In August 2012, less than four weeks after releasing a new double album through Relapse Records titled Yellow & Green, the members of Baroness were in one of the most horrific bus crashes to happen in heavy music since the world lost Cliff Burton in 1986. The band was on tour, driving through Bath, England, when reduced visibility and treacherous roads sent the tour bus plummeting off of a 30-foot embankment.
The accident left both band and crew injured: Frontman John Baizley suffered a broken arm and leg; bassist Matt Maggioni and drummer Allen Blickle both faced fractured vertebrae. After months of recovery, Maggioni and Blickle parted ways with the band. Baizley and guitarist Peter Adams then recruited ex-Trans Am drummer Sebastian Thomson, as well as a new bassist: St. Louis' own Nick Jost, formerly of local metal act the Gorge.
After a ten-month delay, Baroness will finally be touring in support of the new album, which has been receiving heaps of critical acclaim in both heavy-metal and mainstream circles since its release. In advance of Baroness' upcoming show on June 5 at the Firebird, RFT Music caught up with the friendly and informative Baizley to learn more about the upcoming tour, the new lineup and the band's eager anticipation for St. Louis-style barbecue.
RFT Music: How did you hook up with Nick Jost, and what was the audition process like?
John Baizley: A good friend of mine who I play music with from time to time, who's also a St. Louis native named Katie Jones, went to school with Nick. They went to SIUE together, and she knew that we needed somebody, and we did not want to do much auditioning. We did not want to make the news public, so we decided to use our network of musical friends to see what options were available to us. She said Nick was one of the best bass players she'd ever played with or seen, so obviously that was of interest to me. I called him up, and he came down to Philadelphia and sort of blew us away with his talent, so it was an easy thing. It was the first and best option for us.
Nick was previously with a band called the Gorge, arguably one of the best locals active in this city. Were you familiar with the band?
Yeah, I'd done a bunch of research on stuff that he had done like the Gorge and a lot of his jazz and blues stuff. Those guys are miles above us; our music would be easy for him to get into.
How did Sebastian Thomson come into the picture?
My friend Brann Dailor, who plays drums in Mastodon, knew we needed a new drummer, so he set me up with a friend of his who he thought might be interested, but who was otherwise engaged. And then that guy said, "I know just the guy who could do it: Sebastian Thomson from Trans Am." And I'm a Trans Am fan from ten or fifteen years ago, so that was kind of an awesome opportunity for me, you know?
Have the rehearsals been going well so far? What's it been like working with a new rhythm section?
It's awesome. Pete and I were concerned that this process would be really difficult. But it came quickly, and it seemed effortless, so much so that during our first rehearsals I could essentially close my eyes, and it just sounded like us. So that was sort of "enough said" for me.
You guys played at the Firebird when you came through last April and are returning to that same venue again. Was there something that stood out to you last time?
The venue was really nice, I thought. I was very impressed by the quality and quantity of the barbecue that they provided for us, which was from Pappy's. I've kind of been talking about it since then. [Laughs] I like to eat. I have to eat when I'm on tour, but I also enjoy eating when I'm on tour. So I'm looking forward to going back and hopefully going for round two with Pappy's Barbecue. I wasn't so happy I ate it before the show, but it was great.
St. Louis is a cool city. We've played from one end of town to the other — from Pop's in Sauget all the way out to the Pageant, so we've really seen all sides.
Will the setlist for this tour focus on the new album exclusively, or will you still visit songs from previous albums as well?
Just because we haven't played the new record at all, it will be mostly material off Yellow & Green. But we like our back catalog and still want to play it regardless. So there'll be a good cross section, I think.
How are you feeling lately, nine months after the accident?
I'm feeling good. I'm kind of antsy. I'm anxious to get out on the road, honestly. I feel like I've been grounded for a while now, and it really is time for us to start moving again. Start touring, start playing outside the rehearsal room. The fun stuff.
Is there any anxiety involved with getting back on a bus again?
Not really. I've been on a couple buses since then. I haven't slept on one, but I'm sure I'll get used to it. It's just a thing. It'd be easy to build it up and make it something really stressful and view it with all sorts of anxiety, but it's what I've got to do. That's what has to happen if I want to play music.
Was the decision to carry on with the band after the crash immediate, or did it take some contemplating?
Oh, it was immediate. There was never a second thought about whether or not we'd do that. That's kind of been the thought that's kept me going for the past nine months, that we'd eventually get to do this again. Certainly not because we have to. Perhaps a more reasonable set of people would say maybe that crash is a reason not to do it anymore. But we love doing it. It's fun. It's rewarding in so many ways. I see no reason to stop doing it except being fearful, and that's not part of the Baroness DNA. So yeah, we're gonna get right back to it.
Now that your recovery has brought you back to where you left off, what do you see in Baroness' future?
We're going to tour as much as we can, and we're going to see how that feels and what that is now. It's different. I'm not sure now what touring is going to be like for me. I've still got a few years ahead of me in terms of full recovery. We're being cautious and optimistic — emphasis on cautious. We don't want to make things needlessly difficult.
We're going to do this tour. We've got tours forming in the books through February of next year. So yeah, we're just gonna go until there's no reason to go anymore, and then we'll write another record and repeat that process. That's what we do. That is how this works for us.