After COVID-19 canceled their plans to tour the U.S. in support of their most recent album — 2019's Gold and Grey — the band is back on the road, albeit with a unique hook. The band ditched the bigger venues they could fill for much tinier, intimate venues. Additionally, anyone who buys a ticket to one of the shows can vote for what songs they want the band to hear.
The catch to this personalized experience? Tickets to each show are $60.
It's quite the sticker shock for a club show (though that price also includes a city-specific signed poster), but it hasn't scared of hardcore fans, who've already sold out shows in Seattle, Chicago, Indianapolis, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia.
Before Baroness's tour makes a stop at Lucky You Lounge on Wednesday, Nov. 17, we chatted with guitarist Gina Gleason — who joined the band in 2017 after stints playing with Cirque du Soleil, Carlos Santana, Yes, and others — about her very unique path to joining the band, a new Baroness album, and the thought process behind downsizing this tour.
INLANDER: So what's Baroness been up to in pandemic times?
GINA GLEASON: I live in Philly, John lives in Philly, and Sebastian and Nick are in Brooklyn. So it took a while within the pandemic before we all got together, because we're dealing with four different households, two different cities, traveling, and all that.
The first thing we did was kind of awesome. It was like, alright, just let's work on new music; let's work on ideas. Whatever any of us were working on that week, we'd put it in like a shared Dropbox folder. Every Friday, we'd all go on Zoom, like, hang out together, check out what everybody worked on. So we did that for months — all through the summer [of 2020] — just throwing ideas back and forth. By the following winter, we had compiled enough.
We rented an Airbnb. We were just like we're like, let's be a pod, like the four of us. Everybody, like tested all that good stuff. The first one was in Barryville, New York. It was really, really beautiful area, really remote and near a lake. It was this funny like thing of like, alright, the house has to be so far from other houses so they don't hear drumming at like 1 in the morning.
John has a ton of like outboard gear recording equipment, so we took everything up to this house, and like completely rearranged their furniture. As soon as we walked in it was, "Okay this couch has to go, the table," all that. We just recorded an album, self-engineered and self-produced it. That was awesome.
And me and John did a similar Airbnb excursion to record some acoustic stuff and try to work on vocals. We did [that] kind of near the Poconos in Pennsylvania, so like a mountainous kind of remote. That one was more of like a doublewide trailer kind of thing. There was like other trailers nearby we were like, "I hope they don't hear people like screaming." But nobody complained.
Personally, I started teaching guitar lessons on Zoom. And that was awesome because it just holds me accountable on a different level of guitar playing. I have to show up and have some cool rad shit to show whoever it is. Like one student is in Sweden, somebody's in Boston, it's like it's people all over. It pushes me to expand my own guitar playing, to try to look at things a different way. It's great to have that interaction with people where you can see where they're coming from as a guitar player. And find out what's going on in other cities, like how people are feeling how people are doing mentally and otherwise.
So are you shooting to get that new Baroness album out in early 2022?
We don't have a set date, but that's been the goal. I think going on tour again is gonna really help us mentally wrap our heads around the things for the new record that need to get wrapped up. It'll just be great to just have another music thing be stimulated in us.
You've had a unique musical path — from Cirque du Soleil to playing in Carlos Santana's band — so how did you initially get hooked up with Baroness?
I bought this [guitar] pedal online called a Philly Fuzz pedal. I grew up in Philly and at the time I lived in Vegas. I was like coming home to visit, and was in the market for weird pedals at the time... and always.
But I found this guy online that made these Philly Fuzz pedals. And I was like, "Whaaa, that's awesome, it says Philly on it." So I ordered one and sent him an email that was just like, "Hey, if we save the shipping, I'm going to be in Philly like this week, and maybe I could pick it up or something." He asked where I was going to be in Philly, and it was in his same neighborhood. So I met up and got the pedal.
Long story short, Steve, the guy that I was talking to that makes the pedals, it's his pedal company with John. I had no idea that there was any association with Baroness or any of that.
So I got an Instagram message from A Perfect Monster, John's art page. And he was like, "Yo, you buy one of these pedals?" And I was like, "Yeah, are you the dude in Baroness? Sweet, you're sending me a message. That's really crazy."
He was like cool, I hope you like the pedal, my homie builds them, and like maybe we could like hang out and jam. And I was like, "F—- yeah!" So we like met up and him and Steve, and they brought all these like fuzz pedals that they were working on. We were just trying them out. We hung out for eight hours in his basement and like played Danzig songs and Metallica songs. John was like, "Cool. We play guitar well together. Nice to meet a new guitar friend."
A few months went by and we were staying in touch. Somewhere along the line, he was like, "Hey, I think (former Baroness guitarist Peter Adams) is going to kind of move on do some different stuff, we already kind of play guitar well together, do you want to learn 35 Baroness songs and come audition or whatever. Like, meet Nick and Zeb?" And I was like, "F—- yeah! I'm on a plane. I'm in your basement." (Laughs) Yeah, so it's really kind of funky way that we met up, but it's kind of awesome.
It had to have been pretty disappointing not being able to tour your last record — 2019's Gold and Grey — in front of audiences in the States because COVID canceled your initial American tour in support the record.
I'm really looking forward to playing those songs for a U.S. audience. It's crazy how the timing worked out. We did play a lot of that record when we toured a lot in Europe in 2019. But we were there supporting a band called Volbeat, and they're musically really different from us. So we just kind of figured if their audience doesn't know the Baroness catalog anyway, we can kind of play whatever we want. So we did play a ton of Gold and Grey. We took a lot of liberties of just experimenting with stuff and like seeing what works, what doesn't work. So after having that experience I'm really stoked to bring that to more intimate venues in the U.S.
Because this tour is one where folks can vote on the songs they want to hear, we're kind of setting it up like: a set of what everybody voted for, maybe some acoustic numbers, and then like a set of just other stuff we think would be cool to play on any given night.
So we thought maybe the third set is where we can do some Gold and Grey stuff, but then a lot of people voted for those songs on the ballots. So we were like, "Oh, that's awesome!" I felt really stoked about that.
Why did Baroness decide to play really small venues for this tour?
The first question was like, "What is the best COVID thing? Is it bigger where people can spread out, but then there's more people or maybe make it smaller so it's more controlled?"
I work at a venue in Philly as a stagehand. We started back up in August, and it's been helpful to just see how we've gone about things there and how people reacted to or respected Philadelphia's protocols, which are you have to have a vaccine or a negative test result within 48 hours. And then keep your mask on. It looks like everybody's cool with that. Everybody's just happy to be at shows.
We're just touring in a pod of ourselves, as opposed to if we were on tour with two or three other bands, which opens [things] up.
So that was the first thing and then we just thought it would be fun to do more intimate shows. And we're trying to think of a way that it could leave people feeling like, "Oh, that was like a real experience. That whole night was very special."
Since we didn't get to tour Gold and Grey and we're still working on a new record, we thought maybe people could say what they want to hear. We'll f——— play it. It'll be awesome.
Being newer to the band, were there any songs the fans picked where you were like, "Oh crap, I gotta go learn this old one"?
I think there's only like two or three songs where I was like, "Oh, I never played that with you guys." But I was a massive Baroness fan before I joined the band, so I didn't have the obstacle of like, "What part comes next?" I could sing every solo and every change in my head, because I've been listening to these records for the past decade just like a fan. Like I really love the Blue Record, and there's a lot of [fan] picks off that. So that was super fun for me.
I was like watching videos of how Pete or previous members would play things and being like, "Oh, you guys used to do this and this live, maybe we could bring this back?" For me — as like a fan — to nerd out on all the guitar parts has been really good. (Laughs)