How Baroness became their most authentic selves

How Baroness became their most authentic selves

The story of Baroness is one of constant change. They’re a band that has rarely settled on one line-up for long – sometimes spurred by tragic circumstances – but has always kept evolving and exploring their sound marshalled by rhythm guitarist and vocalist John Dyer Baizley.

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Over the last two decades, the band has welcomed no less than four lead guitarists, but in the generationally talented Gina Gleason, the band has found a creative foil that has helped push one-time sludgy prog metallers into greater heights and more expansive territory, earning the band a host of new fans.
This can be first heard on 2019’s Gold & Grey, but its follow-up – 2023’s Stone shows how the guitar relationship between Baizley and Gleason has evolved over years of touring and playing together, creating something that was truly reflective of Baroness’s current iteration.
Gina Gleason and John Dyer Baizley of Baroness
To do this, however, they needed time and proximity – rather than burn through expensive studio time trying to capture lightning in a bottle, instead the band decamped to an AirBNB in the mountains that had its own studio. It allowed the band the vital time to develop the songs at their own pace.
“The thing that I think was really beneficial about it is that we put ourselves into a position to record the album without any distractions, without any options, or anything to do other than working on the record,” Baizley explains. “So the thing I really appreciated about that way of working is that it gave us the opportunity to rehearse a song and fine-tune it for 10 hours a day, sometimes, and then once we had this immediate comprehension of the song in the present, we could press record, and capture it that way.
“The music came from 12-24 hours of jamming and it gave the music kind of a looser feel. We appreciate that at this stage in our career. But it also helps develop and record this chemistry that we hadn’t been able to capture before.”

Keep It Loose
The recording of Stone was unlike any previous recording by the band in that it was completely produced by the band themselves, which led to some unique songwriting sessions…
“We’d sometimes start a day off with some loose ideas and no idea where the song would go,” he reflects. “I like the mindset of doing things that way. There’s not a lot of conversation about it. You just get there by playing and putting the reps in. Sometimes, we would end up with a song that was unlike any of us had anticipated. It’s hard to explain how valuable something like that can be – to have songs be surprising to us sometimes, rather than being controlled.”
For Gleason, now fully comfortable in her own skin as part of the band, the process was equally inspirational.
“It’s easy when you’re working in isolation to have a cool idea and then come back to it later,” she says. “But when you have to hold yourself accountable to your bandmates and you’re pushing each other to work through it and develop the song in the moment, it’s very different than sitting on ideas or sending them in an email or something like that.”
Baroness performing. Image: Megan Kor
Recording in this manner, and incorporating long jam sessions, Baizley explains, is not only essential to developing individual musical chops, but also developing a band dynamic that is larger than the sum of its parts.
It was this jam-based approach to writing and recording that was the basis for the song Last Word which was the first song that the band worked all the way through and one that Baizley feels is the most collaborative song on the record.
Another song that stands as a testament to the looser jam-based writing format is Choir as Baizley points out, was basically an improvisation – a process of four accomplished musicians turning over stones in the proverbial creek bed to chase the adventure of discovery.
“[We] pushed that song in almost a random direction until it was done and that was really fun to do. We never felt we were making a wrong turn. We were just refining it and learning to appreciate the results of it.”
Baroness performing. Image: Justin Beckner
Go Your Own Way
As many bands have found through the years, there is an invisible hand in the studio—the hand of their investor, the record label. Often, a band is told to do things a certain way, placed on constraining deadlines, or contractually obligated to work with certain producers, mixers, or engineers.
In 2015, Baroness started their own label, Abraxan Hymns, on which they have been releasing music ever since. Stone was the third release on Abraxan Hymns.
“I would advocate it for any band that relies on themselves or any band that considers themselves to have a firm and confident artistic integrity,” Baizley affirms. “The music industry is such right now that as long as you can figure out the financing of the record and you have a creative solution to do so, there is no reason not to release it on your own.
“The work for us is the same as for a label. The difference being that when we release a record, we’re only trying to serve our own interests and needs, whereas record labels, historically, have forced artists to make concessions to serve their own needs and interests.”

Creating an album in a somewhat insular band community lends itself to the music being uniquely identifiable and more personal, with no regard to writing or recording a song to serve the needs of a record label. Stone is a perfect shining example of what a band can do when they put in the work and place the focus on sharpening band dynamics. Just as a river is shaped by the stones therein, allowing the music to flow through each member of the band, unhindered by external forces or ego, will often result in something far more beautiful than the sum of its parts.
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