Finding balance with Baroness frontman John Baizley

The inventive metal crew is finally back on the road, with a new album coming in 2022

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive

Baroness is getting used to having its plans upended. 

A month after the inventive metal crew released the full-length LP Yellow & Green in July 2012, it endured a horrific bus crash, leading to months of physical rehabilitation and the departure of two band members. Then, before the group could launch a proper headlining tour in support of its 2019 album Gold & Grey, the coronavirus pandemic struck, shuttering the concert industry.

“I can’t even tell you how frustrating it is to have that experience on so many records that I’ve released, where there’s something that stops the record immediately in its tracks, whether it was the accident in 2012, or lineup changes, or the pandemic,” singer, songwriter and guitarist John Baizley said by phone in early November, reached at home in Philadelphia the day before the band started its first tour in nearly two years, which includes a stop at Ace of Cups tonight (Tuesday, Nov. 9). “Whatever it is, there have been quite a few records of ours where something has very much interrupted what would have been the normal flow of an album cycle.”

With the band finally prepared to return to the road following the forced hiatus, Baizley said his excitement and anxiety were both elevated by the current landscape, where COVID remains a very real threat to not only the health of musicians but to the touring economy as a whole. Regardless, following two years without live shows, Baizley, who has spent a bulk of his adult life working as a traveling musician, said he was looking forward to restoring a sense of balance that has been missing from his existence.

“We’re musicians, and we chose the lifestyle we chose because it affords us so much leeway in terms of freedom, and not just in a geographic sense, but a mental space, a creative space,” Baizley said. “But for every so many months that I spend out in the wild, living in that dreamlike state of a touring person, there’s also this reality that you come home to that acts as a counterbalance, and in fact lets that wilder, more adventurous side have some perspective and some reason to exist. I’m anxious to get back out there and start balancing those scales again, because it’s been a little lopsided.”

Early in the pandemic, Baizley said he struggled to find an outlet for this more adventurous side, eventually turning to nature, hiking, biking and trail running as a means of uncovering a degree of freedom among stay-at-home. He also invested significant time writing new material for Baroness, first working remotely with his bandmates, which he described as “a crutch to get us from one side of the day to the other,” and then eventually gathering in-person in October 2020 for a couple of weeks of writing and demoing at an Airbnb on the Pennsylvania/New York border.

“And that was the first sign after many, many months in the dark that there was some light at the end of the tunnel,” said Baizley, who added that the band plans to release its next record sometime in 2022. “We found this nice, secluded house we could work in, and we quarantined for a couple of weeks before going in, and then we were able to live together in the country, just writing music.”

Though the band members entered into sessions experiencing loss on a global scale, Baizley said the sessions remained a place of escape, with the songs conjured in the space existing in many ways as a counter to the surrounding darkness.

“[The country house] felt like a place where we could get away from that chaos, or at least get some sort of release from it, and in that release I think we were able to process things,” Baizley said. “But it was also a place of positivity when the external world was generating negativity on an almost minute-by-minute basis. Even when music pays respect to what’s happening socially, politically, environmentally, it still operates best when it creates a kind of escape — a constructive, creative, communal place where those feelings can be put to the side or can be used to elevate the art form.

"Music is not even remotely a commercial thing; it's an important aspect of life. For me, it’s a very personal experience that I use to find solid footing in this world, which can often be frustrating, confusing or terrifying, you name it. There are always difficult things that happen, but music, for me, is always a place where those burdens become lighter.”