Gina Gleason poured everything into Baroness' new album 'Stone'

Gina Gleason’s place in Baroness is carved in ‘Stone’

Posted by Jon Garcia in Culture on September 18, 2023

Baroness guitarist and backing vocalist Gina Gleason is still technically the newest member in the band, but it’s hard to think of her as such nowadays.

Since she joined in 2017, the four members of Baroness have played countless shows across the world, weathered a worldwide pandemic, and released two full-length albums together.

Their latest, Stone, was recorded over two years ago inside a converted vacation rental when COVID was still controlling every corner of life. But when Gleason thinks back to that time, it isn’t the virus she remembers.

“It was a really beautiful process to wake up with some of your best friends every morning, make coffee and start working on a record,” she said. “Like, it’s like a dream, you know?”

But reaching that dream took a bit of a learning curve, one that could only be conquered by years and miles.

‘The new kid in school’

Joining an established band is already difficult enough, let alone one with years of history and musical growth behind them. But Gleason said jumping into the writing sessions for 2019’s Gold & Grey was especially hard since Baroness is a band that never likes to repeat themselves. She wasn’t prepared for how new the band wanted to go with the album.

“I think coming in as a fan was maybe even a hindrance in some way because, as a musician, I have all these preconceived ideas of what I think new Baroness should sound like or would sound like,” she said. “So I can’t help but to tailor anything that I might be bringing to the table to have that kind of subconscious influence over it. That’s just a thing I had to get over because when a band is working on a new album, typically, whatever they did before they’re in a position where they’re ready to abandon that and do something new.

“It can be uncomfortable being the new kid in school, or whatever. Luckily, for me, John [Baizley, vocalist], Nick [Jost, bassist] and Sebastian [Thomson, drummer] are very cool, down to earth, very kind people.” 

Her bandmates gave her the confidence to carve out her own place in the band, which helped given the variety in their musical backgrounds.

“We all complement each other in an interesting way,” Gleason said. “I started working at Cirque du Soleil when I was like 20. Nick’s like the best musician that I know. I mean, he literally has a degree in jazz composition. Being in a band with him is so exciting. Seb coming from TransAm and having all that history. Then John’s completely DIY. I don’t think John ever took a guitar or music lesson per se in his life. So we have these complementary grades of music backgrounds and knowledge and things to bring to the table.”

Gleason felt more at ease as the Gold & Grey writing sessions went on, and by the time the first notes of Stone were formed she was fully entrenched as a significant member of the band with years of lived experience. She could focus on writing music rather than where she fit in.

“They made the process fun and it forced me to just think about my instrument in a different way, and I think that made me a better musician; maybe a more thoughtful musician. So to take that experience, pair it with years and years of touring, having our musical and interpersonal bonds so solidified was so fucking fun.”

Photo by Ebru Yildiz

Turning the color wheel to ‘Stone’

Baroness never got a chance to do a full support tour for Gold & Grey. The album came out in June of 2019, right in the middle of a busy slate of shows. A co-headlining run with Against Me! was on the books for May of 2020, but it didn’t take long for it to get canceled as the reality of the pandemic set in.

When that happened, the band knew they had to change their focus.

“Pretty much as soon as that initial lockdown happened, we were like, ‘Okay, we’re gonna be home for a while, let’s do a new record,’” Gleason said.

“In the throes of COVID, like everyone, we just tried to busy ourselves with being as productive as we could on just an individual level. Every Friday we would go on Zoom – like everyone else was doing – and we were hanging out on Zoom and put whatever we all worked on that week, in this shared dropbox folder.”

The material piled up. By September of that year the band had nearly 30 songs they needed to go through, Baizley told MetalSucks.

“It just got to a point where now we [had], like, a lot of material and we should probably get in a room together and start whittling it down,” Gleason said. “Creating by yourself is like a totally different experience than working things out in a room with your bandmates. There’s even things that were recorded – like, full, developed versions of ideas – that got scrapped from the record because it just didn’t suit the sequence of songs, or didn’t suit the emotional weight or whatever.”

How Baroness turned a vacation rental into a recording studio

To bring their ideas together, the band booked a stay in an isolated vacation rental spot in New York and transformed the house into their own recording studio where they worked out and recorded the instrumental parts of the album. It ended up coloring the record in a way that wouldn’t have happened anywhere else.

“The sound of the house is very much baked into the DNA of the record, which I think is really cool,” Gleason said.

They moved all of the homeowners stuff out of the way and brought in their own equipment, turning the main bedroom into a control room and running looms of cables to various closets and bedrooms that became recording booths.

“The layout of the house was perfect for recording an album because in the living room there was a big stone fireplace, and then this wall facing – where we ended up putting the drums – of sheet rock that didn’t quite touch the ceiling. We were able to mount some mics up there. There was sort of an adjacent brick wall that we were able to use for cool reflections and stuff like that.”

One rainy night they brought mics out to the porch, and the sounds they captured open the song “Magnolia”. Like kids in a playground inspired to have as much fun as possible, Baroness followed every whim they had whether it panned out or not. 

“The sound of the house is very much baked into the DNA of the record,” Gleason explained.

“As [the album’s] developing, it’s kind of revealing to us what it has space for, things that it’s maybe asking for,” she said. “We can fill in those gaps with things that we love that feel natural to us.”

For instance, Gleason’s face-melting solo in “Last Word” was inspired before the song ever had a name, thanks to the band’s love of Ozzy Osbourne.

“The working title was a pun based around Diary of a Madman because we were listening to a bunch of Ozzy. I was like, ‘we should have a Randy Rhoads moment in the song!’” 

Lo and behold.

Constantly moving forward, but never forgetting the past

While the Baroness’ goal is always to be moving forward, their sound can’t help but be colored by their previous material. Their musical identity is so strong, every song and every album paves the way for where they’re going, and helps inform the new material.

Never has this been more true than with Stone. Baroness reveals a version of themselves we haven’t heard before, but one that perfectly blends everything they’ve done up until now.

You can’t help but be reminded of elements of Red Album or Blue Record during “Magnolia” or “Under the Wheel”. The emotional guitar line that opens “Shine” or its psychedelic outro would not have been out of place on Yellow & Green.

The album art even includes colors from each of their previous releases.

But Stone – perhaps even more than any album in the past – leans on the band’s love of folk and traditional music. From the bookend of “Embers” and “Bloom,” to the beautiful vocal harmonies of “The Dirge,” and even the almost spoken word aspect of “Choir,” Americana is woven into the fabric of the music.

Those touches are what drew Gleason to Baroness in the first place, long before she was in the band.

“From my perspective, just as a musician, I really love a lot of folk music, singer/songwriter music and country music,” she said. “That was one of the things that – when I first discovered Baroness when Yellow & Green came out – that was something that I really loved. What made me fall in love with the band was that they seem to share that same musical interest that I hadn’t really ever heard in a metal band or a heavier band before. 

“When I started visiting the back catalog on Red and Blue, you hear some of these almost bluegrass, John Fahey inspired guitar moments that really, really, stuck deeply with me because that’s a part of my music DNA that I just really love. So, joining the band, that was one thing that I was really, really excited about, knowing that John and I share this love of this genre that’s kind of outside of our world that we just really like to pull that in.”

“Bloom” started as an idea Gleason first recorded on her phone, and Baizley loved it so much they developed it into an actual song at a different Airbnb in the Poconos. When the end of the record neared without any sort of opener – Baizley starts every Baroness record with some sort of guitar passage – they had the idea to create a bookend moment with “Bloom” and came away with “Embers.”

“The Dirge” had a similar moment, where after the bitter darkness of “Beneath the Rose” and “Choir” they felt the album needed some light. An initial sweet acoustic song got scrapped after it felt too dense, but Baizley wandered into the chords of the song and they went with it.

‘Oh my sweet oblivion / We are drowning in paradise’

Unlike Gold & Grey, Stone will get the proper support tour it deserves. The Sweet Oblivion Tour kicks off on October 13 at the Baltimore Soundstage in Maryland, and it promises to be one of the can’t-miss events of 2023. Not content to take a handful of bands across the country, Baroness have recruited nearly 20 of their favorite acts to split time on the road.

“In that time that we’ve not been on tour, it’s enabled us to go see bands,” Gleason said on how they put together the support lineup. “John I will have these stretches where we like to go to shows every weekend, and so most – let’s say 90% of the bands that we’re playing with on this tour – we’ve seen them this year. We just go to their show and love it. Selfishly, I want to play with them because I just had my mind blown.”

Yet it’s not even the amount of bands opening for Baroness but the variety in their sound. Jesus Piece, Escuela Grind, Soul Glo, Cloud Rat and Portrayal of Guilt will get pits spinning while Primitive Man, Vile Creature and Uniform are sure to punish the audience with their swallowing doom and noise. 

Elsewhere, Wayfarer and Imperial Triumphant will showcase their completely different takes on black metal, while Portland newcomers Hoaxed will haunt the Halloween portion of the tour with their spellbinding and gloom-laden rock. It creates a different experience depending on where someone lives or where they’re willing or able to travel.

“That was the idea,” Gleason said, “that it’d be sort of regionally a unique thing for everybody. Like, for me, if there’s a band that I liked and they’re playing in a variety of cities with a variety of bands that I also like, I would want to go to many shows. Yeah, so you know, we kind of hope maybe some people can do that, too.”

‘I hope Stone takes many listens to unfold’

Gleason found her place in Baroness years ago, and now their creativity is firing on all cylinders. The band’s four members have coalesced into one musical entity, offering perhaps the most Baroness sounding Baroness album yet. Every inch of their history, every mile on the road, and every note they’ve ever played is imbued in Stone.

Much like the album took time to reveal itself to its creators, every spin reveals something else to the listener. Gleason, Baizley, Jost and Thomson put everything they had into the record, but its impact is not immediate. Instead, Stone unravels with familiarity, rewarding and enriching those willing to get to know it.

“I hope that the emotional weight of what we left behind of ourselves in the album translates and can resonate with people in the same way it resonated with us as we were making it,” Gleason said. “I hope it hits people on a deep level, and I hope it takes many listens to unfold. That it’s something that can stay with the listener for many, many years to come and kind of serve them in different aspects and different points in their lifetime. I hope it has that kind of timeless effect.

“But yeah, I don’t know if it’s for me to say what, what I want people to mine from the album. I just hope it gives any given listener what they need in their moments of listening.”

STONE is available everywhere now via Abraxan Hymns. Order the album – HERE

October 13 – Baltimore, MD – Baltimore Soundstage

-With special guests Jesus Piece and Escuela Grind

October 14 – Richmond, VA – Canal Club

-With special guests Jesus Piece and Escuela Grind

October 15 – Asheville, NC – The Orange Peel

With special guests Jesus Piece and Escuela Grind

October 17 – Tampa, FL – The Ritz Ybor

With special guests Jesus Piece and Escuela Grind

October 18 – Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade

-With special guests Jesus Piece and Escuela Grind

October 20 – Dallas, TX – The Echo Lounge & Music Hall

-With special guests Portrayal of Guilt and Escuela Grind

October 21 – Houston, TX – House of Blues

-With special guests Portrayal of Guilt and Escuela Grind

October 22 – Austin, TX – Empire Control Room & Garage

-With special guests Portrayal of Guilt and Escuela Grind

October 24 – Albuquerque, NM – Sunshine Theater

-With special guests Primitive Man and Midwife

October 25 – Mesa, AZ – Nile Theater

-With special guests Primitive Man and Midwife

October 27 – Santa Ana, CA – The Observatory

-With special guests Primitive Man, Midwife and Agriculture

October 28 – Los Angeles, CA – The Bellwether

-With special guests Primitive Man, Midwife and Agriculture

October 29 – Berkeley, CA – UC Theater Taube Family Music Hall

-With special guests Primitive Man, Midwife and Agriculture

October 31 – Portland, OR – Hawthorne Theatre

-With special guests KEN Mode and Hoaxed

November 3 – Seattle, WA – The Crocodile

-With special guest KEN Mode and Hoaxed

November 4 – Vancouver, BC – Rickshaw Theatre

-With special guest KEN Mode and Vile Creature

November 6 – Edmonton, AB – Union Hall

-With special guest KEN Mode and Vile Creature

November 7 – Calgary, AB – The Palace Theater

-With special guest KEN Mode and Vile Creature

November 9 – Salt Lake City, UT – The Depot

-With special guest Wayfarer and Destiny Bond

November 11 – Denver, CO – Summit

-With special guest Wayfarer and Destiny Bond

November 12 – Omaha, NE – The Waiting Room Lounge

-With special guest Wayfarer and Destiny Bond

November 14 – Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue

-With special guest Chat Pile and Spotlights

November 15 – Chicago, IL – The Vic Theatre

-With special guest Chat Pile and Spotlights

November 17 – Columbus, OH – The King of Clubs

-With special guests Vile Creature and Spotlights

November 18 – Detroit, MI – St. Andrews Hall

-With special guests Vile Creature, Spotlights and Cloud Rat

November 19 – Toronto, ON – The Danforth Music Hall

-With special guests Vile Creature and Spotlights

November 20 – Montreal, QC – Théâtre Beanfield

-With special guests Vile Creature and Spotlights

November 22 – Albany, NY – Empire Live

-With special guests Soul Glo and Spotlights

November 24 – Cleveland, OH – Agora Theater & Ballroom

-With special guests Soul Glo, Spotlights and Cloud Rat

November 25 – Pittsburgh, PA – Roxian Theatre

-With special guests Soul Glo and Spotlights

November 26 – Buffalo, NY – Town Ballroom

-With special guests Soul Glo and Spotlights

November 28 – Boston, MA – Royale

-With special guests Sheer Mag and Imperial Triumphant

November 29 – New York, NY – Webster Hall

-With special guests Sheer Mag and Imperial Triumphant

December 1 – Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer

-With special guests Sheer Mag, Uniform and Zorn

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