On Feb 3rd, Two Gallants will release their 5th studio album, We Are Undone. The San Francisco duo creates songs entrenched in storytelling with a voice that seems to pass right over raw nerves. With quieter acoustic songs and songs pounding with drums and electric guitar, the style pierces through the immediate influx of rock and touches right at the heart of American folk and blues. As they release their new album, Two Gallants is playing three shows in Oakland and San Francisco: Leo’s Music Club on February 5th,  a sold out show at The Chapel on February 6th, and the Great American Music Hall on February 7th. Oakland Local asked Adam Stephens (vocalist, guitarist and songwriter) about his history with folk and blues, the evolution of Two Gallants, and the difference between being an emerging band now compared to when Two Gallants were starting out in the early 2000s.

How did you come to your affections for folk and blues?

“When I was around 14 I kind of lost interest in music. For a long while, I remember listening exclusively to three albums: Slanted and Enchanted [Pavement], Master of Puppets [Metallica], and Midnight Marauders [A Tribe Called Quest]. No idea why. Each one of those is an amazing album but none of them made me want to make music. It was around that time that I began listening to Bob Dylan. I had obviously heard his music before but never had enough interest or a long enough attention span to distinguish him from the rest of the music of my parents’ generation. Well, I became a little obsessed. At first I was a total purist and refused to listen to anything later than Bringing It All Back Home. Instead, I sought out the original versions of songs he covered early on, and through doing so, the vast world of old-timey and traditional music was opened up to me.”

Are there particular artists or albums that were especially influential in your wanting to play or write music?

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, John Fahey’s Requia, The Complete Early Recordings of Skip James that came out on Yazoo, to name a few.

The 5 year hiatus between Two Gallants along with the move from Saddle Creek to ATO Records seems to have coincided with a reinforcement of power in your music. How did that time away from recording affect your music?

I thought we were pretty loud before we took a break but people keep making similar comments so I guess I must be wrong. We probably have some more aggressive songs now. It’s not really intentional. When we first started I only had an acoustic guitar and Tyson had just started playing drums. Despite the hiatus, I think our sound has grown pretty fluidly from where it started.

Your latest single, ‘Incidental,’ is heavy on the fuzz. Where do your feelings lie on the use of effects as a means of experimentation in your music?

I don’t think there is actually any “fuzz” effect on that song. The guitar was a cheap old harmony a friend of mine lent me and the signal was split between three different amps: a ‘54 Fender Deluxe, a Silvertone 1472, and a 60’s Fender Bassman, all pretty heavily driven. But either way, I’m not at all opposed to using some effects. These days they make pedals that can practically play your instrument for you. That doesn’t really interest me.

You’ve stated that the song “We Are Undone” isn’t about San Francisco. Though, once you create and release your music to the public, and critics too, it takes on a life of its own in their heads. How do you reconcile the intent of your songs while you’re creating them with inevitable reinterpretations of audiences?

Well of course it’s best to avoid thinking about what others will think about what you do whenever possible. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible. But the upside is that the only time I do think about it if at all is while writing and recording the song. Once that’s done, I don’t think about what the song means or was intended to mean at all. I only think about the song in front of me.

Your start in SF included playing at BART, self-publishing your first cds, and touring a lot before The Throes debuted. This was pre-bandcamp, pre-My-Space, and the early goings of GarageBand. What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of being an emerging artist now?

I know Bandcamp has really helped some young bands get their music out there. I recognize that that is a good thing. But the rise of music being easily shared over the internet has coincided with the disappearance of underground scenes in cities all across the country. In San Francisco, BART shows and house shows are pretty much non-existent these days. Those shows were the only way that we were able to grow as a band and get our foot in the door at venues. If it’s one or the other, I’d choose the music scene that the city used to have over stay-at-home musicians posting Garageband recordings on Bandcamp in a heartbeat.

Two Gallants
w/ Golden Drugs
Leo’s Music Club
Thursday, February 5, 2015 9pm
Tickets: $20-$24
18 & over
Under 21 must buy a $5 drink ticket.

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