Last Saturday afternoon I chatted with Two Gallants’ Tyson Vogel from his apartment in San Francisco. His cohort, Adam Stephens, was somewhere in Paris visiting his girlfriend while the band enjoyed some much needed time off the road. “When we have some down time, we’re on opposite ends of the world,” Vogel said. “This has been the longest break in the past three months. We finally got two weeks off, and we’re both reveling in it.”
We spent most of our interview talking about the Walter’s on Washington incident and the aftermath. That part of the interview will go online tomorrow as this week’s column.
The rest of the time was spent talking about Saddle Creek, the band’s new EP and opening for what would seem to be oddly matched bands, like Against Me! and Les Claypool. Vogel and Stephens bring an interesting perspective to working with Saddle Creek Records. They’re really the first band signed to the label that didn’t have direct personal ties to anyone in any of the other Creek bands (read about how they got signed here). How happy are they with the label?
“The reason that we stay with Saddle Creek is we enjoy working with them,” Vogel said. “We do get frustrated with how hands-off they are. They always have good ideas and opinions, but they really want to keep the artist in control of the art, and we both admire that. That’s why we enjoy working with them. They’re respectful of our ideas and have a good sense on how to get things done. They also have good distribution and work with the industry without pandering to it — that’s a great thing. They stay true to their nature; they enjoy music and want to keep it that way. It’s been really good working with them.”
When I pressed him on the frustrations, Vogel clarified his comments. “It’s not frustration,” he said. “We don’t know about this music business stuff. We just know how to play music. One of the reasons we like working (with Saddle Creek) is that they put a lot of consideration and thought into things.”
The band’s new EP, the 5-song The Scenery of Farewell, was released in June and though it’s a departure instrumentally for the band, their signature sound is still there.
“I would hope that (the EP) would have the same feeling,” Vogel said. “In the end, it’s not that we’re purposely trying to do anything different. What makes it different is the songs come from a slightly different place. These songs demand more than the electric bass songs. We’re putting this out because it’s just as important as electric or loud songs. It’s more stripped down in the sense that the songs aren’t that complicated and demand a different kind of playing. At the same time, they’re just as full or even more so, since we have these other players playing with us and adding other layers.”
The band just finished a 3-week acoustic tour of Europe with additional support players — and it may be the last time they play songs off the EP live. They’re going back to their two-piece configuration for the Against Me! tour. “The acoustic shows can be heavy and dark at times. It’s not for every night.,” Vogel said. “The songs on the EP have opened up both of us internally to let go a bit more, so we can keep on writing songs.”
Songs for the new self-titled LP, slated for release Sept. 25, were recorded at a completely different session than the EP. “Originally, the EP was supposed to be a full length, but we took three songs off — we didn’t like how they came out, and it would have been a long, heavy record. One of those songs will be on the new full length. I would say this record is really significant because we never recorded songs without playing them live.”
Vogel said the band traditionally spends a year playing songs before putting them down on tape. “For this next album, we haven’t played the songs for anyone yet. Not to be too lofty, (Adam and I have) come separately and together into the music more. This next album represents a change for the better, it’ll be different than What the Toll Tells and more similar to The Throes.”
Combining Two Gallants with Against Me! for a tour seems odd. Against Me! plays relatively straight-up FM alt rock — quite a contrast to Two Gallants’ more traditional sound. Vogel said he and Stephens invited the contrast.
“The Les Claypool tour was a weirder mix,” he said, adding that he grew up with the early Primus records. “One night we ran into each other, and Les and I talked and had a good conversation. I admire him for his creative judgement and ideal in life. He invited us to come on tour. We knew it would be a very different audience. With Against Me!, people have told us for a long time that we should tour with them, and we have mutual friends. We thought it would be fun because they always seem to pop up in the periphery. I hope that we’re not too much of a downer. The first band (Gaslight Anthem) is more of a punk band. Actually, it’s more involved than punk, very melodic and kind of anthemic alternative, I guess.
“The last tour broke us in. The Les Claypool fans are pretty intense. There’s a story about Rasputina going on tour with him and getting pennies thrown at them. If the music is so different but comes from a similar place, it can still come off. People there to see Against Me! might find something they can relate to in our music. I’m a proponent for an eclectic show if the mood or energy is right. There are too many shows where the bands are too similar. It’s good to be pushed to look at different things.”
I told Vogel that, on a certain level, Two Gallants’ style seems more mature, more sophisticated and certainly more literate than typical rock music. It seems to have a new classic American style that stands on its own beyond that genre. Did they ever look around at their environment and ask if they’re reaching the right audience with their music?
“I don’t think he or I really try to think about it that way,” Vogel said. “I think if you become too concerned about it that you will always be unsatisfied. And that’s not the point. If the honesty and integrity comes off, if certain people are drawn to that, then great. Music is a necessity for us. We’d be doing it anyway. We’re honored to be in front of this many people. All we have to focus on is doing it right.”
Tomorrow’s column: Two Gallants and Walter’s on Washington.
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The first time I heard “Lazy Eye” by Silversun Pickups I naturally thought it was a new Smashing Pumpkins song. I mean, it sounds almost identical to “1979” right down to the bouncing bassline and Brian Aubert’s Billy Corgan impersonation. The rest of Carnavas is just as Pumpkinesque, which is great, I suppose, if you’re a big Pumpkins fan. I never liked the band (other than “1979”). I find it odd how something so derivitive of another band could become so popular unless the kids picking this up never heard Mellon Collie (released in ’95) or Siamese Dream (’93) before, which is very, very possible. Anyway, Silversun is playing at Slowdown tonight with Dangerbird Recording artist Sea Wolf, and it’s SOLD OUT. Also tonight, at Saddle Creek Bar, it’s Lucia Lie, Paper Owls and Civic Minded. $5, 9 p.m.
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