Punk-blues duo, Two Gallants, has been to hell and back
Numerous musicians paint an exaggerated or downright false picture of themselves, through their music, videos and on-stage antics. But when it comes to the romping, stomping, rambling tales of San Francisco drum-and-guitar duo Two Gallants, it would seem that the facts outweigh the fiction.
Though it is difficult to discern which came first—the ballads about hard living on the road, or the experiences themselves—one thing is clear: drummer Tyson Vogel, along with his musical partner in crime, guitarist, vocalist and lyricist, Adam Stephens, both know what it means to be a vagabond.
The duo toured the country multiple times on a shoestring budget before ever releasing a proper album—sleeping in city parks, vans, on strangers’ floors, relying on their wits and the kindness of musicians, club owners and other punk rock kids that they met along the way.
It is because of the group’s initial fast living that Vogel and Stephens took two years off from performing together, according to Vogel.
“As individuals, we both went through some trials over the last couple years,” says Vogel. During their time off, the two rarely talked. “It was very dark in some ways.”
At its peak, the band played close to 200 songs a year for a few years running—a schedule that broke them physically, mentally and spiritually, Vogel says. But now, after a hiatus that saw each band member pursue solo careers, the drummer assures that the two are back on good terms, writing music and gearing up for a tour that will roll through The Crepe Place on Wednesday.
“In the end, we are sort of kin,” Vogel says of the reunion. “I don’t think either of us have a full choice in the matter.”
Speaking in his cigarette-tinged gravel voice, while working the door at a club in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood last month, Vogel explains that he and his lifelong friend and band mate have always shared a lust for adventure.
Vogel and Stephens were born in the same San Francisco hospital, roughly six months apart, and have been playing music together since they were in the fifth grade. They formed Two Gallants after college in late 2001.
As a group, the two draw inspiration from literature—Two Gallants is the name of one of the short stories in James Joyce’s “Dubliners”—and from Appalachian music, American country blues and, going back even further, from the traditional folk songs of Scotland and the United Kingdom.
“All those old songs told a story,” Vogel says. “Those really spoke to us. Perhaps Adam and I can’t help but to pay attention to those stories.”
Two Gallants play a rough-around-the-edges, trail-hardened, raconteur brand of punk-blues. The band’s post-grunge, purposefully disheveled approach, with their clattering drums and drunken, overdriven guitar licks, has a way of tangling into a coherent cacophony. It’s the perfect foundation for Stephens’ warbling, sandpaper voice, which is sometimes broken and fragile, sometimes vengeful and righteous.
Vogel and Stephens are at their best when they are spinning woeful, weary or angry yarns about lost lovers, murder, days spent in jail, long stretches of highway or long nights wasting away “beneath the pool hall lights.”
The strength of the songs they craft, aside from the explosive energy of the instrumentation itself, lies in Stephens’ lyrics, which take great care with details—finding universal truths in nervous ticks and blades of wavering grass. Vogel, who calls Stephens a “very inspired writer,” also finds beauty and meaning in life’s minutia.
“One glance into someone’s face is an impression of many, many days and moments that built that person up to that one moment in time,” Vogel says. “You have to celebrate that.”
Two Gallants play with The Mumlers at 9 p.m. Wednesday, June 22, at The Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $15. 429-6994.