Baroness were recently announced as hitting Australia this December thanks to Live Nation. The Georgia quartet headed by guitarist/front man, John Baizley, also the genius behind the epic artwork of the band have been relentlessly touring on the back of their latest album, Purple and will be well drilled by the time they hit our shores. We grabbed some time with drummer, Sebastian Thomson who along with bassist, Nick Jost debuted their talents for Baroness on the record Purple to speak about the upcoming tour, recording the album and we also touched on his past with the band, Trans Am.
Seb, thanks for your time. Mate congrats on the album Purple, out since December, of course your first album with the band. Have you been happy with the response so far with sales and more importantly how has been the reception for the new songs being played live?
The response has been really great. I’ve talked to multiple fans on these tours, who’ve been telling me it’s their favourite Baroness record and for me, as a new member of the band and who was a little bit anxious to know whether the fans would accept me, it’s been really good to hear the positive feedback. I’m not very good at paying attention to the business type of things but I hear (the album), its been selling well. Actually we’re in Minneapolis right now and they tell me the track, ‘Shock Me’ right now is being played on the rock radio station here, not the digital or college radio, so that’s great to hear.
Your first album in the Baroness family, can you tell us a bit about your background, I know you’ve played in a band called Trans Am for a long while now?
That’s right. Trans Am was one of the first wave of instrumental post-rock bands in the late ‘90s. Trans Am are a band that’s very hard to describe. Imagine Van Halen without the vocals mixed with Kraftwerk, so it kind of doesn’t make any sense at all (laughs). The first Trans Am album came out in 1996 so we’ve around forever and we’ve visited Australia many times, maybe ten times
…and how did it eventuate – you joining Baroness?
John (Baizley) is a fan of Trans AM and he was very excited to hear that the band aren’t that busy these days. The other band members are married, have kids, real jobs, so I had the time open to do another band. So John basically figured out Trans Am was part time, we got in touch and he was keen to get me to jam some songs.
A heavy rock, sometime metal band of sorts, Baroness. How has been the transition? I mean what rock or metal influences had you had prior to joining the band?
I’ve always liked metal. I mean Trans Am does have some heavy songs. Some tracks are influenced by The Melvins and Bad Brains. My favourite band as a kid was Manowar, so there were some heavy influences on Trans Am. I was just excited to play in a band that were heavier and challenged me that way. It’s been really fun and a great experience.
Three years now into Baroness, was there an expectation going into the band on your behalf and has it exceeded that or you were well aware the demands a band like Baroness would require?
I like being busy. When Trans Am were in our moment, we were super busy, so I was expecting to be working a lot. This my career so busy is good. When Nick (Jost) and I joined Baroness, our first tour, we were not officially, quote, ‘in the band’, as yet. We were getting paid per night, per show. It was still a bit of trial to see if we were going to work. But that changed soon after. It did work and in retrospect it’s kind of amazing how smooth the whole process was.
Back to the album, how do you feel the process of recording ‘Purple’ went? Was it easy adapting to the other band members style?
It was a lot of work but in a good way. At first it was hard as we had all four guys in together throwing around ideas and it was a bit confusing so we paired it down. I would come up with some drum beats, John would pair with some riffs and then John and Pete would go off and work on the guitar parts or maybe John and Nick would work on a progression or what have you. So we stopped putting everyone together. It was like there were too many cook’s in the kitchen. But once we had the basis of the songs, we’d re-group. I really liked the fact we spent a lot of time on it (writing music) because it meant we were very prepared when we eventually got to the studio. It’s complete opposite to a Trans Am recording because when you hear a song on a Trans Am record it’s probably the second time we had ever played it. We wrote in the studio with Trans Am. So Baroness is an opposite and it was a really nice, fun change. As a drummer it was very nice to sit down in a studio, set up the mike and know exactly what you’re going to play.
Obviously the whole bus accident thing was a big cloud over Baroness for a while. Where you ever apprehensive or tentative heading into recording a new album or do you think it was all just a part of the healing for John and Peter?
No, I think that accident obviously put their lives on hold for a long time. It happened in the middle of a tour that was going well, the album was going well, so I think it was really frustrating for them, and that’s not taking away from the obvious physical consequences of the accident. So, heading into Purple, there was not a dark vibe, they were really excited to be working on a new Baroness album. It was very positive. For Nick (Jost) and myself it was very positive too because we wanted to prove to ourselves that we could do this, and make good music as part of Baroness.
The vibe for me on Purple is very celebratory, high energy. The lyrics do get dark, that is true, but that’s John (laughs). The vibe in the studio, we were all very pumped, very excited.
Now I interviewed Nick Jost late last year just prior to Purple being released, he promised he’d play the upright bass if they ever toured Australia, was he just bullshitting me? We have long memories in Australia.
(Laughs) That is bullshit. I’ll get onto him about that. I can’t believe he said that. (laughs)
The Australian tour in December, it will be great seeing you live again. We haven’t seen you since Soundwave Festival 2014. Looking quickly at your set lists of recent times it seems you basically play the whole of Purple just in a different pattern. Can Australian fans expect similar?
We haven’t looked into it as yet, but we like playing songs from the new album. It’s fun for us. I mean, we also enjoy playing long sets so, nine songs from Purple and up to eight or so other songs.
Now, I believe you’re still touring through the U.S at the moment is that right?
Yes, we’re in Minneapolis today, smack in the middle of another U.S tour.
When I spoke with Nick in January you were touring the U.S then, is this a carry on from those earlier dates or are you heading to new towns?
We did like five or so weeks earlier in the year, we’re finally getting to the cities we didn’t hit in the first tour.
And in Australia you’ll be playing the Meredith Music Festival. It’s a big kaleidoscope of bands, not your usual festival. I think you’ll be the heaviest band on the bill, what do you know about it?
I know nothing about the Festival and I don’t even know where Meredith is (laughs). The ‘heaviest’ band on the bill? I like that. Honestly, we don’t really enjoy playing heavy metal festivals. We’re not really that ‘metal’. We’re heavy in parts but not metal. There’s no double kick in Baroness and to me that is the dividing line between us and metal. We do enjoy all festivals I have to say but we do enjoy playing the non-metal festivals more as we want to introduce ‘non-heavy’ music lovers to Baroness if you know what I mean.
We look forward to seeing you play in Australia, thanks for your time Seb.
Listen to Wall of Sound’s earlier audio interview with bass player, Nick Jost here
Check out this video of Sebastian Thomson and other band members of Baroness talking about the recording of the drum parts on, Purple