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CONVERSATIONS: BAY FACTION

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While in the past bands have been formed by answering ads stapled to telephone poles, Bay Faction’s origins were more 21st Century.

“I met Kris [Roman] through Facebook, like some ‘Massachusetts Musicians’ page,” singer James McDermott says. “One of those pages that someone’s dad starts so their kid can get in a rock band or something.”

James saw that Kris played bass and sent him a message. He told him that his previous pop-punk endeavor was ending, but he wanted to form a new three piece band. He told him he had songs already written, he just needed someone to play them with.

A response came at 3am, enthusiastic if not a bit frenetic, and the two agreed to jam later that week.

“I was like, wow he’s really eager to do it, and I set up a time to meet and jam and stuff. Turns out it was one of his friends trolling his facebook,” James says. “But Kris still showed up. He was driving his dad’s car and had a homemade bass amp so we just jammed and started playing music.”

For Kris’ part, he was desperate to join a group and James’ request came at the perfect time.

“I had just graduated high school and I was basically looking for like any band just to get stage time with because at that point I thought I wanted to be a touring musician but I hadn’t really played any shows with bands on stages,” Kris says. “So I was looking for anything and right before I hit up James I almost joined this country band. I even went to an audition.”

As he says this James laughs and shouts gleefully, “He auditioned for a country bar band!”

Four years on, the pair, joined by drummer Alex Agresti, are a band on the edge of breaking into music junkie vernacular. Their tour, set to kickoff July 31 at Ottobar in Baltimore, MD, will be a chance to showcase their new album Florida Guilt before it drops this fall.

The band is currently based out of Brooklyn. James and Kris share a house with manager (and James’ high school band mate) Andrew Moltz, while Alex lives in New Jersey where he works at a studio. For a band born out of the Boston house show scene, the move to New York has been a major change.

“In New York you can go to a different show every night and literally take a twenty minute train ride and see a really good representation of what music is being played all over North America,” James says. “Just from a perspective standpoint, I got a hugely different perspective from moving here.”

“It coincided with us wanting to change and then the change of scenery helped with that,” Kris chimes in. “Moving to NY has been super productive and a really cool environment to be creating in.”

“Oh yeah, it’s so manic. It’s fucking crazy. There’s so much energy,” James adds.

While the album that will be released this fall plays off these changes, much of the music available to listeners who can’t make it out to shows is from their first self-titled album, released when they still lived in Boston. With a local music scene built almost exclusively on DIY house shows, finding places to play proved difficult. Houses are based around certain circles of friends or specific genres so Bay Faction felt pressure to play to the audience around them.

“In Boston there’s this very DIY facade that a lot of people try to uphold,” James says. “I mean we’ve always wanted to play pop music but pop music doesn’t really do super well in a basement.”

Kris adds, “A year or two ago we were writing a lot more as a rock band playing loud music in a basement and now we’re like – I don’t know I feel like we wanted to make the transition ourselves too but I feel like moving to the bar scene helped us get more into writing for ourselves and writing the best way that we can.”

But in Boston they worked hard to make their unique sound stand out. At one point James even lived in one of the houses known for hosting shows.

Since moving to New York, the band has noticed changes not only in their music but in their following as well. Since recent releases like 2017’s singles “Pendulum” and “Nineteen” and this spring’s “Are You In the Mood,” the band says their Instagram following changed from being a majority of teenage boys to being mostly made up of women in their twenties. James thinks a lot of their pop-punk following might have been turned off by the direction the band has taken.

The new releases, however, show just how much the band has grown and progressed. They are more emotionally raw, more personal. And they manage to connect with the listener in a way that the old songs often did not. This, in large part, is due to James’ decision to move away from writing songs about other people and instead focus on his own experiences.

“I just turned 23 so I’m still realizing this,” James says, “but the fact is that writing a song about yourself is so freaky so it’s easier to just write about other people. And that’s what I’ve been doing up until I began writing this album.”
Bay Faction is excited to finally have a chance to get their new music out there, even if that prospect is a little scary. To them, they’ve moved so far past their old release that it’s not representative of the music they are producing now.

“I feel like we’re ready to be off it,” Kris says. “But at the same time I feel like we gotta be – at least personally I’m super grateful to have put the old music out. And it feels like a nice timestamp of three or four years ago and I’m very grateful that people liked it and connected to it.”

“I’m surprised that people like it, that’s what I don’t get,” James adds, laughing.

Bay Faction will be playing in eight cities for this upcoming tour, and while they’ve gone on tours before, this round feels different.

“I’m more excited and more confident in the music that we’re playing,” James says. “I really like these songs and have gotten really close with these songs. And I think we all have because it’s very different from last time where I would just write them and then we recorded them. Now we’ve all sat in a room and fine tuned every little piece of each song into oblivion. It’s very much a passion project.”

Some of the cities on the tour they’ve played in before. They will be playing in front of many people that have come out to see them in the past. But except for a few songs, the show that Bay Faction will be giving their fans this summer will be new material. It’s not an easy thing to do, but for a band that’s worked hard to carve out a name for themselves in the crowded music scenes of Boston and New York, Bay Faction is up for the challenge.

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