Interview conducted by Andrew Lampela.
Anyone who has been paying attention to Baroness’s career knows the band has continually evolved with each release. From the crusty, metallic assault of the first two E.P.s through the expansive, layered rock of the Blue album, Baroness have restlessly managed to redefine their sound while retaining the riff-driven core of their sound. However, with the recent release of Yellow and Green (out now on Relapse), Baroness have taken that restless creativity further than even their most ardent fans could have predicted, and while it doesn’t always connect, the band offers up enough compelling material that it is impossible not to respect the vast artistic chances the band takes over the sprawling two disc set. Ghettoblaster was lucky enough to catch a few minutes with drummer Allen Blickle as the band embarked on a European tour to discuss the new direction*.
Congratulations on the new album. As a fan, I was prepared for a bit of an evolution in your sound, but holy crap, this album is so much farther than I expected that it really caught me off guard. Was there a different writing process for this album?
Sure. Like every record, there’s a different process. For us as a band, it’s mostly due to geographically where we are because we all live in different places. I live in New York, and with this record John moved up to Philidelphia , so we got to put a lot more time into the writing process. It used to be John in a room, and Pete and I would sort of come in and put riffs together. On this one, instead of just stringing riffs together, we were able to formulate songs more cohesively and demo them out, which we’d never really done in the past, so we could really pick them apart, critique them and make sure they were a little more cohesive for each member. As the drummer I would hold back a little more than in the past to let the songs breathe instead of just going crazy, to let the songs, and each instrument, talk a little more.
You cover a lot of ground over the course of the album. One of the more immediately striking things, particularly on the Green disc, is the electronic feel some of these songs possess. What were some of the influences going into this?
Well, the thing is there’s actually not really any electronics on there. It’s all done live and naturally. It has to do with certain mixing techniques and guitar pedals. We’ve always been fans of all different kinds of music. I’m actually a big electronica fan, I do quite a bit of remix work on the side. I try to take influences from that bring it into the band, but we’re really geared towards our music being brought into the live setting. So we may take that influence and put it into the guitars and drums and try to portray it in a way that goes along with who Baroness is as a band. As far as influences, there was a lot of Radiohead going on in our listening around this record, which I think comes out on some of it.
There is a much broader array of sonics on this album, some that remind me of songs on the Blue album, but also quite a few that I wouldn’t have pictured you as a band using. I think they mesh really well.
It’s one of those things, the doors are open for us, we really weren’t holding back. We wanted to make a record that made us happy, that we were into. We’ve all matured as musicians and we really wanted something that we would enjoy if we were to listen to it personally, not specifically a progression that our fans would expect but what we would enjoy and be positive about. It’s really about us, you know, we wanted to believe in this. We have to believe in it to actually go out on the road and really care about it. I think that’s really where we’re at right now, we all really care about what we do and what we’ve accomplished on this album.
You worked with John Congleton again. I feel like this album has a totally different take on production than the Blue album. What effect did he have on the recording process?
Well, it was a different process recording on this one, as opposed to working with Congleton on the Blue album. That one was more of a D.I.Y. approach where we went in with these songs that we didn’t really have demo versions of and just recorded them really quickly. With this one, we were really prepared and even then he came in and immediately said “We’re going to try different sounds for this.” I mean, there are sixteen or seventeen different snare drums that made the album. We would just try different tones and different effects.
Wow. That’s almost one snare for every song!
When you go in with a demo you already have an idea of how you want to mix the song. When a producer comes in, he has a totally different idea of what it sounds like, too. So that happened a lot, with Congleton re-imagining things from his mind. When it came back prior to the final mix, it was like wow, I didn’t imagine it like this, but a re-imagined version is almost a little refreshing.
This is your first album without long-time bass player Summer Welch.
Yes it is. We were in the middle of writing the album and he decided he needed to do his own thing. It’s like anything else, when you’re working on a project for so many years, sometimes people need to check their lives and do other things. He was going through his own emotions in a different way and he needed to take a break and step down. Really, you can only applaud that, knowing you need to step down and doing it on your own instead of making it a big deal.
This seems like a very divisive album among your fans. Were you ever concerned with the backlash potential of putting out an album as diverse as Yellow and Green?
Sure, you’re going to think about that during the process. This album is definitely different. When you’re so far into something, you’re kind of…you’re creating something, you know? As an artist, it’s important to keep a path that’s true to yourself and that is comfortable to write new songs that come from you. If we were writing exclusively for the fans, to make sure they were okay with the music, I think we’d feel like puppets. I don’t think that is what Baroness is about. We didn’t start this band to appease the masses. We’ve changed quite a bit. In the beginning, we were playing basement shows to crust punks. Then with the Red album, they all got pissed off and we attracted a more metal audience. It’s been like that our whole career, so it’s not something that we’re surprised by. We’re growing, and we hope our fans grow with us. If anyone is disappointed, that’s just how life is, you know?
*This interview was conducted before the band was involved in a horribly terrifying bus crash while on tour. We here at Ghettoblaster are relieved that the band and crew are out of harm’s way and we wish everyone involved a speedy, safe recovery.