San Francisco duo Two Gallants reboots its lyrically dense, sonically intense version of indie rock
Like the many American power duos that rose to prominence in the early 2000s, San Francisco's Two Gallants traffic in an artistically pure, sonically intense version of rock 'n' roll. Sure, Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel pull from Scots-Irish folk music, primitive country-blues and Bright Eyes-style emo-punk, particularly on their early albums like 2004's "Throes" and 2006's "What the Toll Tells."
But relying on nothing more than Stephens' melodic guitar work and lyrically dense storytelling and Vogel's propulsive drumming, Two Gallants have matured from full-throated folk revivalists to one of the heaviest indie-rock bands in the nation. The duo's latest album, last year's "The Bloom and the Blight," even inches toward metal territory, giving fans of straight-up rock vigor plenty to latch onto in our current electro-drenched musical world. Folio Weekly chatted with Stephens about Two Gallants' five-year hiatus, the individuality of songs and how the band's San Francisco hometown has changed for the worse.
Folio Weekly: You and Tyson took five years off between 2007's "Two Gallants" and last year's "The Bloom and the Blight." Was it hard for you two to find your groove again?
Adam Stephens: I don't think it took too long. We've played the old songs so much that they're written in our brains, so it was easy to step back into that. And we started working on new stuff as soon as we got back together. It took a little bit of adjusting to get the whole songwriting process down again. But ["The Bloom and the Blight"] came together pretty quick. Now we're looking forward to recording a new album as soon as we get home from tour.
F.W.: Critics hailed "The Bloom and the Blight" as much heavier than your past blues- and folk-based work. Will the next record differ from that?
A.S.: Each one of our albums has gone in a different direction. As the new songs are coming together, they seem to be similarly pretty loud. But I don't know. I put more value in each song as an individual that stands alone — some of them just happen to develop at the same time and end up on the same record, which are just a collection of thoughts that don't have to be completely cohesive.
F.W.: As a duo, is your songwriting process 100 percent democratic — and 100 percent smooth?
A.S.: I write pretty much all the lyrics, but when we do get together, I'd say we're pretty fortunate in that there's only two of us. And we seem to see eye-to-eye on everything — both of us tend to agree on where a song should go.
F.W.: Have you and Tyson always operated in the straight-ahead rock 'n' roll vein?
A.S.: I don't really think of our music as straight-ahead rock 'n' roll. A lot of our earlier stuff was far more influenced by blues, country, traditional Americana and old-timey music. And we've got a lot of long, depressing ballads as well that are more based in traditional Irish and Scottish music. Some of it's heavier metal and punk-ish, but we haven't drifted too far afield — we don't get too jazzy or electronic. I also don't like to put limitations on where we can go in the future. But we like to play our instruments the way we know how — to challenge ourselves but also do what feels natural. We're not going to pretend to play music that we don't understand. So that'll probably dictate where we go from here.
F.W.: Everything you and Tyson play — even the ballads — has a momentum and drive to it. Has that always existed naturally for Two Gallants?
A.S.: I wouldn't say it took any conscious working out. Everything that we've done has happened pretty naturally without too much planning or intention. We started playing music because we loved to play music; we didn't start a band to start a band. And everything's followed in that same ethos — just doing what's natural and doing it for fun.
F.W.: You haven't changed much over the years, but your hometown of San Francisco has, right?
A.S.: Yeah, I hate to be negative, but it's definitely changed for the worse without a doubt in my mind. San Francisco has become kind of Manhattanized, turning into this very cosmopolitan and desirable place to live. And a lot of the musicians and artists that flocked to the city between the 1960s and '90s aren't really welcome anymore. That's pretty depressing, because both of us were born and raised in the city and have a lot of love for San Francisco. But it attracts a different crowd now, and the city has suffered for it, in my opinion.
F.W.: Are you excited to come back to Florida for the first time since 2006?
A.S.: Definitely. I remember St. Augustine being pretty cool and pretty fun. But I don't have many expectations beyond the swampy-ass heat.