Savannah, Georgia’s Baroness melted a great many minds last month when the quartet released its second full-length, the beautiful and savage Blue Record. The stunning, deeply psychedelic record was the band’s first effort to chart on the Billboard Top 200 and has drawn praise as one of the year’s best metal albums. All of which is to say that it’s a good bet these dudes will be playing big places sometime in the not-too-distant future.
So now’s the chance to catch them somewhere human-scaled. Starting November 19 in Washington, D.C., the band will attempt to replicate the album’s mix of deep, doomy riffs and soaring, melodic passages in a live setting, as they kick off a nationwide tour.
A few days before Baroness set out to slay audiences, we spoke with lead singer and rhythm guitarist John Baizley about what fans can expect at the shows, the challenge of playing live, and assumptions about the next album.
Does the fact that the Blue Record has been so well-received mean the band is approaching the tour any differently? Are you more excited or do you feel more pressure than you normally would?
Not really. What we’ve always tried to do is treat everything going on outside of the band independently from what’s going on inside the band. This might not be interesting from the journalistic side of things, but good, bad, or ugly we try and not let pressure affect us. I guess you could make the case that because people like the new album we might get lazy live, but I don’t think that’s gonna happen. We are super excited about playing new stuff for our audience. We played the old stuff into the ground.
What are you most looking forward to about the tour?
That’s easy — the challenge of playing the new record live. The album’s songs are largely untested on stage. They went well in rehearsals, but you never know. So I’m excited about using the new material to help us take a step forward rather than laterally.
Which of the new songs are going to be the biggest sons of bitches to pull off live?
Songs four and five: “Steel That Sleeps the Eye” and “Swollen and Halo.” They’re sort of companion pieces. They’re based on the same melody, but the first one is more mellow and atmospheric and then the next one gets heavier. We spent the last couple weeks figuring out how to retool those songs live. I’m pretty excited about watching that stuff grow. The best thing about playing for audiences is that you’ve got anywhere from hundreds to thousands of bullshit detectors that instantly tell you how well something is working.
Will you be playing the entire album at each show?
We definitely wrote a record that could be played in its entirety on stage, but we’re not going to play it front to back every night. We’re going to keep some of our old material going back to our early EPs. At some point in the future, though, I think we’ll be doing the album in sequence in order.
You create all the artwork for the band’s albums. Are you going to be able to incorporate any of your designs into the live show?
One thing that was a glaring omission about our performances in the past was a visual aspect. We always spent so much time on our records making sure the lyrics, music, and artwork are synchronized, and then we’d play live and there’d be no visual interpretation. We’re taking our first steps in to that direction. I don’t want to give anything away, but there will finally be something to look at at a Baroness show.
What bands have you seen lately that kicked your ass?
That’s tough. There are very few shows happening in Savannah on a regular basis. And when I’m off tour, it takes a lot to get me out of the house. That said, there were some pretty incredible performances that I was privy too in the last year. Torche; Boris; Mastodon. They all put on incredible shows. Seeing stuff like that keeps us on our toes.
It’s probably too early to discuss this, but considering that the band’s debut was called was called the Red Album and the new one is called the Blue Record, is it fair to assume the next one will have “Green” in the title?
[Laughs] Maybe! But there’s no such thing as a fair assumption with our band. Our early EPs all had numerological names. The full-length albums have chromatic titles. We change the format of the titles when the band moves on to a different step in its evolution. The title of the next album will depend on what stage of development the band is in — but I don’t think the name we eventually settle on will be a huge surprise to anyone. There are only so many primary colors.