The Boys of Bay Faction Talk Catholic Guilt and The DIY Lifestyle

Interview by Danielle Chelosky

“It’s a pink corvette,” is the consensus. Bay Faction — James, Kris, Alex — is set to release a new record entitled Florida Guilt this fall, and there is no other way to sum it up besides for as a reverent feminine automobile.

The band hasn’t stopped moving. The three conjoined via Facebook at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, where they commenced their musical odyssey by playing shows in the Red Room. “It’s a very quiet venue,” said Kris Roman, bassist. “It feels like you should be sitting in that room.”

Fast forward to present day, and they’re touring through states like Maryland and Tennessee playing bars and DIY spaces, and two-thirds are living in New York. “I’ve only been here for a year and we’re about to move away,” James McDermott, lead vocalist and guitarist, laughed. Montclair, New Jersey will claim him shortly. As much as he enjoys making friends in the area who attend art schools like Pratt and FIT, he trusts that he will admire it greater from afar, in the backyard of a new house with beloved grass and a driveway. And this way, James and Kris will be living with the drummer Alex Agresti.

The production of Florida Guilt has been unfolding there. “We never went to a studio to do it,” said James about recording the album. “We go to Alex’s house.” Since the three of them have experience studying music industry topics such as audio engineering and music business marketing, the process is natural and familiar. However, the band has been holding back on the release of the album. “We were supposed to be finished with it a month ago,” Alex laughed.

Fans attending their latest tour have been given a listen-through of the whole record in performance, and consequently the band has been able to make adjustments. “I’m rerecording one grille based off the live shows,” Kris said. It’s definitely a perk, they all agree, and the reactions from the audience have been nothing but encouraging despite only hearing a couple of songs they know. “It’s surprising how many people are into the other stuff as well,” commented Alex, who’s very aware of how badly fans want “Sasquatch .22” and “Bloody Nose.” The trio collectively expected more negative feedback, but the tour proved playing an album before release is a risk worth taking. As for the album, it’s on its way. “Just tweaking,” James said. “A lot of tweaking.”

Florida Guilt centers around identity struggles endured by James from when he was sixteen years old to his current age of twenty-three. “The whole album is painting a picture of generational guilt from, like, our grandparents’ generation,” explained James. “In the sense that a lot of the ways people found incentive in life and ways to form some sort of system of belief was super Catholic and super based off of guilt.” James spent most of his youth in a Catholic high school, where he experienced a lot of dissonance with the hyper-masculine system and his bisexuality, as well as with the God-focused doctrine and his lack of interest in religion entirely. James coined “Florida Guilt” by comparing this personal discomfort to the generally morbid connotation of the state Florida, which he describes as the meme of our generation. “Like, everyone kinda goes down there to die, and I pictured in my head this giant orb of weird, anxious energy emitting from Florida.”

Similarly to the self-titled release, he views the record as a linear narrative imbued with intimate anecdotes and overpowering themes. “Pureness is a big one; that’s like on the first half,” said James. “Equal part’s addiction, for sure, and… resistance of becoming an adult …like holding onto childhood.” Even with a record so personal, the goal James aims for with the music is to create something people can apply to their own lives and derive a catharsis from. Since it’s pop, he believes it will be easy to relate to. He also firmly believes that the record reaches its prime in a car with friends. “I feel like the first half is like going to a party and the second half is coming back from the party,” said Kris. “Like a bedroom party,” clarified Alex. “Or you got kicked out of the party,” added James. “And you go to Wendy’s. Wendy’s parking lot.”

The making of the record was an equivalently relaxed setting. Compared to their debut record, all of their releases since then have strayed into a lighter, more indie direction. “I just got bored with it,” said James about their old, more pop punk dominated sound. It was as simple as that: the inevitable inclination to switch things up, which partially accounts for the move from Boston to New York to New Jersey. The three aren’t ones to reject their natural impulses. “I was like, ‘Why are we just doing this?’” Just like that, the band conceived new songs with more tame instrumentals and vocals, and their following only multiplied.

On their latest tour, Bay Faction hit six East coast states playing bars and DIY spaces. “The bar shows are great because it’s kinda like it’s still a little bit more put together but you’re still pretty intimate,” said Alex, agreeing with James and Kris on the superiority of bar gigs. “The level of respect is way higher from the audience,” commented James. “And the environment is a lot better for a listener.” Yet the most memorable date was in Atlanta at a space called Murmur, which they described as a sketchy warehouse. “The whole street all felt abandoned,” reminisced Kris. “It was like a concrete box pretty much that we played in,” added James. In addition to this intriguing scenery, the fans contributed to the fun of it. “It was just a good crowd,” acclaimed Alex.

It probably won’t be long until the band is past small spaces and onto large venues. With their target audience being people around their age range who want to be happy, it’s just a matter of time before these types of people stumble upon “Are You In The Mood?” and click with it immediately. Until then, it’s important to catch them while they’re still playing bars and sketchy warehouses. | Florida Guilt