Baroness, a progressive metal band born in Savannah, has earned a 2017 Grammy nomination, an unexpected achievement in their evolving music career.
After a debilitating bus crash in 2012 forced the band into a short hiatus and eventually a lineup change, they regrouped and released their fourth studio album, “Purple,” in late 2015. That record garnered national press coverage and has now gifted the band with something entirely unforeseen, a Grammy nod for the song “Shock Me.”
“It’s not ordinary that a band like Baroness could get nominated,” frontman John Baizley told the Savannah Morning News. “However, I’d be lying if I didn’t confess that it is also a strange and surreal experience. A Grammy nod was never on our minds as we were writing or recording our last album.
“I don’t mean to sound dismissive, but I’ve always thought that the award itself was something you had to actually aim toward and fight for. Normally, when you are put on the short list for a nomination, you at least get a heads-up. No one on our team saw this one coming, and it really surprised us all. It’s certainly an incredible circumstance.”
Also nominated in the Best Metal Performance category is Gojira’s “Silvera,” Korn’s “Rotting in Vain,” Megadeth’s “Dystopia,” and Periphery’s “The Price is Wrong.”
“We are pretty psyched to be in the company of our friends in Gojira,” Baizley said. “They are a true force to be reckoned with. Plus, they are great people.”
The Grammy ceremony will be broadcast Feb. 12.
Coastal Empire scene
Baroness formed in Savannah in 2003, but left the area years ago. They’ve held onto their ties to the Coastal Empire through work with other metal bands to come out of the city’s prolific music scene. Baizley, an artist who originally moved to Savannah to attend SCAD, has done album artwork for Savannah’s Kylesa and Black Tusk.
Most recently, they returned to the city to play the new album. In a sold-out show at The Jinx in December 2015, Baroness ripped through “Purple,” dedicating the show to the city where they got their start, and the proceeds from the night to old Savannah friend Jake Trout, who has been battling cancer.
The Savannah metal scene that gave birth to Baroness began as a DIY conglomerate of punk rock kids. It was the rare amalgam of metal and punk that helped shape the music to come.
Kylesa was hailed as one of the architects of sludge metal. Black Tusk, formed a couple of years after Baroness, created a new genre they dubbed swamp metal.
From such beginnings, Baroness, of which Baizley is the only remaining founding member, did not foresee creating a band that would earn success in the traditional sense of the music industry: being nominated for a Grammy and touring with metal legends like Metallica.
“There are so many different metrics that we gauge success by as musicians,” Baizley said. “Coming from a DIY scene, the idea of award nominations wasn’t a concern of ours when we began, nor is it a concern now.
“We’ve always had the idea that if we’re creatively engaged with our music, if we honestly believe in what we do, and if we’re evolving as a band and people through our music, then we would be, by default, 'successful.’ To have been included in this list of nominees is a huge moment for us, more exciting because it is such a surprise.”
Lyrically, Baizley mused on the bus crash that nearly took his arm and his recovery on “Purple.” Around him, the band’s new rhythm section worked from a different place emotionally, creating a balanced juxtaposition on the new album.
“As with most of our songs, it’s a rumination on human experience, the way we digest the powerful moments in our lives that can be difficult to contend with verbally — which finds a more poetic home in the context of a song,” Baizley said of “Shock Me.”
“Turmoil and difficulty make for easy inspiration. I’m very glad my bandmates have a more decidedly upbeat take on our music; it’s allowed me to articulate my less-than-pleasant lyrical thoughts inside upbeat, powerful songs.”
Savannah and the Grammys
Baroness joins several other acts to come out of Savannah that were nominated for Grammys. Johnny Mercer was the most prolific award winner, earning five Grammys and six nominations.
Anthony David, who was born in Savannah, went on to earn recognition for his work on India Arie’s seven-time Grammy nominated album “Acoustic Soul.”
The Jackie Boyz won their first Grammy in 2011 for work on a David Guetta mix of Madonna’s “Revolver.” The brothers, Carlos and Steven Battey, were born and raised in Savannah. They began their careers in music playing on River Street.
In 2016, Dave Cobb, a Savannah native, was nominated for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical for his work with Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell. Cobb, now a Nashville-based producer, has also worked Shooter Jennings and Sturgill Simpson.
SCAD graduate M.E.A., an audio engineer and producer, has two Grammy nominations for his work with Nitti Beats and Dramma Boy.