With beautiful beaches just a few steps from downtown and idyllic, icy mountain ranges a quick drive away, Vancouver, British Columbia, is routinely listed as one of the world's most breathtaking cities. But beneath this picturesque veneer, the city, and its citizens, are also contending with some very challenging issues: Vancouver's wealth gap continues to widen as real-estate prices soar to record-breaking levels, and it's dealing with an overwhelming fentanyl epidemic.
Metallic-hardcore outfit Baptists explore these heavy topics and more on their new and third album, Beacon of Faith — which Revolver premieres today (May 23). And for frontman Andrew Drury, the issues plaguing his home city are not abstractions experienced through the veil of a news feed — they're brutal truths that he faces daily.
The singer works as a system negotiator for B.C.'s court system, where he often finds himself patrolling the downtown streets seeking out repeat offenders and trying to connect them with various social services. He'd previously been both a youth worker and a foster parent, but after a dozen years Drury was emotionally spent and suffering from insomnia. Interestingly, Beacon of Faith crusher "Indigo Child" (the title of which is a nod to New Age theories on supernatural children) focuses on the vivid dreamscapes he encounters when he does manage to escape the waking world. "I would rather be dreaming, because I wake up in a cold reality — a super heavy life," he tells Revolver. "When I dream, I have total control."
Beacon of Faith proves that Baptists — which also includes drummer Nick Yacyshyn (also of Sumac), guitarist Danny Marshall, and bassist Sean Hawryluk — have, however, mastered their collective reality. Like previous records Bushcraft and Bloodmines, the band's latest release excels in wickedly fast, battering-ram-to-the-face assaults ("Absolved of Life/Spent Cells", "Carbide") that recall Converge (whose guitarist Kurt Ballou recorded and contributed to the album) and cult crust/hardcore crew Cursed. But the act is just as willing to mangle you with barbed-wire noise rock ("Gift Taker"), or slowly eroding death marches ("Eulogy Template"). It's the most fully-realized and harrowing Baptists experience yet.
Ahead of Beacon of Faith's release this Friday via Southern Lord, frontman Drury spoke with us about how his day job, and a dog named Dingus, helped inform the album.
YOU'VE BEEN WORKING IN SOCIAL SERVICES FOR SO LONG. IT'S OBVIOUSLY SOMETHING THAT SEEPS INTO YOUR EVERYDAY LIFE, BUT IT ALSO WORKS ITSELF INTO BAPTISTS. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT BRINGING THOSE EXPERIENCES INTO YOUR LYRICS?
ANDREW DRURY It's a pretty good outlet for me because I don't really talk about myself or what's going on in my life to anyone. My employer says it's mandatory to see a clinical counselor once every two weeks, but I've turned it down. I refuse. I only saw a person once, when one of my ex–foster kids died. With the Baptists lyrics, being able to write about what goes on in my daily life in a cryptic way, and then scream it out, is the most cathartic thing that I can do. It's basically my self-care.
WHAT DIDN'T YOU LIKE ABOUT THE COUNSELING SESSION? WHY DIDN'T YOU GO BACK?
I actually enjoyed the experience, but I was demolished by it. It was a pretty sudden death. A suicide, which made it pretty hard on me, because I had tried so hard with him, and he ended up getting removed from my home. It wasn't really my choice. And then he ended up …
CAN YOU TELL ME A BIT ABOUT THE NEW ALBUM'S "VICARIOUS TRAUMA," HOW IT RELATES TO THE EXPERIENCES YOU LEARN ABOUT THROUGH YOUR JOB?
That song is basically about all the paperwork and the hurdles that I have to go through, being attached to the legal system, and how it forms a wall between me and the people that I want to support.
"BEVEL DOWN" HAS A DEEPER STORY, WHERE YOU SING ABOUT ONE WOMAN'S LIFE IN THE FOSTER CARE SYSTEM.
"Bevel Down" is actually about heroin abuse, [and] all injectable drugs. It's about how people are very quick to judge when someone is a drug addict. They don't know what that person's life was like up to the point that got them addicted. A lot of [addicts] grow up in foster care, or they had pimps and were beat up, and they had no choice but to turn to drugs. The majority of the public that don't want drugs legalized, they just see [addicts] as deadbeats that can't turn their lives around, that they shouldn't have help. [But] they need more support than anyone else in our society.
FROM WHAT YOU'VE SEEN, ARE THINGS GETTING BETTER FOR PEOPLE IN THE SYSTEM?
Drug-wise, no, because fentanyl is around. Even though there are a lot more harm-reduction services, there are stronger drugs coming into the market. People's views are not really changing either. I think the majority of the population is conservative. They just consider people to be deadbeat junkies.
LET'S TALK ABOUT "OUTBREEDING," WHICH IS ABOUT NEGATIVE ATTITUDES MANY PEOPLE HAVE ABOUT PIT BULLS. YOU'VE GOT A PIT NAMED DINGUS …
It's my most straightforward song. It's pretty finger-pointing — the least cryptic, for sure. I've always wanted to write a song about people judging dogs off their breed. It might have something to do with [Dingus] being sick. I just needed to get it out of me.
I was nervous when my bandmates read the lyrics. I never show them the lyrics until after we record. There's a line that Nick made fun of me for because I use the word "fluffy," talking about this dude that judged my dog: His dog is this little fluffy white dog. "You use the word fluffy? Can we take that one off the album?"
THAT'S A SUBVERSIVE KIND OF HEAVINESS, THOUGH.
But this fucking asshole, he lives a few doors down from me. My dog was tied up in the front yard, and my dog is super mellow. His dog is this piece of shit that was super aggressive and was barking at [Dingus], showing his teeth. My dog ran towards him with his tail wagging, and the guy called the SPCA [Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals] on me. They came the next day and the said, "You did nothing wrong." I was walking my dog the other day and he shit on that dude's lawn; his wife opened the door and I said, "I'm leaving that shit because your husband's a dick."
VANCOUVER'S NOT ONE OF THEM, BUT THERE ARE CITIES THAT BAN PIT BULLS. IS IT A STRUGGLE EVEN GOING ON A WALK WITH DINGUS?
I constantly have people cross the street. I don't hold it against people if they're scared, it's just when people outright ignorant. It really is the way the dog's brought up. Any dog could be vicious! Pit bulls do have strong jaws. They can cause a lot of damage, I'm not gonna deny that. They can fuck someone up if they're a bad dog, but that's not because they're a pit bull. It's because they weren't brought up properly. It's not their fault.
THIS IS THE THIRD ALBUM YOU'VE DONE WITH KURT BALLOU. HE DID THAT ONE NOTE SOLO ON "HARM INDUCTION" [OFF OF 2015'S BLOODMINES], WAS HE INVOLVED ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BOARDS ON THIS ONE, TOO?
Yup. He actually has backup vocals on "Outbreeding," which is pretty sick.
DOES HE SCREAM "FLUFFY"?
[Laughs] He says, "Outbreeding." He had two pit bulls the other two times we went and recorded with him … I don't even think he knew what the song was about, but he seemed to have a lot of gusto when he yelled it. It sounds really good! He also did a spaced-out lead on one song.
DANNY AND SEAN BOTH MOVED OUT OF VANCOUVER TO OTHER PARTS OF THE PROVINCE OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS. HOW DIFFERENT OF A PROCESS WAS MAKING THIS RECORD, WITH THAT DISTANCE BETWEEN YOU?
I'm pretty sure Danny was gone for the last one too. It's basically the same. Danny has a full studio in his house. He'll record every single instrument, except for vocals, and just send us demos. He's actually an insane drummer — I don't know if you've heard Erosion, but he's nuts. He'll send us a very high-quality demo of a song, so we'll know the song for when we go to jam. Nick's a magician, so he'll have it down right away.
YOU AND NICK WERE RECENTLY INVOLVED WITH A HORROR SHORT FILM CALLED COMPULSION, WHICH HE DID THE SCORE FOR AND YOU STARRED IN, AS A KILLER. WAS THAT YOUR FIRST TIME ACTING?
I did another short film that's still not out. I'm the lead in it. It's a skateboarding movie. I think it's going to be called Skate Cops. It's this chase movie, basically. It starts with a grocery store robbery scene, where a robber shoots the clerk in the face, and then it's basically just a chase movie from then on in.
ANY PARALLELS BETWEEN THE CHARACTERS FROM THOSE TWO SHORT FILMS?
Well, in Skate Cops I'm trying to catch a bad guy, and in Compulsion I am the bad guy. But, I still get to be kind of angry in both of them. They're both pretty intense roles.
THERE'S A KIND OF THEATRICALITY TO PERFORMING LIVE, BUT IT'S DIFFERENT THAN ACTING. HOW NATURALLY DID YOU TAKE TO THE LATTER?
I feel like onstage I'm not exactly acting. I'm just yelling about everything that's built up inside of me. During my day, I've got to pretend to be happy to people I don't really want to be happy to — that's acting in itself. A lot of people end up acting in their everyday life without even realizing it.