Baked Interview: “It felt right to pay tribute to him”

baked interview

New album Farnham is out 24th February via Exploding in Sound Records.

About a month ago, Overblown heard our first Baked song and we were pretty instantly all starry eyed. ‘Midnight Junkie’, the first track to be gleaned from their upcoming second album Farnham, is a most glorious mixture of shoegaze and slackerdom which tickled us exactly where we like to be tickled. Of course, this was not a surprise in the slightest as the band reside on Brooklyn’s Exploding in Sound Records who seem incapable of releasing music that is not exceptional. They’re on some run.

R.J. Gordon, vocalist and guitarist with the group, took the time to chat to us about the meaning behind the album title, loving Danelectro guitars, and working with Adam Reich, formerly of Titus Andronicus.

Overblown: Since your debut album, you’ve added Steve Hartlett (Ovlov/Stove) and A.J. Pantaleo (Bueno). How did they affect the writing and recording of Farnham?

R.J. Gordon: Steve and A.J. are two serious assets. We took a long time to arrange these songs and get parts, tempos, structure, etc just right and those two are definitely consummate pros. It was also a lot of fun to finally get into the studio to work on a couple of Isabella (Mingione) ‘s songs since we’d been playing them for a while before tracking Farnham. Pepper in Adam Reich at the desk, Jeremy on the bass… things felt pretty comfortable and focused for tracking the album basics.

O: Where did the title ‘Farnham’ come from? When I Googled it, it came up that Farnham is a town in Surrey, England with a population of 40,000 people!

R.J.: Whoa, very interesting. ‘Farnham’ is the last name of a friend of mine (Ken) who passed away some years back. We were close friends and roomates back when we were Freshman and Sophomores in college at SUNY Purchase (about 30 min from NYC). Back in 2008/2009 he was diagnosed with brain cancer at a young age. We would go to visit him in his hometown (Tonawanda, NY – Buffalo region) and try to keep up as much as possible.

He was a talented artist and made a print 8 or 9 years ago that became the two dead mice on the cover of the album. Also the droopy monster face on the liner notes. He was a very very talented artist and I wanted to pay homage to his work and his name with the record. A lot of the record has songs that I wrote originally during and after that tough time and it felt right to pay a little tribute to him.

I was also very lucky to have another Buffalo native, Steven Meidenbauer to photograph the pieces and layout the album in a way that really honored Ken and his artwork.

O: You recorded the new album with Adam Reich behind the boards. What did he bring to the recording process?

R.J.: Reich is a serious force behind the desk.. We’ve been working together for a long time.. I do sound at his club in Brooklyn – Shea Stadium, he did some engineering and mixed all of our first album Debt, he was in Titus Andronicus when I started doing FOH (live sound) for them, and then when I joined the band playing bass, and he’s also filled in playing guitar on more than a few Baked shows.

He knows how to get what he wants out of his artists and performers, but in such a natural and relaxed way. We spent a good couple weeks just jamming, moving mics, changing arrangements.. We discussed the record a lot before we recorded it and he really took on a lion’s share of the ‘behind the scenes’ production stuff, so that the band and I could all just focus on rocking and giving him some good takes.

The guy is a joy to work with, has an undeniable ear, skill set, and overall sonic vision. Aside from just being a very cool, laid back dude. Very important when you’re in the throes of recording a full length. Definitely the ‘fifth Beatle’ of Baked.

O: Loving the new track ‘Midnight Junkie’. For me, it sounds like J Mascis jamming over a Kevin Shields track (I realise this is also in the press release but they did also spring immediately into my mind!). Could you tell us what inspired the song musically?

R.J.: Thank you! Those are high compliments as far as I can see… Well, the song was rearranged from a solo mandolin/re-amped vocal track I made years ago for an old band Jefferson High, which was kind of the first incarnation of Baked in many ways. We got to rearrange the tune at Reich’s, jam a little… I’d always wanted it to be a loud and washy number, but Steve is definitely the J. in the band. The guy can really shred. But yes, Mascis and Shields have been a big influence of mine and of the band’s for a while.

O: Apparently the new album ranges from “enormous wall-of-sound guitars, smooth R&B influenced pop, dusty country ballads, and flashes of deviant post-punk.” Was there a conscious effort to write a varied record or is it simply a document of what came out when you sat down to write?

R.J.: Well, there is a good amount of variety between my writing and Isabella’s writing. But both of us definitely still like to try out different things in writing and arranging… I think it’s just a natural byproduct of years of working and progressing as players and writers for me and Isabella. The band likes to have some different vibes and styles to delve into, never wanna get pigeonholed with just one musical style. So yes, I think it’s a document of our progress as writers and of having the current lineup that we have in the band.

O: There’s some interesting song titles on the record like ‘Danelectroladyland’. Is that about a love of the guitar brand?

R.J.: Oh, something like that. A nod to the famous NYC studio (Electric Lady), a nod to Hendrix I guess, a nod to the guitar brand, and a nod to a special lady I knew years and years ago who played a Danelectro Baritone guitar and I just thought that was the coolest thing in the world. Still kinda want to buy my own Dano Bari, thanks for the reminder. Haha.

O: What can people expect from the Baked live experience?

R.J.: Well as we were saying before, definitely some variety… Some loud, heavy, guitar music. Some more groovin’ vibes, some folky or country vibes… but for the most part, just 5 people having a good old time playing music that we all really love and care about… and likely some folks getting stoned as well.

O: What’s your favourite song of 2016?

Answer: Song is tough, definitely some releases and some bands this year that were out of sight… to name a few; Washer, Stove, A Giant Dog (great live show), the new Bueno, J&L Defer, Big Ups… just so many folks doing some truly wonderful stuff.

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