I last had the chance to speak to Baroness frontman John Dyer Baizley a few years ago. It was 2013, and he discussed with me the additions of Nick Jost and Sebastian Thomson. These two joined Baizley and guitarist Pete Adams as they got back to touring following their bus accident in 2012. At the time, the new lineup was still gelling together and he was very excited to tour with these guys.
I recently had the opportunity to chat yet again with Baizley. We discussed the band’s first record since the addition of their newest members. He explained how they influence some of the older material and what impact they had on him in the creation of the latest full-length. Topics of conversation also included the group’s first performance at Webster Hall in New York and what it is like to run their own record label. Check out what John had to say below:
Did you guys have a different mindset going into the making of Purple?
I would say yes. But I do think we tend to have a different mindset on every new record. We had been through something that led to more time in between albums than we were accustomed to. We were also working with a producer that was a dream to work with, especially for me. There were a lot of things that kind of just added up. But really, at the heart of it, we were all just ready for it. We had plenty of time to record and we demoed the songs pretty extensively. Based on the material we had, we felt like we had an idea as how good we could make the LP. I think what we were excited most for was to see if we could outdo the expectations that we had. And for me, I think we definitely did.
Was there any hesitation as to when would be the right time to make this one?
It was kind of “the sooner the better” for everything. If the writing is done and we feel like we came to a logical conclusion with everything, then it is time to hit record and make things happen. There really is an art to that though. You need to learn when might be the right time. There are a lot of bands that I am aware of that work at a faster pace than we do. But I really enjoy the painstaking, pouring over of details portion of the writing. I wouldn’t dream of forcing any of the other guys to go through with me. But it is something that I like doing. It appeals to the obsessive side of me. When I know that that is done, and trust me, I always know (laughs), then we are ready to enter the studio and put out some new material. Hopefully at that point, we have the songs in such a shape that when we play them we are not going to get tired of them at show number 200. That’s always the big fear, because it is something you can’t always foresee. The rehearsal room is one place and the studio is another. Playing live is a lot like playing with a giant bullshit detector right in front of you (laughs). You always have to learn to play the songs in the live environment, in different venues, in front of different audiences, and you always have to learn to keep those songs fresh as well. And that is not an easy task.
How is that like mixing in some of the older songs along with the material from Purple?
For me, it feels seamless. I have always thought that with each new album. We have a particular way of performing, and I really think that has an equalizing effect on how a slower or faster song comes across. I’m not sure if I could define that any further, but I believe in some way, we balance out a track that might be really slow or really psychotic on stage. That allows us to match two very dissimilar items together in a setlist. That’s kind of the rule for us. It doesn’t sound like you are listening to two different bands. That is why I feel so confident in adapting our sound over the course of our career.
And I would imagine Nick and Sebastian play a big part in adding another dimension to those older songs.
Absolutely, 100 percent, yes. Or, 50 percent, technically (laughs). The output of Baroness is dependent on four musicians that must be giving the same amount of care and devotion and honesty to everything. When a new member comes in, it would be disingenuous to ask that newest member to behave like an older guy. It would be, “Welcome to Baroness, now be that guy that you are replacing.” That’s just not who we are. It is more like, “Welcome to Baroness, now you be you.”
At this point, we have had so many lineup changes that the older songs would sound different just by virtue of us having different guys on stage with us. That really has a major impact. It is because there is simply two guys that have never played those songs. And that leaves us with going back and re-learning some of them.
Although, in recent tours, we have really been playing our entire newest record every night. The difference is, we don’t sequence it. I think it would be terrible to play the entire record, played in sequence, and have no flaws (laughs). The point of paying for a ticket becomes irrelevant. Whereas if there are unanticipated moments, and there is an element of surprise for everyone, then we are all at the edge of our seats throughout. The musical rewards and physical reflection is better, and bigger, and bolder. So we try to keep our setlist changing. Of course, there are some songs that refuse to leave our setlist. Almost as if they were hits (laughs).
And when we last spoke a few years ago, you mentioned that the addition of Sebastian and Nick went fairly well in rehearsals. Was there a similar experience with writing with them for the first time?
In some ways it was much easier, and in others it was difficult. They are flexible musicians, so the scope of what we are capable of, our potential, increased. They were trying to prove to Pete and I that they could be worthy musicians in Baroness, and at least from my standpoint, I was just trying to keep up with some of the things they were capable of. We could have been riffing and working on something that would eventually become a song, and it would be difficult for me to keep up with them. It forced me to become a better musician.
Overall, there were a number of instances this go around where it just felt like we were onto something. We were very, very hungry and we had a lot of ambition. We just wanted to push ourselves and do something that might be a little more to the point and that has focus.
In addition to that, you guys pushed yourselves and put this one out on your own label. Was that something you have been wanting to do for a while?
Yeah, it’s always been kind of the endpoint for me. If you’re ever in the position to where you could do that, go for it.
Yeah, exactly. There’s nobody there to tell you how much work it is. When you work with a label, there are many people that play a role. It’s been a phenomenal amount of work, but it has also been a phenomenal time. It is definitely exhausting at times, but the reward is really tremendous. I love the fact that when a mistake is made, we can blame ourselves. It is much more simple to take the blame and learn from your mistake. To take ownership. Much like when you do something successfully. You get to take pride in something. This is something that would have been impossible five years ago. So the fact that we can do this now is an accomplishment.
Alright John, thank you so much again for your time. I know there are a lot of fans in the NY/NJ area that can’t wait to see you guys at Webster Hall.
Yeah, should be lots of fun. Webster Hall is one of the only New York venues I have never been to. I’m only two hours south, but I just have never been there for a show. So I am just as excited to play there.
Baroness will play their first show at Webster Hall in New York, NY on Aug. 14. Purple is now available. For more information and tour dates, head over to yourbaroness.com.