Friday, May 14, 2021

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The Sound

Controlled chaos


In 2012, Baroness was almost dead. Literally.

While on tour in England, the band’s tour bus plunged 30 feet off a viaduct, severely injuring three of the band’s members, including frontman John Baizley’s leg and arm so badly that doctors thought they might have to amputate.

Baizley’s arm was saved, and after weeks of rehab, he was back playing guitar. And even though Baroness wound up having to replace its drummer and bassist, Baizley said the band’s future was never in doubt.

“There was never a moment when we thought of stopping,” he said in a phone interview. “Because we had an unwillingness to stop, the only way that we could categorize the accident in our mind was to view it as an opportunity.”

Once he was healthy enough to play again, Baizley and the retooled Baroness hit the ground running, starting work immediately on its next album, “Purple.” When it came time to record, Baizley had a short list of producers in mind. The band’s past two albums had been produced by former St. Vincent and Modest Mouse producer John Congleton. But for “Purple,” Baroness turned to Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann.

Prep Iowa

“He brought what I’ve always demanded and expected from a producer, which is a very good, clinical approach to recording,” Baizley explained.

Baroness plays Wooly’s on Wednesday, May 18 at 8 p.m. Photo by Jimmy Hubbard

Baroness plays Wooly’s on Wednesday, May 18 at 8 p.m. Photo by Jimmy Hubbard

“Let’s make sure we record every idea we have as good as we can. Once we have a very clean sounding set of inputs, we’ll mix it in such a way that’s creative and outside the box and doing things that we didn’t know were possible for us. That’s out best-case scenario.

“In Dave, we found a perfect match. He had very little experience recording bands that play as heavy as we do, so he had to adapt along the way. We were sort of making up the rules as we went along. We went in and recorded this immaculate-sounding recording with as many layers as we could come up with. Our only limitations were our own creative imagination.”

That last point has been the band’s calling card for years, as Baroness has become known for its meticulous approach to recording and the amount of time and attention to detail it puts put into its demos. For Baizley, the band’s approach to recording is a bit of controlled chaos. He will spend a great deal of time making sure the finished product is perfect to his ear but does not like to go into a session with too many preconceived notions of where he’s headed.

“I am personally of the mind that the more structure you try to apply, the more concrete your end vision is, the less likely you are to be satisfied with the result,” he said. “I know a song is ready when everybody is completely psyched about it. We push it to the point where any addition is superfluous, and any subtraction takes away from the quality. It’s simple in theory. In practice it’s kind of difficult, because there’s a hugely comprehensive number of ways you can go with something. When something feels disingenuous, sometimes you have to start from scratch. If the mix isn’t doing it, we just zero things out and start all over again.”

For Baizley, that hugely complex method of recording and producing is not just a style quirk — it is the only way he knows. For Baroness, the end product is not worth compromising.

“The format that we play in has been done by so many bands in so many ways,” he said. “There’s this homogeny, and we don’t want to be a part of that. The one thing we’re intensely aware of is that our music will outlast us.” CV



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