayside remains an underdog at heart. On their current tour, the band let fans choose which local act would open for their respective dates. O’Shea says that at least a thousand bands were nominated, and more than 200,000 votes were cast.

“We wanted to give a chance to younger bands that didn’t necessarily have the leg up, that didn’t necessarily have the opportunity to play in front of the people we’re reaching,” he says. “All the bands that we’ve had so far have been incredibly grateful. We’ve had everything from established local acts to younger bands whose parents drove them to the show. To see bands being excited about an opportunity like that, it’s good for our heads and for our hearts.”

O’Shea admits that it’s partially self-serving, since the battle-of-the-bands format drove so much traffic to Bayside’s web site. But local acts aren’t playing for free. Besides being paid for their work, each group receives a room backstage, a rider for refreshments and food, a sound check and complimentary tickets for friends and family.

“Even if it doesn’t necessarily translate into new fans, I think it might be a confidence bump to just get people motivated to hang in there,” O’Shea says of the undiscovered bands opening for Bayside on this tour. “Anyone in a band will tell you, as painful and grueling as the grind is, that’s where a lot of your work ethic comes from. In retrospect, that’s where all the cool stories come from. You’re playing for nobody, and you’re sleeping on the floor, and there’s no money… that can become really demoralizing and all you need is a little light at the end of the tunnel to keep you going.”

Before he was in Bayside, O’Shea performed with a number of groups in Boston that struggled to book shows, so he’s excited to pay his success forward. And to the bands that didn’t win, he hopes they find that their hard work may pay off in other ways.

“Worst case scenario, if spent a month and a half trying to get people to vote and didn’t win, you’ve mobilized your fan base and you’ve drawn attention to your band,” O’Shea says. “So it’s kind of a win-win.”

Bayside, Capstan and A More Perfect Union are scheduled to perform at 7 p.m. (doors open) on December 7 at The Secret Group 2101 Polk. For more information, visit pegstar.net, $24-$28.

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