The first time I saw Two Gallants perform was at a San Francisco house party in 2006. There were maybe 100 people dancing in the yard, getting day-drunk on a tub full of PBR cans as Adam Stephens' gorgeous electric guitar finger-picking and Tyson Vogel's dynamic drumming carried in the wind. Two Gallants' brand of abrasive, but pretty folk-punk has always galvanized enthusiasm, whether at an impromptu show in the park, or at a sold-out club in Berlin. The duo went on hiatus in 2008, after six years of touring steadily. Stephens released a solo album, We Live on Cliffs (Saddle Creek), and Vogel formed the string metal band Devotionals. They reconvened three years later and moved from Saddle Creek to Dave Matthews' label ATO Records to release The Bloom and the Blight. Before making their way to Atlanta, Vogel took a few minutes to talk about getting Two Gallants together again.
How are things going? Last time I saw you, you were playing with Devotionals.
Things are OK. I'm in San Francisco in the middle of a break from this whole touring process. It's been positive and strong, but you have to pay attention to your health.
Tell me more about the new music you are working on?
I think there's been sort of an expansion. Maybe I'll play guitar and he'll play piano or we'll do just like an a cappella thing. Or, we'll turn around and write this super bluesy, heavy song. I feel that a lot of this newer stuff incorporates still that younger, aggressive kind of nature, but it's soothed by more of a mature opportunity to express a broader musical language, if that makes any sense.
Was Two Gallants planning on getting back together all along?
We were going to take one year off and put out solo records and try to understand our voices as musicians and individuals, then start playing together again. But it took three years instead of one. Adam got into his car accident and wasn't able to even hold a guitar for four-five months, and I was in a very destructive long-term relationship. In the end, the music came together when we both needed it.
How is Adam doing? What were his injuries?
Well, his car flipped three times with his band, and he was in the back seat, so he got smushed against the ceiling with his arm above his head. It severely dislocated his arm — his shoulder — and being in the middle of nowhere, it took them two hours to either get there or get him to the hospital. But as far I have seen and been around for the past two years, he's doing well.
When playing the songs that you wrote before you further developed, do you bring something new to them?
Yeah. Absolutely. Perhaps that's why we were always touring so much, because we were just never comfortable with the static nature of the songs. That's why I think we returned to those tunes, because we really want to get to know the song. And by getting to know them you let them live in real life.
We just got back from this European tour, and we have a lot of new songs already that we are kind of ready to record. And we were playing like six new songs in a set of 12 songs or 14 songs, and we would constantly get these critiques, especially in Germany, just like, "You're playing too many new songs. I want to hear the old stuff."
To think that people won't be able to receive that sincerity because they're so stuck on wanting to hear the same thing makes me nervous, you know?
Older folk songs were passed around a lot, and kind of belonged to the community. It's harder now for music to live in the world because there's so much ownership over it?
The idea of ownership of art is very bizarre, especially in the American context, because everything here has to be owned. Having anything public is a fight. Perhaps folk music had that window, and country and blues had that window. Blues existed for entertainment and for people to get together and to experience each other and find elation and sadness. We've always incorporated more traditional forms because music is folk in the first place.
That's something I always experienced at your shows, that feeling of community, and not just because it was at someone's house.
Those house parties and all those places we went, that's why I believe in them so much, because I think that it represented a similar mindset. So the house party did help. I think the environment helped. But it wasn't that solely.
Does the rarity of that feeling of connection with the people around you contribute to smaller attendance at shows?
It probably does. That's why we try to play house parties as much as we can. But to not want to go to a venue where a band you like is playing is a little sad. To say that people aren't going to shows as much because of this feeling is representative of a much deeper issue in our cultural mindset. I hope that the kids these days are picking flowers for their crushes instead of sending them text messages, but I kind of doubt it, you know?