Few bands have really grabbed my attention in the past year and a half like Savannah, GA’s Baroness. I remember hearing of them a few years back, but I never got around to giving them a listen. I first heard the acoustic rendition of “Stretchmarker” that was provided through a band update back in December. That was the first time I heard any of their music, and it was also the first time I heard of their accident.
After surviving a bus crash that left them injured, guitarist Pete Adams and singer/guitarist John Dyer Baizley kept the fans in the loop, as they provided constant updates throughout the recovery progress. This constant interaction is what caught my attention. Reading the updates led to reading interviews, which led to watching YouTube videos, and ultimately led to a few vinyl purchases. Okay, maybe not just a few. Needless to say, they have become one of my favorite bands as of late.
When the two members announced that they were well enough to begin touring again, I jumped at the opportunity for tickets to the Union Transfer show. This was Baroness’ first gig back as a full band, with Sebastian Thomson and Nick Jost holding out the rhythm section. The crowd was energetic, the group was happy, and the night was a success.
I was fortunate enough to have a chat with Baizley to discuss the events that occurred this past year. We also talked about collecting vinyl, what the tour has been like thus far, and the road to recovery. See what John has to say below:
How has the tour been going so far?
Oh, it’s been great. We’ve been having a blast. We split the tour up into two legs, so we are actually on a little hiatus from it right now. But the first half of the tour went fantastic.
What was it like to step up on stage that night in Philly for your first show back?
Oh, it was really good. I think Pete and I sort of built it up and we were curious to see if our nerves were going to get the better of us. There was an awesome, positive vibe, and I think everyone was hoping for the best, and it worked out.
Was this nervousness somewhat reminiscent of your first time touring?
Yeah, that’s definitely what it was. We were off of tour, performing and practicing for such a long time that it felt very inert, and it’s almost like we were curious whether or not it was going to be like the bicycle thing. You know, whether we were going to pick it up rather quickly or if there was going to be a learning curve. Very thankfully, it came back pretty quickly.
You started booking shows before you added Nick and Sebastian. What was it like playing and rehearsing with them for the first time?
It was killer. The first time we practiced as a four-piece, we played for maybe an hour and a half worth of stuff over and over again for about eight hours. We got an hour and a half worth of material finished by the end of the first practice. That was a very good indicator to me that things were going to work out well.
Was there a process for choosing songs for the sets?
Our set is about two hours long. Because we haven’t really toured for Yellow & Green, we picked a lot of songs off of that record. We also picked our favorites and more or less what we thought were the crowd favorites from Red [Album] and Blue [Album].
How’s it been finally playing the songs from Yellow & Green consistently on this tour?
It’s been awesome. I’m sure we’re not alone in this manner of thinking, but when you write a song and rehearse it over and over again and record it, there’s one style to play it and perform it in the studio. More often than not, it isn’t always the best way to perform it live. It’s always interesting to sort of give birth to these songs on stage and then watch them develop. It’s been really cool to get to play them and with the added benefit of playing the first U.S. tour with these songs.
Have you guys gotten used to being back on the road?
Touring has been one of the easiest transitions throughout the entire recovery for me. I’ve been on tour for 10 years; I know what to expect. You know, it’s chaotic and each day presents a host of problems, but that’s normal, it’s what you expect. I think the result of how trivial and chaotic the day-to-day of touring is, it’s a great distraction from potential problems and painful spots in the recovery process. You don’t have time to let anxiety get the better of you or time to whine or complain about aches and pains, because everything’s got aches and pains. It isn’t an easy and comfortable thing to do. It is an ever evolving, always changing, problematic thing.
In that sense, it’s also great to have the amount of support you have gotten from the fans. How do you react to such a welcoming?
There’s nothing to complain about that (laughs). We are incredibly fortunate to have earned the fans that we have over the course of our career. We recognize the position we’re in and it’s a good thing to be able to show people that something so dark can transfer into something that becomes a source of light, a source of creation. So, in that sense, having these active audiences have been great.
Although you have made a name for yourself, you still place an emphasis on engaging with your fans. I think this engagement definitely helps spark the audience’s interest and dedication to Baroness.
We have always felt the cornerstones of the type of music that we play and the way that we tour and the way that we have chosen to come up in this industry is through connecting with our audience. There are bands that have prodigy players, super whiz kid dynamos, and then there’s bands that have the visual appeal, or something like that. I’m not saying we don’t know how to play our instruments or that we’re total gremlins on stage (laughs), but the only thing that has ever gotten us anywhere in this industry is the openness and honesty through music or through verbal confrontation, and we get that on the nightly basis.
Because of the crash, it has become very acceptable for our audience to share their stories with us that have impacted them in the same way that we have been impacted. Connecting with people on that subject is a pretty powerful thing.
Live At Maida Vale and A Grey Sigh In A Flower Husk are two albums that were released this summer. The artwork on these records allow another way for fans to connect with the band. Do you appreciate being a visual artist and making this artwork a bit more, knowing more fans would love to own it?
You know, the place that I come from, vinyl was always a legitimate form. When I am working and doing my visual art, I always envision things in a vinyl format. Nobody works and thinks of their art in 100×100 pixels; it’s a ludicrous restriction on artwork. The more popular the vinyl is, the more people will get to see the artwork as I have chosen to present it. But it’s always been in the underground at least; no matter what the flavor of the week is, there’s still the people out there that appreciate the size, the tactile qualities and overall visual impact of something that’s a little bigger than the MP3.
Absolutely, and in my opinion, there is no better way to listen to music than with a sleeve in your hand and reading the words and observing the artwork as you play the record.
Yeah, I think that’s the best way to do it, but it is certainly not the only way. I’m not a curmudgeon about the way kids discover things and I’m as guilty as anyone in listening to a new song on YouTube as frequently as I will on vinyl. I think you just have to respect each format for what it’s worth.
As you guys prepare for second leg of the U.S. tour, how have you viewed the first half? Any key takeaways/special moments?
When I am able to retrospectively look at this year—this decade even—this is going to be a Hallmark tour for us. Right where we are at right now, this has been one of, if not the most, fun tour that we have ever done. What we have gone through has really taken the breath out of us so much that it’s just so good to be doing what we are used to again that we almost can’t find a downside at this point.
What’s next after the European leg of the tour?
It’s likely that we will do a handful of international shows after the European tour, but nothing is confirmed as of yet. Once the touring is done, it’s all about writing the new record.
Baroness will play at NYC’s Irving Plaza with Royal Thunder on Aug. 14. For more information, go to baronessmusic.com.