The creation of Baroness’ latest record, “Gold & Grey,” began at John Baizley’s dining room table.
The four members of Baroness were sitting around listening to music and reflecting on the past: Was the music life better? How had Spotify changed the game? What does an "album" even mean anymore?
And then it struck Baizley how to tackle the band's new project.
Baizley, the singer, rhythm guitarist, and only original member of the proggy-sludge band, is also an accomplished painter. He has designed the cover of each of Baroness’s five full-length albums and a trio of EPs.
On this record, Baizley wanted a fully immersive experience, with all the contours of a good mix tape.
“You come out swinging,” Baizley said by phone from his home in Philadelphia, ahead of Baroness' show in Baton Rouge on Sunday, Aug. 4, at the Varsity Theatre. “About a third of the way through, you need to start feeling the conflict. The second third of the record, you can be in a more moody, melancholy place, because you’re wrestling with things. But you have to resolve at the end.”
Baizley sketched out an arc — with some room for changes and growth. “So much of what we do is a collaborative effort of the band,” he said. “There are songs that are entirely improvised. There are songs that were written in advance.”
Baroness' plan: Go into the studio with a rough idea in mind, and with the assistance of renowned producer Dave Fridmann, they would tamper with the volume, twist knobs, run sounds through pedals, adjust the tempo, add synths, chants, pianos, electronic beats — “it doesn’t matter,” Baizley said. “Just never ever repeat, always investigate. The crazier the idea, the more likely I was to engage in it fully.”
The twists and turns of the 17-track “Gold & Grey” almost mirrors the trajectory of the band itself. Baroness formed in 2003 in Savannah, Georgia, and in 2007 released an explosive full-length debut, “Red Album.” Two years later, they followed up with “Blue Record,” and then in 2012 they dropped the double album, “Yellow & Green.” (See a pattern?)
By then the band had toured distant parts of the globe backing Metallica and around the U.S. with Deftones and Mastodon. Baroness played Coachella and Bonnaroo and garnered accolades from critics and fans alike, expanding well beyond the walls that separate metal music from everything else.
And then a bus accident in the English countryside changed everything. Baizley broke his arm and leg, and then-bassist Matt Maggioni and then-drummer Allen Blickle each fractured vertebrae.
A little more than six months later, as the band was preparing to tour again, both Maggioni and Blickle announced they were leaving the band. Baizley had to regroup.
In 2015, as if a testament to the band’s survival instincts, Baroness released its fourth album, “Purple,” on its own newly minted label, Abraxan Hymns. The release earned the band a Grammy nomination for the goosebumps-inducing track, “Shock Me.”
In the four years between “Purple” and "Gold & Grey," other changes were afoot. Lead guitarist Pete Adams amicably parted with the band and was replaced by shredder Gina Gleason.
“The chemistry was there from the get-go,” Baizley said. Gleason's fingerprints are all over the record, from her virtuositic solos to her harmonizing voice.
Baizley calls Baroness an “album band,” meaning the studio is where they put in the most innovative and lasting work.
“What we’re trying to do is identify the strengths of our former record and ignore them on our current record,” he said. “Better for us to look for the things that we consider weaknesses or missed opportunities and develop those into strengths.”
Baroness / War on Women
7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 4
Varsity Theatre, 3353 Highland Road