These two best friends met in grade school but make folk-based rock that’s hardly elementary on “The Bloom and the Blight”
Somewhere along the way, a couple of 12-year-olds fooling around on guitars turned into a dynamic guitar-and-drums duo. Two Gallants’ Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel grew up to take on old-school Southern grunge and grit, finding a balance between raw, exploding fits of emotion and bluesy, harmony-driven ballads.
The San Francisco pair has been inseparable since age five, and it shows. After they took a brief hiatus, their fourth album, The Bloom and the Blight, showcases their finest and tightest musicianship yet, highlighted by an effortless back-and-forth relationship of drums and guitar. They’ll play at One Eyed Jacks in New Orleans on Monday.
Are those kids on the album cover of The Bloom and the Blight actually you and Tyson?
Yeah, Tyson’s mom actually took the photo. I think we’re about seven or eight in that photo, and we’ve known each other since kindergarten. When we were 12, that’s when I remember getting my first guitar, and Tyson got his first guitar around the same time. It was the beginning of a coming-of-age, defining ourselves and our interests musically, and not just listening to what our older siblings or older friends or parents listened to. Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix and Green Day - we started listening to what every other 12-year-old kid was listening to at the time. The band started a long time ago. We first started playing under the name almost 10 years ago, and we just recently got back together after taking some time off.
This is the first record that you’ve put out and toured with in four years. Why the wait?
I’d been writing a lot of songs that didn’t really fit this band, so I went and recorded with some other people, put out that record, and toured on it for a little bit. I think that it was good for both of us to have that time off and come back, a refreshed perspective. I’ve realized that what Tyson and I have is pretty hard to find. I don’t think many other bands that can not only say that they’ve been friends since they were five, but they actually have the ability to still get along and communicate in the way that we do. My experience in playing with other people in the years that we took off gave me a far higher respect for what we have, just because dealing with anyone in a band, on tour and all that shit, can be so frustrating. Even best friends end up hating each other after a while. I feel pretty lucky that Tyson and I don’t hate each other.
How did being away from Two Gallants affect your sound?
Our older songs, we didn’t really care too much if they were seven minutes long and had four or five verses in them. I was writing a ton of lyrics at the time, and it seemed to me like they all had to be included, and they were all equally valuable to the integrity of the song. I never really edited very much, or cut parts out. These songs are a lot more to-the-point and concise, and they’re crafted a little bit more - more arrangement and not as much free-form.
“My Love Won’t Wait” has to be my favorite off of The Bloom and the Blight. Can you tell me a little bit about it?
It’s partly fictional, partly biographical. Whenever someone is in love with someone, they’re obsessed to a degree. If there’s a certain emotion I’m experiencing, I like to exaggerate that emotion in songs and take it to an extreme that I wouldn’t actually take it to in real life. It’s entertaining to me, to live out a slightly elaborated emotion that I actually feel. It’s like allowing your fantasy to live on in some other form. Not that I fantasize about being some creepy stalker who won’t let this object of his affection escape or leave him or whatever. There’re certain feelings that I think everyone experiences when they meet someone that they’re really interested in. All you want to do is be with that person and see that person all of the time. If they didn’t want to be with you, it’d be devastating. I guess it’s just an exaggeration of that feeling.
Where does the bluesy feel of your music come from?
I’ve been listening to old-timey blues and country music since I was about 15. At this point, it’s pretty much engrained in me. If anything, this record is by far the least traditionally influenced record that we’ve made, but I still think it’s kind of inescapable.
I started playing music when I was about 12, but I got a little bit disinterested. I lost my passion for playing music because the music that I was listening to didn’t really excite me as much anymore, punk rock and grunge. It wasn’t until I was about 15 when I started getting really into a lot of old blues and country music, and I actually had a teacher who turned me on to Skip James and Son House and Howlin’ Wolf. That’s what got me back into playing music again. I stopped playing guitar for about two years or something, but when I was about 15 or 16, I started really getting back into it.
Have you ever considered adding another member?
We did at the very beginning, when we first started playing. We assumed that we needed a bassist, but we didn’t really need one. I don’t think that we’re influenced by The White Stripes, but it was definitely helpful to have a band like that come before us who was getting a lot of attention and doing very well, and just a two-piece. Drums and guitar. I think that just legitimized what we wanted to do a little bit more. It didn’t seem like this crazy idea. I know that there’re bass fans out there that might come to our show and walk away early, upset that they spent $15 to see us play because we didn’t have a bass player or something. That’s fine. I think we’re okay with losing a couple of potential fans. We just do what we do, and we don’t think too much about it.