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|The Two Gents of Two Gallants
On Washington Driver’s Licenses, Saddle Creek family picnics,
and, most importantly, their sophomore disc, what the toll tells
by Ashley Graham
Today we present you with the story of Two Gallants, two boys who grew into two men making exciting tunes together. For twenty years (that’s Two times ten), Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel have been friends, creative partners and just outright amazing fellows.
It was late September when the gents of San Francisco-based Two Gallants sat down to talk before their show at the Crocodile Cafe. They’d just spent the summer recording their sophomore effort. They’d been signed to Omaha behemoth Saddle Creek the past spring, and the excitement of it was still fresh on their minds. Now, nearly five months later, Two Gallants are on tour in Europe, poised to take back the U.S. during their tour beginning in April. Their new disc arrives in stores Tuesday, February 21, and along the way, it’s found a name, what the toll tells.
It’s not hard to see why Saddle Creek became so enamored with this two-piece delight. Gallants in any form is one of the most impassioned acts going. Whether it’s on the album, or on the cramped stages they’ve inhabited since their beginning, the flailing, frantic arms of Vogel and those crackly, heartbreaking vocals of Stephens are something to be experienced.
The dynamic of these two has been going strong since their early first encounter in grade school. Actually, strike that, they were just five years old. Now twenty years later, the connection is easily seen. Not only have Stephens and Vogel seen a few different bands together (like that one they played as at an 8th grade dance—a topic which makes both of them giggly and uncomfortable), they’re also pretty sure they’ll be making music together forever.
“This has always been an unconscious, organic thing,” Vogel says of the pairing. “Even the whole idea of Two Gallants wasn’t anything that we intended. We were both just in San Francisco and started playing music together again because we wanted to. We thought about adding a bassist at one point, but it seemed more natural to just have the two of us.”
Stephens and Vogel are an interesting pair. Stephens has a coif of California-blonde hair and a chiseled jawline. He looks at his hands a lot when he speaks, but he’s full of things to say and doesn’t hold back in saying them. Vogel is a spunky, quick-talking, bright-eyed guy who, if not for that questionable moustache, could quite easily still be a teen. He has an amazing laugh that finds its way into conversation often (like when he mocks Washington driver’s licenses for looking fake—before his lecture on their vast improvements in recent years to look more official). Stephens and Vogel are the kind of pair that one could assume might not necessarily be friends if not for their complete, lifelong history together. But thank goodness they are.
what the toll tells finds the Gallant boys developing their sound beyond their 2004 debut The Throes. The Saddle Creek signing brought with it more time in the studio, which they used to its fullest. Stephens says there is now more maturity to their songwriting; the lyrics are less abstract, the songs are stronger, and their storytelling abilities have improved.
“You end up taking more time getting to perfection,” Stephens says of the lengthened recording sessions for toll. “And sometimes it’s just not there and you’re wasting time.”
“We’re kind of perfectionists,” Vogel adds. “If we could do it fast and feel good about it, we would. But, it kind of takes more trial and error with us.”
“I never realized before I recorded a few times how hard it is to be isolated in different rooms and listening through earphones to what you’re doing, and it’s really not the same, it’s hard to get used to that,” Stephens says. “We could practice for weeks before going in [to the studio], but once you get in there it’s totally different. It’s like putting on some helmet and earplugs and distancing yourself from it and hearing it from a really unnatural source.”
The band’s name has been tripping off the tongues of more than a few people lately, and it will likely be with their Saddle Creek debut that Two Gallants finally gets some of the recognition they’ve deserved after endless days of touring with acts like Rogue Wave, Damien Jurado and Holy Ghost Revival. So are they ready?
“We don’t feel any pressure but that which we put on ourselves,” Stephens says. “And we do put it on. We want this album be as good as possible.”
Gallants will head to South by Southwest in March to hit up the Saddle Creek stage, sharing it with Omaha heavy-hitters Broken Spindles and Criteria. The experience with Saddle Creek has been nothing but positive for Gallants thus far, though, despite the fact that, as San Francisco natives they do stick out a bit amongst the rest of the artist roster—a fact of which they are well aware.
“I guess Rilo Kiley wasn’t from Omaha, but they knew people from there,” Stephens says, shirking off the suggestion that perhaps Two Gallants is destined to be an outcast at the family picnics. Then he rethinks and laughs. “We’re not from there, AND we don’t know anyone from there, though, so we’re actually, like, DOUBLE outcasts!”
In September the duo was concerned with the fact that Vogel had just moved back in with his parents, but perhaps at this point that’s no longer a worry. At least we’ll hope not. At any rate, he’ll be on tour for quite awhile and won’t have to hang out with the ‘rents too often. Two Gallants’ tour in Europe continues through February, before they head to SXSW in March, and then head up their U.S. tour in April. what the toll tells is in stores as of February 21. More information on Two Gallants can be found at the band’s website, www.twogallants.com, and at that lovely Saddle Creek homepage, www.saddle-creek.com.