Bayside's Anthony Raneri knows exactly when he decided the band would return to the ranks of the indie rockers.
The group was in the midst of promoting its biggest radio hit ever, "Sick, Sick, Sick," from the 2011 album "Killing Time" on Wind-Up Records, that massive label that's home to Creed's Scott Stapp, Filter and The Darkness.
"We were playing this radio festival in Syracuse or Rochester for a station that was playing us all the time," Raneri says, calling from his new home in Nashville. "We were on the same bill as Bush and Stone Temple Pilots, and we were playing for all these people waiting for Scott Weiland. I remember seeing a Confederate flag merch booth."
Though Bayside was playing for thousands of people, Raneri's mind was on Long Island. "I remember thinking that it was the same day as Long Island Fest and how I'd much rather be playing a VFW Hall on Long Island for hundreds of people than playing for thousands of people who would never understand Bayside," he says. "I was looking at the corn dog tent and the Confederate flag and thinking, 'We need to stick where we belong. This is over.'"
He quickly adds, "We'd rather be Bad Religion than Good Charlotte any day."
Bayside's new album, "Cult," which hits stores Tuesday, will be on the indie label Hopeless Records, also the new home of Taking Back Sunday.
Raneri says "Cult" sounds like a greatest hits record for Bayside -- which also includes guitarist Jack O'Shea, bassist Nick Ghanbarian and drummer Chris Guglielmo.
"When people ask, 'Where should I start with Bayside?' it's this," Raneri says. "If you like this, you like Bayside. A lot of these songs could've been on other Bayside records. It just musically sums up our band."
Though the recording process of "Cult" was completely different from how they handled putting together "Killing Time," with the band's hero producer Gil Norton, Ghanbarian says it was the easiest time Bayside has ever had in the studio, wrapping it up in less than three weeks.
"We weren't rushing," Ghanbarian says, calling from his home in Deer Park. "That's just how well it was working. This is our sixth album now, and we really know who we are."
The band's focus on "Cult" was to keep its ever-growing cult of fans happy. While so many of Bayside's contemporaries, especially in the Long Island music scene, saw their fortunes in the past decade rise and fall, the group has managed to continue on a steady uphill climb. The upcoming tour will be its biggest headlining tour yet, including two European legs and a stop at Best Buy Theater in Manhattan on April 4.
"We don't try to reinvent the wheel," Raneri says. "We want the songs to sound like Bayside, but better."
The first single, "Time Has Come," reflects that. Raneri says it started out as a song for another artist, but he quickly realized he wanted to hang onto it. "It's the first song I wrote without an instrument," he says, adding that he wrote it using a computer. "I changed all the words and started moving notes around, and then I transposed it to be like a rock song. It's cool to write outside your comfort zone."
The lyrics of "Time Has Come" captured a feeling Raneri had that ended up being a theme for the entire album. "There were things that shook me a lot this year, that made me look at life differently," Raneri says. "Carpe diem -- that's probably the most cliche thing you can write about in a song. How can you not seize the day? There is an end here. I'm not singing about being scared to die, more about living with a finish line."
Raneri says he realized there was a lot of work he wanted to get done, and he couldn't wait.
"You look at heroes in the world, good people who did good things, good politicians -- that doesn't just happen," he says. "They made a conscious decision to do it. They decided: 'I want to be a great man. I want to leave something behind.'"
Though countless Bayside fans have told stories for years about how the band has affected their lives, Raneri says it's only recently that he has understood the sentiment.
"It's a pretty wild feeling," he says. "It keeps us going. We've never wanted to be one of those bands that was really big for a few years and then went away. We're a working-class band. We want to keep doing this forever."
WHEN|WHERE 6 p.m. Tuesday, Looney Tunes, 31 Brookvale Ave., West Babylon
INFO Free with purchase of Bayside CD; 631-587-7722, ltcds.com
LI stars take indie route
Bayside isn't alone in its decision to step back from a big label to feel more comfortable with its career direction. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis recently showed that a self-released project like "The Heist" could become a Grammy nominee for album of the year. Here's a look at other Long Islanders who think bigger isn't always better when it comes to labels:
TAKING BACK SUNDAY The Rockville Centre-based rockers took their time finding a new home after their major-label deal with Warner Bros. ended. They settled on Hopeless Records, where Bayside landed as well, and will release the album "Happiness Is" on March 18.
RYAN STAR The Dix Hills native left his deal with Island Records to start his own label for his recent "Angels + Animals" album, which was released in January. The single "Impossible" is already getting airplay around the country.
ASHANTI The Glen Cove native can add CEO to her ever-growing list of titles, right behind singer-songwriter-producer-actress. Her new album, "Braveheart," the first for her new label Written Entertainment, is due out March 4.