Jack O'Shea of Bayside

Bayside has come a long way from being New Found Glory-loving punk rockers to a legitimate and respected rock band. The fact that the group's Wind-up Records debut, Killing Time, was produced by Gil Norton - who has also produced The Pixies, Foo Fighters and Counting Crows - says a lot about the group's top-notch quality.

Since forming in Queens, New York in 2000, Bayside has released five full-length albums: Sirens and Condolences, Bayside, The Walking Wounded, Shudder and Killing Time. But they're not interested in just playing music.

These guys are also diehard music lovers who continually find new ways to share their passion with their fans. Band members Anthony Raneri and Nick Ghanbarian even host the internet radio program Gumshoe Radio.

Likewise, Jack O'Shea, the group's lead guitarist, is not your typical punk rock six-stringer. He's also a big fan of jazz music, and it's not unusual for him to grab friends, take them to a club and introduce them to some of his favorite musicians.

He spoke with us about his role in Bayside.
Dan MacIntosh (Songfacts): Would you be comfortable talking about the process of writing songs and how you go about creating songs with the band?

Jack O'Shea: Sure. That's fine.

Songfacts: Okay. So what is the general process? I mean, how does a song start?

Jack: Well, Anthony (Raneri, lead singer/guitarist) will typically come to us with a chord progression and a vocal melody, and then the four of us will each develop our own parts together and separately. And then they come together in the studio. That's pretty much how all of the Bayside material has come about.

Songfacts: As lead guitarist, are you the last guy to contribute to the songs?

Jack: Not necessarily. When I hear the initial chord progression and vocal melody, I contribute. I'm writing mostly what I call everything complementary as the song progresses, as well. So it's not so much just adding something at the end so much as building something into the infrastructure, into the foundation of the song.

Songfacts: Do you know what all the songs are about? Do you talk about what they mean and what the significance is?

Jack: No. You know what, honestly, whatever the song means is whatever the person listening is going to do with it. We don't really discuss what each song is about at all, really. It's just meant to be what it is for the listener.

Songfacts: What's your favorite Bayside song?

Jack: I'm not really sure. That's like asking someone what's their favorite kid. We like them all. Obviously, they were all written.

Songfacts: But songs are not kids, so they're not going to get offended if you pick one over the other.

Jack: But I don't really have favorites. I like all of our material.

Songfacts: Do you have any songs that are the most fun as a guitarist to play?

Jack: Yeah, certainly. We have songs on the new record, like, "Not A Bad Little War" and "The Wrong Way," they were a lot of fun for me to play just because I have more elaborate solos and leads and stuff in them.

Songfacts: I know that there are some punk rock bands that feel guitar solos are for corporate rock and that kind of thing. Do you think it has its place?

Jack: Look, if I didn't, I wouldn't do it. I think if anyone is going to try to keep labeling music and turning it and trying to categorize stuff, that really speaks to their ignorance more than it does anything else. I feel like music should be what it is. I'm part of this band, and I feel very much a part of this family that I belong to, and it fits the music that I play. If anybody were to tell me that it doesn't belong or because of X reasons or whatever, then their opinion has been completely invalidated. And I can't really have much respect for that person.

Songfacts: Do you have any favorite guitarists?

Jack: Yeah, certainly. Al Di Meola, Allan Holdsworth, Django Reinhardt, Frank Zappa. And in a more contemporary sense, certainly guitar players that influenced me were guitar players like Dave Mustaine and Kirk Hammett and in a metal arena, Dan Spitz from early Anthrax. I grew up listening to a lot of metal and then moved into more jazz, Johnny Marr, certainly.

Songfacts: You have a well rounded take on playing. I bought some Django Reinhardt music recently, and my jaw dropped.

Jack: Yeah, that guy also had two fingers working on his left hand, too, which is crazy. I guess that's just the story, if you have something in your heart and you really want to do something, you'll find workarounds. But for a guy who has physical limitations and technological limitations, those recordings still to this day are impeccable. And it's stuff, certainly, that I can't play, with or without that handicap. That's insane.

Songfacts: Have you ever met any of our guitar idols?

Jack: I've met a handful of them, certainly. I know even just in the Warped Tour world, Brian Baker is a really big hero of mine. He's been in a lot of bands that I've grown up listening to. And I'm fortunate to kind of become friends with him. And I've had a chance to meet BB King.

Songfacts: You met BB King?

Jack: Yep. Bill Frisell I met fairly recently, kind of a big hero of mine. Al Di Meola I had met. John McLaughlin I had met. Paco de Lucia I've met. Most of them.

Songfacts: They did those trio outfits or something like that.

Jack: Yeah, the Friday night San Francisco concert really turned me on to that. I had already been listening to a lot of Al Di Meola's stuff. But that really kind of turned me on to Mahavishnu Orchestra, and John McLaughlin.

Songfacts: Right. And you went back to some of the jazz fusion stuff, right?

Jack: Yeah. Absolutely. But I've been lucky enough to meet a lot of the people who influenced me playing.

Songfacts: You ever have kids come up to you and you're their hero?

Jack: Yeah. I have. And that's actually really flattering. I've met a lot of kids who I consider to be much better guitar players than I am, much more proficient technically who would claim me as a hero. And that's certainly very flattering. I've met people that I'm very confident will be much bigger and much more successful when they get to my age, and if they're still claiming me as an influence at that point in their career, then I'll be really excited. But yeah, it's always flattering to know that people take what you do seriously.

A lot of the guitar players that I've met who I consider to be mega influences to me, some of them have been very kind and some of them have been very passive and just kind of, Well, you know, whatever, dismissive. So I genuinely try to take as much time to speak with people who want to speak with me about guitar and not just care about being in a band or being on tour and meeting people in bands. I try as much as I can to give them dedicated attention for a while.

Songfacts: That's good, because that could make the difference between them going forward with a career or not.

Jack: Absolutely. I feel like exactly what you're just saying. I feel like if I had met any of the people that I would consider my idols and if they had really seemed to care and put a dedicated effort to talking to me and being interested in my story, then that would be something I would never forget. So I'm trying to do that in as much as possible and encourage them if they're ever in that position to do the same.

August 8, 2012. Get more at baysidebayside.com
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