A month or so back, I was given the opportunity to sit down with one of the Saddle Creek label's latest additions, Two Gallants. For the better part of the past four years the band has been on what is essentially one never ending tour, traveling all across North America and Europe, with their distinct brand of folk rock. A very distinct brand of folk rock. Combining a traditional storytelling element with raw instrumentals and somewhat raspy voices, Tyson Vogel and Adam Stephens create a sound much bigger than two members rightfully should be allowed to. Their latest album, "What the Toll Tells" which was released earlier this year, includes just drums, a guitar, vocals, and harmonica, but never comes across as sparse. Rather than trying to create some clever segue into the interview, or attempting to give justice what is easily my favourite album of the year, I suggest you take a listen to the band, or better yet, see them live. They're not a group that is given justice through mere words.
Scene Point Blank: As an introduction for the tape recorder here, and all the people sure to be reading this, I am sitting with Adam and Tyson of the band Two Gallants. Which is pronounced Gull-onts as opposed to Gall-ants.
Tyson: (laughter) He's done his research.
Scene Point Blank: I like to think so. As a band you two have approached the music scene without much exposure from the internet, having the majority of it come from word of mouth and playing live. How important do you think "the web" in general is, in terms of exposure?
Adam: I mean, well, I don't really know. I don't really know that side of it. For us it was just playing every single show we could. When we started we kind of put our training wheels on. We learned by playing all those shows, and just sort of let the music guide us as opposed to the crowd or whatever interest we got. We just played, and played, and played, and word got around by that. The internet, in a way, is a little artificial. You can record something and make it sound perfect, then over dub all this stuff, then put it up on your myspace thing or whatever. A bunch of people can listen to that and pass it along, but then they go see you live and it's nothing like that. It's cool for some bands to get exposure, and that's fine, but it can be kind of fake. You're not really earning your way, and you're not necessarily, completely, honest to what music should be about.
Scene Point Blank: Do websites like ours, or other forms of media, ever get considered?
Tyson: Again I think we both feel unknowledgeable. Neither of us ever really explore that side of it with computers and such. I mean, I like the internet. It seems like it's a really important medium in many ways. Apart from what I understand about how it affects our popularity and what not, it can be a really great tool for opening up people to new music and new things. It's free information, and on a basis you can't really beat that idea. But people start paying attention to certain perspectives, and certain opinions, through the internet; and whether they're true or not is a different story. Just the fact that you have the option of getting information at an art level is a great thing but all of it is still just opinions.
Scene Point Blank: What do you think is the biggest misconception about your band?
Tyson: I don't know if it's really a misconception, but when we play in certain cities, or get booked with other acts, people tend to think we're a quieter band, or more acoustic, or whatever. We started out kind of quiet but we're quiet loud nowadays. I guess that's one…
Adam: I think the big misconception is that we're a two piece. I mean, we are a two piece, but that's not how we define ourselves. People give that so much hype. Two pieces have been around for a lot longer than all these critics are willing to recognize. There have been blues two pieces forever, back in the day. Now there is like a few drums and guitar two pieces, and sure we're another one of them, but it's not how we define ourselves. We're a band, and it happens to be the only way we wanted to do it was with a two piece. I don't think you have to have the whole formula of guitar, bass, and drums to have a band. There are lots of different ways to do it, and we figured we might as well.
Scene Point Blank: Do you ever get limited by that? I had read a couple of months ago you were looking for a bassist…
Adam: That was totally misquoted. (laughs) They asked us if we wanted any other members and we told them when we started we were looking for a bassist. This was before we had even played any shows, and at the time we thought we needed one. Then we started playing shows and people seemed to think that we were fine so we went with it. We haven't looked for anyone else since. I don't like to speak for the future, but for now I think we're fine.
Scene Point Blank: In the vein of critics getting things wrong, the band has come under a lot backlash because of a certain reviewers opinions about your song "Long Summer's Day". As I see it it's just another narrative song in what is really a narrative album, but would you mind explaining the whole situation and your take on it?
Adam: About the narrative bit, that's what I would say as well. The reason why there has been such a big reaction is because it's about…well there are words in there that us as white kids supposedly aren't allowed to use. The N bomb; we're not allowed to drop that because it doesn't concern us; but these days you hear it used completely out of its original context. I mean, you walk on the street you see Asian kids calling Latino kids nigger. White kids call each other that. It's the general vocabulary. I don't use it. I don't call my friends it. There is no disrespect meant, but if it's going to be used as freely as it is now, I don't see why we can't use it in a song that's actually putting it in its original context.
It pissed off one guy because it's a song written in the first person. It's not written that way because that concept of such extreme prejudice is something either of us could understand. It's just written in the first person the same way novels have been written from different perspectives for the last hundred years. It's nothing new. I think the reason that the song isn't as digestible for as many people is because this type of thing isn't done as much in music; it's done in literature. You see this type of thing in praised novels, and poetry, all the time. When you do it in the song, especially as young, white, hipster kids, you're not allowed to write like that. I mean, whatever.
It's obviously created a lot of discussion about it, which to me is really important. I'm willing to talk about it whenever, because I don't think anyone has the right to tell us what we can write about. I guess that can be the government's job to tell us when we're overstepping our bounds; but some indie rock website has no right to tell us what's right and what's wrong, or tell anyone what's right and what's wrong because they don't write the book, and there shouldn't be a book in the first place.
Tyson: He didn't understand where we were coming from. He thought the song was a cover song, and it's not a cover song. There was one line which was based off a traditional song, and in traditional music that's been happening for hundreds of years. Bob Dylan, Pete Seger, Woody Guthrie, all those folks did the same shit. We're not nearly the first ones to do that.
Scene Point Blank: Two Gallants is one of the only bands on the Saddle Creek label not coming out of Omaha or having some sort of major ties there. How did that relationship come about?
Adam: Just from touring a lot. Passing through there they say us, and thought we fit.
Scene Point Blank: So there is no big story.
Tyson: (laughs) Was there supposed to be a big story?
Scene Point Blank: …I thought there might be. Why do you think people should listen to your band?
Adam: I don't know… I don't know why they would want to. (laughs) Don't listen to our music, we're a bunch of racists.
Scene Point Blank: We'll finish it off with something easy. I get the impression from your music that you guys like to drink a lot, what would be your drink of choice?
Adam: Oh wow…you're really asking this? You were doing so well with all those media questions and what not… It depends on the mood. Sometimes there is nothing like a nice bottle of red wine. But I'd say, I'd have to go with a micky and a 40 of malt liquor on a street corner.
Tyson: I'd like to add a nice bottle of vodka in there, cold.