Interview / Baptists
By Milton Stille
Way back in 2012, we had a brief chat with vocalist Andrew Drury from Baptists about their debut, Bushcraft. A mere year-and-a-half later in October 2014, they released their followup, Bloodmines. Timing didn’t allow us to sit down and chat in a way that coincided with the date the record hit the streets, so we figured their show tonight with Southern Lord labelmates Black Breath was the next best thing. This time we rounded up both Andrew and Drummer Nick Yacyshyn to catch up.
Not Your Scene: One might say that the new record, Bloodmines, came together surprisingly quickly. It’s relatively unusual for a band to put out material of such a high calibre in as little time. To what extent would you say that the reception of Bushcraft encouraged this?
Nick: Bushcraft was a good introduction to a lot of people for our band and gave us a platform to build from, but I think we just wanted to write a great record this time, regardless of how the last one was received.
We had a few new songs ready and were kind of mid-writing process when we had our studio schedule established, so we just kept going and made it happen. I think I can say that we are all proud of Bushcraft for a number of reasons, not necessarily because of what anyone thought of it, but because of what it represents to us and how it represents our band. For Bloodmines, we kind of just said, “Fuck it,” and went for it, and I’m really happy with the result.
NYS: You’ve described your relationship with Southern Lord as “perfect.” I was curious what that actually means. I seem to remember NAILS going out of their way to give a heartfelt thank you to the label when they signed to Nuclear Blast. Is there just something about the way Greg Anderson treats his bands?
Nick: Greg rules! He loves sharing music with people who reciprocate his passion and tastes, and does so with a commitment to quality and integrity that comes across in all of his releases. We were just starting as a band when he decided to get involved with us, and it’s only been unbelievable since. He is responsible for some of the coolest musical experiences in my life and I hope to do more albums with him in the future.
NYS: Did you tackle writing the new record any differently than you did the last one? If it makes any sense, I kind of get the feeling that while there’s more territory explored, as a whole the record does seem a touch more cohesive than Bushcraft.
Nick: The writing process has always been the same for us guys. Danny [Marshall] will come to jam with an idea and we’ll hash it out as a unit until we’ve got something we’re happy with. Bushcraft was a bunch of songs that we’d had forever so when we finally recorded it all, we had to find where everything would fit best and kind of go from there. With Bloodmines, we had an opportunity to piece it together as we were writing, and I think that’s where the cohesiveness comes from.
NYS: This is your second record with Kurt Ballou; he’s known for innovating, and exploring new approaches, as well as embracing what others might think unconventional… Anything that stood out to you while recording Bloodmines?
Nick: Unconventional? Hmm… Mostly just the sweat pants! I can’t really comment on anything too crazy as far as his methods go. He just does a really great job getting live sounds and then does it all justice by doing these insane, massive mixes. That guy sure knows how to make a set of drums sound good!
NYS: Lyrically, I get the impression that on Bushcraft the main theme was one of enduring situations while hoping/dreaming for the possibility of an escape, whereas what I’m getting from Bloodmines is somewhat bleaker, almost accepting things as being completely hopeless and futile. Is there anything you would like to say in response to that? Any significant events in any of your lives that might be of note? Would you say literature plays much of a role in your approach to writing?
Andrew: I honestly never purposely set out to write a continual theme or concept for either album. I don’t feel like I’ve lost hope or ambition, though. You’re the first person to bring this up. I really like hearing how different people perceive my lyrics. It makes me feel like you actually took the time to read everything and put some thought into it. Thanks! I can see where you are coming from, though. A lot of crazy stuff has happened in my life since Bushcraft. Maybe I’ve subconsciously decided that sometimes there’s nothing you can do about a situation. Shit happens and you gotta put up with it. I’d rather not go too deep into what has happened in my life, but there have been some pretty substantial and heart-wrenching moments in the last couple years. I’m gonna go ahead and say that literature actually doesn’t play too much of a role in my writing.
NYS: Also, pertaining to the lyrics, it seems that they were written in a briefer time period than they were on the last record. What would you say is the most pronounced effect that this had?
Andrew: I hope it seems that way ’cause you knew we had less time, not because they’re sucky! Either way, I never felt pressed for time while writing Bloodmines‘ lyrics. I think that there were a couple songs that I had to do last-minute, but I didn’t feel rushed. I tend to leave things ’til I feel inspired or ready anyways. I’ll go months without writing anything, then will feel a sudden burst of creativity. I have to be in the right mindset, and sometimes that mindset happens while I’m under a time constraint, whether it’s intentional or not.
NYS: You seem to get called all sorts of things when it comes to musical classification by genre. However, when it comes down to it, I’ve always liked that you seem most comfortable calling yourselves a “hardcore punk” band. With that mindset, are you ever surprised by the amount of attention you’ve received from the metal scene?
Andrew: I didn’t even know that we’ve had that much attention from the metal scene. Have we? That’s cool. We don’t just listen to hardcore and we definitely have a lot of metal influences. I feel like outside of Vancouver, we tend to play mainly hardcore shows. Vancouver just has a huge “heavy” scene. All the heavy genres play together and I think that’s awesome. I love most heavy music, so it’s nice to have such an unsegregated scene… It’s truly unique here, in that sense.
NYS: Going way back, before Nick was in the picture, Danny, Andrew and Sean [Hawryluk] were in Jaws. Any particular reason you chose to retire the old moniker and essentially start fresh? Have you ever considered playing an old Jaws tune in a set, just for the hell of it?
Andrew: The first rule about Jaws, is don’t talk about Jaws. You’ll get bit! We’ve brought up dusting off a Jaws tune a couple of times. I don’t think it’ll ever happen. The song that I want us to play is just guitar. It was this intro thing that Danny used to play. Sad, slow and scary.
NYS: I’ve heard that Danny recently relocated to Kelowna. How do you imagine this will change your dynamic as a band, beyond requiring a touch more co-ordination to get you all together?
Andrew: It makes jamming completely non-existent. If we’re lucky, we’ll get to jam once before a show. Danny has been sending us a bunch of riffs and they sound very promising. He’s a very creative dude, who wouldn’t let himself stagnate. I have plenty of faith that he’ll write an album by himself up there. He built himself a pretty ruling jamspace in his house, so me, Nick and Sean will probably head up there soon to jam and assemble songs. I’m not at all worried. I just miss my best friend.
Nick: It’s changed our dynamic in a specific way – we don’t jam! We’ve been playing as many shows as we normally would, and Danny drives to Vancouver quite a bit. He’s also writing some killer new songs that I can’t wait to jam with him. We love the guy and miss him and realize that when it comes to him balancing his family’s priorities and making his girls happy, our stupid band can take the back seat for a while!
“All the heavy genres play together [in Vancouver], and I think that’s awesome. I love most heavy music, so it’s nice to have such an unsegregated scene… It’s truly unique here, in that sense.”
– Andrew Drury
NYS: I’m pretty sure you’re all avid skateboarders. I loved the “I used to skate” series you guys did with our friends at CVLT Nation. What are your thoughts on the synergy between skateboarding and aggressive/alternative music?
Andrew: Sean and Nick have both dabbled with skating, but Danny and I are the skate rats. We both grew up skating every day and listening to punk. I actually met Danny through skateboarding, not music. We had both heard of each other through the weird Canadian skate scene, even though I lived in Langley and he lived in Kelowna. One day Chad from Burning Ghats introduced us at Ben Lee Skatepark, when I went to the Okanagan to film for a video part with him. Skateboarding and punk have gone hand-in-hand with each other since we were kids. They’re both aggressive, raw and physically and mentally demanding. The perfect pairing for hyper kids with nothing better to do.
NYS: Tell us a little about the approach you took with the album art. One might say that the art of the two records fits together very nicely…
Andrew: I knew that I wanted to work with Jill [Mann] again. She had done our previous two records, so it was pretty much a given that we used her again. The thing is, Jill and I were dating when she shot the first two records. We had to put aside our break-up, and hike pretty far to a scary cave in the middle of nowhere! It actually went really well though. A lot of support beams had collapsed in the caves and there were piles of rubble everywhere, so it was super scary standing in there, but whatever… We got the shot.
NYS: I recall reading something about you guys leaving a copy of the first LP in an abandoned mine when you were doing a short tour. Did anyone ever find it? What is your penchant for exploring such places? This is intriguing to me partially because of my own fascination with frequenting structures and places that most don’t see.
Andrew: Yeah, I stashed a record in the same mining cabin that our video was filmed at. I found that place while snowshoeing. Someone DID find it. I was actually sort of reluctant to take a video crew there, ’cause I don’t like showing too many people my secret places! I spend a fair amount of time hiking alone with my dog. Definitely not as much as I used to, though. I used to have a foster kid that was court-ordered to go to school. I would drop him off at school and then head to the hills. I don’t like being around other people while I’m hiking, so I would purposely go as far into the mountains as possible. I’m not at all into looking for trails or planned-hikes on the internet. I usually just 4×4 as far as I can up logging roads, then get out and basically bushwhack. I’ve found a lot of caves, cabins, shacks and mining remnants that I can’t Google or find on the internet.
NYS: As Bushcraft made the rounds, did you notice a difference in the reception you’d encounter playing live when on tour?
Nick: Yeah, I guess people knew the songs a bit more and knew who we were more, which was really cool. Having some material out there when you’re playing on tour is always a plus.
NYS: Compared to a number of other bands, you don’t really seem to tour as extensively, instead going on shorter jaunts, typically lasting around two weeks. It’s my understanding that this is largely due to other commitments you have as individuals outside of the band. Is this correct? Were things different, would you see yourselves spending a lot more time on the road?
Nick: Yeah, absolutely. Not saying that we’d like to trade our commitments or lives to do this full-time, but I think we’d love to be able to do more. I’m happy with how we’ve been able to make things work and that we’ve taken advantage of some great opportunities.
NYS: What are some of your favourite places you’ve played while on tour? Most memorable show? Favourite places to play here? With that in mind, what would you say is most lacking in the Vancouver scene?
Nick: The Southwest Terror Fest in Tucson, AZ was incredible. Definitely a highlight of our career as Baptists and for me as a musician in general. My favourite places to play here are Antisocial and the Biltmore. What’s lacking in the scene here? I haven’t seen a single Mortal Kombat or Off Road arcade machine at ANY of the venues in town, and that needs to change.
NYS: Would you care to update us with other projects you are presently involved with?
Nick: Danny, Andrew and I are in a band called Erosion. Sean plays in Ladyhawk and Slow Learners and I’m in a new band called Sumac.