John Baizley of Baroness on his paintings and why his band resisted having an official website
Then, more recently, it's been discovering a way to enjoy music that as a child, an angry teenager, that I was obligated to hate. Records that didn't work for me. So I've become a huge fan in the past year of people like Bruce Springsteen. I just couldn't swallow it before. There was nothing there for me when I was younger. Rediscovering it has been kind of revelatory for me, especially watching him perform. I check my ears every few years just to make sure that something that is renowned in the past doesn't deserve a second chance. Or, rather, I'm going to make sure it does get a second chance.
Related to that, "Blackpowder Orchard" has an intro that is reminiscent of "Embryonic Journey," by Jefferson Airplane.
I hear what you're saying now that you say it. That happens a lot of times, that someone will pick out a reference that was entirely unintentional on my part. What I was sort of thinking when I wrote that was that I am really into John Fahey, and so a couple of years back, I decided to stop playing with a pick when I was in the house and started figuring out all these finger-style things. Then I had that little, bouncy, upbeat thing. I'm also a devoted disciple of Brian May as a composer and a guitar player. So I wanted to do something that kind of had that orchestrated guitar feel over the top of something a little more earthy in the rhythm.
Also on the Blue, you have a song called "The Gnashing" that sounds a bit like an anthemic punk song. Do you feel that some of your punk background is still a component of what you do in Baroness and, if so, in what ways?
Absolutely. Especially in the way that we tour and deliver our music. The way I feel that a band like us -- not specifically us, but a band like us -- has to, not purely musically, but in all regards, keep our humility in check lest we go down that rabbit hole that happens when bands get some kind of minor celebrity.
Punk rock was all I listened to for years and years. It was the foundation or cornerstone that allowed me to have an open intake on absorbing music. It happens a lot. We'll get something that kind of has that feel to it. It's not an intentional move. I'm a pretty reactive writer, so if it feels good or if it feels right, we'll go with it. Then you'll hear some of that on our new record, as well as some music that's one hundred-eighty degrees the opposite.
Obviously, the first two Baroness albums had colors as titles, and your upcoming record is Yellow & Green. Even A Grey Sigh in a Flower Husk has a color in the title. Is there a significance to the color you chose for a particular album, and why those two colors for your third record? Seeing as you're a painter, it seems like there might be more than just a fairly random choice there.
It would be tempting for me to say yes and bullshit you into thinking I had some grand scheme where the color made a whole lot of sense. But honestly, the way I thought about it was a little different. I figured -- in much the same way Led Zeppelin do numeric titling for their records -- I thought it made sense for us to do something chromatic by virtue of the fact that I am making our art. It just seemed like a simple system by which we could release what I consider very dense records.
It was mostly in an effort to keep the albums relatable. It works very well for me because it gives me a starting point for each album cover. As a reaction to that, there do tend to be some moments where the color schemes seem relevant to the music. I call those happy coincidences. The titles were given just so people wouldn't overthink it. It was sort of like a hammer to the head, because occasionally there are dense moments on the records that require a lack of pretense somewhere along the line.
And your new record is a double album, right?
Yes, and we affectionately refer to one disc as "Yellow" and one disc as "Green."
From various interviews, you seem like someone who likes new experiences and challenges. What kinds of challenges did you face in creating a double album, and did any of those challenges make a double album seem necessary at this time?
Writing a record is tough, period, for me. And if it's not, then I don't want to put it out. That's my M.O., you know? The challenge and the process is what interests me, not the product. I think everybody kind of says that, but I mean it. I want our records to be as good as possible. I don't want them to exist as works of art, recordings that are listened to in the future.
But for me right now, they're the vehicle by which I tour. So we need to make sure that the material holds up on record as it does live. That's one of the things we focused on with this record: writing music that would definitely translate to the stage in some form or another; writing music that had some flexibility that could change in tempo, in key, in atmosphere, however -- length, I don't care.
We effectively took a year off. We were planning to take a year off after nearly a full decade of constant touring -- international touring -- for a number of reasons; we needed to. Nobody was falling apart or anything like that. We just needed a break in order to push our music forward, most importantly. And when I had the prospect of twelve months of no touring in front of me, a wellspring bubbled up and the music started really writing itself.
So the reason we decided to do a double record was because we had so much stuff written. We had so many things we wanted to say and so many different ways that we didn't feel like waiting longer in order to say the rest. We didn't feel like testing out some of it and seeing if it would work. We felt like just exorcising those little musical demons at once, putting them out there and just going for it. It's not necessarily a sensible move, and I certainly don't intend for the record to ever be thought of as a massive, epic undertaking.
It took a year to write, which I guess is a little bit longer than our past records. But I know bands that take three or four times as long to write a record. Each song I wanted to have sort of this purity. In other words, not such a progressiveness take on writing. But that progressiveness would unfold itself through the course of eighteen tracks as opposed to, say, on our last record, with "Swollen and Halo," where you get six different styles of music in one. That was fun, and it's fun to perform. The tough thing for us is writing something simple that never lost focus and never got too serpentine. So the songs are a little bit shorter, but the palette is broader.
Will you be playing a lot of that material on this current tour?
No, this tour is sort of a warm-up for us because we haven't toured for so long.
Is it true that Baroness didn't have an official website until last year? How and why did you resist that seemingly necessary evil for so long?
It is true. And we just resisted it because we didn't need it. It didn't serve a purpose for us for so long. I'm an opponent of self-promotion when possible. But adhering that too stringently then becomes sort of a hindrance when your audience and your fan base grow beyond the size that you're capable of reaching easily. And it felt like we were doing a disservice to our audience by not having one.
And honestly, I don't administer it. I just make sure that it aesthetically has what I need on it and that the information is clear and lucid and there's no hyperbole. I'm good with that. I can live with it.
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