Interview: Broadside Discuss a New Album, a New Label, and the Same Dream

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Photo by Niles Gregory

One year passed, then two, then three, since Broadside’s last album, 2017’s Paradise. In the midst of instability—lineup changes and, more recently, the band’s previous label, Victory Records, being sold by Concord—vocalist Ollie Baxxter started to worry Broadside fans would lose interest in what came next, when there was a “next.” It turns out he needn’t have worried.

On March 19, Broadside tweeted an image containing only the words “I just want to be remembered” and no other context. Not a caps lock button was spared in fans’ responses; they didn’t know if it was a new single or a new album, but they had been waiting, and they were ready. The following day, Broadside announced they had signed to SharpTone Records and dropped their new single, “Foolish Believer.” On Thursday, the band announced the inevitable next step: their third LP, Into the Raging Sea (colloquially referred to up until now by fans as “Broadsid3”), will be released July 24. The wait is over. 

In interviews, Baxxter doesn’t shy away from exploring his relationship with the spotlight—how much he loves, needs, performing, and what having an audience means to him. The time away from putting out new music planted seeds of doubt in his mind that had plenty of time to take root and grow. The fervor with which the band’s third LP has been met, then, is like a max potency weed killer.

“I think they waited for years to see what would happen after member changes and just us growing in general,” says Baxxter. “The support means absolutely everything as I find myself doubting that people still care about me as an artist or Broadside as a band. It’s starting to make me feel like my dream is still attainable.”

The dream? The same as it always was: to be remembered. It’s the central theme of “Foolish Believer” and an undercurrent of the entire album. When the single, which had more than 200,000 streams in one month, first dropped, Baxxter said, “It’s selfish to dream as much as I do but I’m sick of pretending I’m fine behind closed doors. I’m just not.”

Neither, as it turns out, are fans. As much as it has pained musicians to cancel spring and summer tours in the wake of COVID-19, the dismay has been shared by their fans, too. While no band would have chosen this climate to release a record, there’s an air of deprivation as venue doors remain locked, a rabidness for new music—especially for a band that hasn’t released any in years. The irony that Broadside solidified its lineup—Baxxter says the core of himself, Pat Diaz (bass), Jeff Nichols (drums), and Dominick Reid (guitar) will be together for “a long time”—and mastered a long-awaited record only to slam on the brakes for a pandemic isn’t lost on them, but they’ve waited this long. “I plan to be a better performer once all this is over, and I can’t wait to be in front of an audience again,” says Baxxter. 

The Richmond foursome’s bond, forged through writing a new album together for the first time, is strong. Whether it’s playing video games or dropping memes in the group chat, they’ve talked every night during self-isolation, keeping each other’s spirits up as they had to cancel their European and UK tour with Set It Off.  “It is unfortunate that we were all looking forward to touring overseas, but it is comforting knowing we are all in this together,” Baxxter says. 

Broadside hasn’t shared much about the split with Victory. The label has made headlines multiple times in the last decade when bands on its roster sued for various reasons, including breach of contract and fraudulent accounting practices. When Concord acquired Victory and Another Victory, Broadside had the option of transferring over or becoming free agents. The move to SharpTone turned out to be a no-brainer at this point in their career, a fresh start for a band that still has so much to say and worried for three years that it wouldn’t have anywhere to say it. SharpTone’s president is Shawn Keith, Broadside’s longtime manager. 

“We were coming out of a weird time with our last label being bought, and we were sitting on a record that we were all really proud of,” Baxxter explains. “I brought the record to Shawn, and he mentioned that to keep the ball rolling he would sign us. Things just kind of fell into our lap, and I’m not one to hesitate or not pull the trigger on an opportune moment. Plus, I trust Shawn; he’s a go-get-it-done type of guy.”

Into the Raging Sea has two very different sides to it, Baxxter says. Some of the LP’s 11 songs are anthemic, romantic, swelling; some of the songs are rooted in “suffering through aggravated expression.” Most importantly to Baxxer, nothing about this album is fake. “For the first time in my music career I am part of an album that I stand completely behind on every single track,” he says.

Over the past few years, Baxxter has gotten into writing short stories, and self-published a collection of poetry, You, Me and the Moon, in 2019. That’s a muscle he exercised on writing the lyrics to Into the Raging Sea. “My main focus for this record was to be as visual as possible. I wrote the majority of the lyrics for this album like I write a story,” Baxxter says. Of course, he adds, “if you don’t want to dive that deep into the lyricism, you can just enjoy it as a pop rock album.”

Broadside doesn’t know when they’ll be able to tour to support the new album; no one does. There is a very real possibility that in our new reality, bands who cannot support themselves with touring income are simply unable to continue doing this. But Broadside is set up as well as any band; in many ways, they still have yet to deliver on the promise they displayed when they released their first LP, Old Bones, in 2015 to critical praise. 

All Broadside does know is that they are more confident than ever in their sound, and all they can hope for is that it resonates with fans. “We have been doing this for a long time. In our scene, you either make it or you don’t,” Baxxter says. “You stay an opening band or you become a headliner or you just become a band that kids listen to in high school. It really is a gamble. That’s the hardest part.”

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Michelle Bruton | @MichelleBruton

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