Written by: Mikala Lugen | Photo(s) by: Courtesy of Baroness
“We Don’t Have Any Set Rules”: Baroness’ Sebastian Thomson Talks Color Tradition & Forthcoming Album [Interview]
Baroness doesn’t like to follow the rules.
Since the band’s formation in 2003, the heavy metal four-piece have been bending and breaking any sort of “genre” structure and sound idealism to pave their own path to success. Now, the band is coming up on three years since their last album, Gold & Grey was released, and it might be time for an album theme change.
“Baroness, over the course of its long career as a band, has gone back and forth between extremes,” Baroness drummer Sebastian Thomson told Volume in a recent interview. “Each album is a little bit different. We don’t have any set rules, as long as we like the end result, we’ll keep it.”
If you’re familiar with Baroness, then you’re accustomed to the band’s color album “tradition.” That might be the band’s first and only real “rule” they cast upon themselves. Everything else in terms of their discography has shown to hold no boundaries or set structure.
“Early on in the band’s career this ‘color scheme’ sort of became an internal challenge to uphold once it was started,” Thomson said.
Once the six-song collection A Grey Sigh In a Flower Husk debuted in 2007, Baroness released The Red Album that same year and then followed with its math prog-rock follow-up, Blue Record in 2009.
The tradition continued, as Baroness pumped out Yellow & Green in 2012, followed by Thomson and current bassist Nick Jost‘s first album with the band, Purple, in 2015. The album’s second track “Shock Me” earned the band’s first and only Grammy nomination for its tantalizing sludge metal sound and hypnotic, progressive backing synths. At that point with over a decade of writing and making music as a group, it was Purple that helped progress the band in a new light in the metal scene and start taking more risks.
“Shock Me” – Baroness
“The color purple doesn’t have a wavelength nor is it a ‘real’ color. Your brain makes it up by combining red and blue. So to me, [our album] Purple represented a new stage of the band. It was a combination of wavelengths, the blending of genres and music styles,” Thomson explained.
A four-year period and a lineup change swapping in Gina Gleason to replace guitarist Pete Adams pushed the band even further. Baroness explored more realms, interchanging their signature “through-composed” tracks with even more thought-out songwriting and filled-out composition. The result produced the band’s most recent color collection, Gold & Grey in 2019.
“Gold & Grey, they also aren’t really colors. Gold is a metal while grey is almost like a lack of color,” Thomson said. “That album was another bridge to the next stage of our music, both with our lyrics and our instrumentation. Now, it’s been three years since that was released, and we might not do the color thing anymore. It’s too early to tell.”
While it might be too early to decide on the album’s actual name, these three years have done the band quite well for continuing to push those boundaries in the metal scene. The break from touring during the pandemic and the members living in different cities saw the band approach their songwriting in a different way, having to upload their ideas to a Dropbox folder. It wasn’t until the band finally got to practice in person again where they saw a whole new accumulation of beats, riffs, and sonic exploration that gave way to another new Baroness chapter.
“Once we got together, it was really cool to see that we already had a head start on things,” Thomson said. “We rented a house in the mountains between New York and Pennsylvania for the whole month of December 2020 and recorded all the instruments for the new album. It was an incredible experience. In a way it’s almost DIY because it was only the four of us, we didn’t have our usual producer Dave Fridmann with us. It’s still a work in progress but we’ve been making a lot of headway on it and we’re excited to wrap it up here soon. There’s definitely a slight change of direction from Gold & Grey.”
In the meantime, the band is staying busy being back on the road continuing their Your Baroness 2022 tour dates. And it feels fucking amazing playing through their electrifying riffs, screaming and singing hooks, and hypnotic rhythms from their 15 years’ worth of accumulated music catalog.
“It feels amazing to be back out and playing music to our fans. This is our job and it’s just a huge sense of satisfaction being back out on the road. It’s been too long,” Thomson admitted.
“I cannot remember any moment in the history of this band where we’ve been more excited to tour than we are today,” vocalist and rhythm guitarist John Dyer Baizley said. “In many ways, this upcoming tour feels similar to the very first Baroness tour in 2003: we don’t know what to expect, we’re through sitting on the sidelines, and we can’t wait to climb onstage. During the past two years we’ve tried to keep ourselves as busy as possible: writing, recording and rehearsing insofar as the pandemic would allow. Throughout that time, one fact has become increasingly clear…we are built as a live and touring band. The most powerful and important aspects of music reveal themselves only through shared experience. Baroness’ music is designed to be shared; our audience has always been the final and most important member of the band.”
Baroness will headline Salt Lake City, UT’s The State Room later this month on March 31st before embarking on the rest of their North America and European tour through July. For tickets to their SLC show, click here. For a full list of upcoming tour dates and tickets, visit the band’s website.