Baroness have been through more to get to their fourth album than most, and they’re champing at the bit.
Words: Ali Shutler.
“I don’t think I was ever as confident as I am now,” admits Baroness’ John Dyer Baizley. ‘Purple’ might be the band’s fourth album in a twelve-year career but they’re finally at a point where they can say, “Yeah, I’m fucking excited. I’m super stoked.” It’s an attitude mirrored by guitarist Pete Adams, ”We’re ready for it to be released. I’m not nervous, I just want it to be out,” and it’s that assured adventure that gives ‘Purple’ its hard-hitting charm.
“We wanted something more up-tempo and aggressive. I think it was in order,” explains Pete but for all of ‘Purple’s swinging fists, there’s moments of lush refrain. “If we’re doing something that’s really hyped or aggressive, we like to follow that with something that’s more open. If something’s harsh, you have to follow that with something that’s a little smoother. It’s a conscience decision but it’s also just good songwriting.”
“The idea’s pretty simple,” when it comes to writing songs in Baroness. This time around the band nurtured their ideas individually, allowing them the space to flow before coming together as a unit and working them through. The result is an album that weaves with a fierce, free-flowing determination. “The execution is difficult because we want to write quality music. If everyone’s excited by it, if everyone likes what’s going on and starts to feel it, then we’re doing something right. It’s a very simple idea but to get four people to write a refined record, more focused and much more energised, we had to throw away the ideas that were good and keep the ideas that were great.”
The run up to ‘Purple’ was a turbulent time for Baroness. Drummer Allen Blickle and bassist Matt Maggioni stepped down from the band and were replaced by Nick Jost and Sebastian Thomson which led to a notable change in the dynamic of the band. “There’s this new energy that the band has. This energy is super positive, there’s no negative energy,” starts Pete. “We’re all relatively fresh into this relationship so let’s enjoy these golden years. Let’s enjoy the early moments of this new found relationship while it lasts.”
Focusing on what was working, rather than worrying about what wasn’t, Baroness refused to let their situation cast a shadow over their band. Instead, they busied themselves on making the silver lining shine. “This band is a collaborative effort. We have to, at the very least, be a family. The communication now is more open than ever and I think everyone is real respectful of each other,” says Pete. “We got this injection of something new that you don’t always get as a band. You don’t always get this injection of new where the energy level goes back up to where it once was. Not saying that Baroness had lost this love but let’s face it, the crash is what took the wind out of the sails, that’s what we’re talking about here. To come out of that with this new positive energy, that’s awesome. You just harness it and roll with it.”
“Considering the past couple of years, and the length of time between records, it makes sense to put out a record that’s high energy so people don’t question whether we were impacted by that bus thing,” John explains, referencing the crash that hospitalised all four members of the band alongside their crew in August 2012. It directly led to both Matt and Allen standing down from Baroness and kept the band off the road for nine months. “Look, we can still play hard. I think it’s good to prove that and it fit the attitude of the writing sessions, so yeah, it’s a much more direct album.”
The accident affected Baroness as a band and as individuals but ‘Purple’ doesn’t dwell on it because John and Pete, “are not dwelling on that.”
“We would consider it slightly tacky or in very bad taste if we tried to capitalise on that. It was a pretty specific, pretty big thing that happened to us and I don’t want anybody to feel like we’re trying to market that, and capitalise on that and make that something that’s worth something,” explains John.
“We really just don’t want it to define the band,” adds Pete. The band was a thing for ten years before the accident and now, three years on, they’re about to release an album that further adds to that heavy legacy. The ten tracks that make up ‘Purple’ continue to mark Baroness as a band impossible to pin down. It makes sense then, that with this record, the focus is the music.
“We want everyone to love the songs,” starts John. “But If they hate them, that means we’re still doing something right,” adds Pete with a grin. “I’ve always felt that about music. It’s got to rile up some emotion. I never think about anything more than, ‘Am I happy?’ I want to achieve that. To me songwriting doesn’t come easily. I’m really proud of a song that gets started, completed, recorded, gets heard and there’s a response to it, whether it’s a negative response or it’s loved. I have a harder time when people love it. It’s almost easier when people say they don’t care for it. It never bothers me when someone is very honest.”
“If we were bored writing this record, it’d be a boring record but we weren’t bored, we were fucking excited so the record sounds exciting,” continues John. “I hope that translates. We know what ‘Purple’ means to each of us, and it isn’t the exact same thing. It’s just got to mean something. If one song means something to you, we did what we wanted to do.”
Baroness had a lot of questions going into the creation of ‘Purple’. It took a couple of months for Nick and Sebastian to click into the creative process which sat alongside the already present worries of being away for so long and the constant threat of change. “In the past we had different things to prove. We had to move a lot faster. Now it’s less about moving fast and playing tons of shows, it’s more about writing something that works for us ten years later, something that’s going to appeal to us as we’ve seasoned as musicians. We just have a higher standard and to meet that standards, we have to go about things in a slightly different way.”
“It’s scary when you experiment with new sounds or different approaches. Will anybody else like us ever again? Will our old fanbase totally abandon us? Change is inevitable on some level so you do think about that, but you can’t think about it too much or you’ll go overboard. Now we need to impress our fans and see if we can pull in more people.”
“The analogy I like to use is, when you’re ten years old your vocabulary is limited. You’ve only got a handful of ways to say ‘I’m hungry’. As you get older, your vocabulary grows, as does the way you can say something, the volume, the tone, and the speech. We’re musicians, we’re trying to express something so we want to learn how to express it in different ways,” reasons John. They never come out and explicitly say it on ‘Purple’, but the album screams one heartfelt truth. Baroness are hungry.