Baths' Will Wiesenfeld with Morgan Greenwood at Sasquatch 2013. Photo: Karamea Puriri
If you search for a live performance of Baths on YouTube, you’ll find a plethora of videos of a young kid on stage alone, twisting knobs and pushing buttons and occasionally singing along to the beats he is creating. Most will immediately clump him into the realm of “DJ.”
This is exactly what Will Wiesenfeld has set out to change.
I anxiously prepared to talk to the man behind Baths, unsure of what to say, crumpling my list of questions I wanted to ask him in my hands, but as soon as I got him on the phone and we talked for a few seconds, it was clear that this wouldn’t be a regular Q&A. We’ve never met before, but right off the bat it was if we had been friends for at least a year. He is personable and has so much positive energy, you could feel it beaming through the phone.
We started off chatting about the preparations he had made for tour—renting his first mini van, getting everything situated for the road—and eventually dove headfirst into talking about the new, sophomore album, Obsidian, released yesterday on Anticon.
Wiesenfeld explained that the idea for Obsidian came before Cerulean, his debut release, but Obsidian is much more layered and he was unsure as to how he might be perceived if he released it first, so he waited. Baths dropped Cerulean in 2010, and made plans to record Obsidian in 2011. After a fight with death delayed recording (not really, but he did get really sick for a few months back in 2011), he was finally ready to bring a new darkness to Baths.
Obsidian reveals a much more mature side of Baths that fans might not be used to. When you first turn it on, you hear the same poppy, indietronica beats, similar to Cerulean, but there is a Trent Resnor inspired darkness about it that looms heavily throughout the entire album. Starting with “Worsening,” where Wiesenfeld makes a bold statement saying, “Where is God when you hate him most?” and on towards the end of “Earth Death,” as he sings out “Come kill me / I See / So Alone,” I felt a pang in my chest as I uncomfortably readjusted my headphones, anxiously waiting for more.
A big part of Wiesenfeld’s goal in shooting down the “DJ” label he had been given was changing the way he performed live. Wiesenfeld asked Morgan Greenwood of Azeda Booth if he would be interested in joining him on tour. Referring to himself as one of Azeda Booth’s biggest fans ever, Wiesenfeld knew he needed someone else onstage with him to perform Obsidian, and thought Greenwood would be the perfect addition. After messaging him on Facebook to see if he would be interested, Greenwood said “yes” and flew out to California a few weeks later to prepare. The two spent weeks making changes to the way the material was performed live, and in the weeks leading up to taking off on tour, practiced 10 hours almost every day.
Wiesenfeld’s decision in bringing on Greenwood has proven to be a huge benefit to Baths as a whole. “Morgan pushes me,” said Wiesenfeld. “When I think something isn’t possible, Morgan replays it over and over to make it possible.”
I had the chance to see the two in action this past weekend at the Sasquatch Music Festival. They managed to create the perfect balance on stage, allowing Wiesenfeld to branch out and show that he is more than just a DJ. He jumped between his keyboard and synth effortlessly, singing along the way, while Greenwood added to the mix with his guitar, helping Will mix. Watching them perform side by side was more than just watching two people play a set, it was a full-blown experience.
They played through a few songs from Cerulean before Wiesenfeld informed the crowd that Obsidian would be out in two days, and they were going to finish up the set playing those new songs. The crowd welcomed the new additions and anxiously waited for the two to get situated before they launched into playing “No Past Lives.” Wiesenfeld’s energy captured the audience, as he sang out the provocative, shocking lyrics that make up Obsidian. It is obvious that the Baths experience would not be the same if Greenwood were not present onstage.
Baths will be opening up a few shows for The Postal Service on their 10-year anniversary tour, a name that all of us know and a group that has inspired many of musicians within the indietronica realm. Wiesenfeld’s determination as a musician came full circle when he happened to be on a tour with Jimmy Tamborello, the electronica/production half of The Postal Service last year. One thing led to another, and he was asked to open for them, which happened for the first time back in April. For those of us who grew up on “Such Great Heights,” we jumped for joy when they announced their first tour in 10 years. One can only imagine what it would be like to be asked to actually open a handful of shows for them.
Much is to be said for this 24-year-old who has been on my list of “people to watch” since I first heard Cerulean. He is on the rise, and fast.
Baths will join Houses, D33J and Giraffula at the Urban Lounge on May 31. Get your tickets here.
Pick up Obsidian here, and find more info on Baths here.