Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel began their careers performing at bus stops and on subway platforms of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system in San Francisco. Since then, Stephens and Vogel — together known as brooding folk rock duo Two Gallants —- have gone on to play some of the biggest festivals in the nation.
A long way from those subway stops, the duo is currently promoting their new album, The Bloom and the Blight with ATO Records. They've also just embarked on a four-month tour across the United States and Europe.
But it's an unexpected return for Vogel and Stephens. In 2008, they announced a split, and have been absent from stages and record stores for almost five years. For drummer Vogel, the hiatus was seen as a time to grow and mature as artists.
“The couple years we spent exploring other avenues of creativity I think allowed for the dust to settle internally. I feel we have a clearer vision of purpose within the organic process of excavating sounds and the spirit is at the root of every little sound.”
The group returned for their hiatus stronger than ever; new release The Bloom and the Blight is the most ambitious record to date.
Fans of Two Gallants will recognize the familiar scratchy vocals of frontman Adam Stephens as well as the blues-laden folk rock. Critics are quick to point out that the album doesn’t venture far from expectations, nor does it disappoint. But one standout quality of the record is the unexpected turns many tracks take.
One song of note, “Decay” written by Vogel, is a dreamy, slow and uncommonly acoustic variation from the gritty, rugged sounds featured on the majority of the tracks. The lyrics are just as haunting. Vogel’s musical inspirations from this album speak to the new avenues explored by the band; he cites both ZZ Top and R. Kelly as influences for this record.
Although not short of eclectic, it may be difficult to pinpoint exactly where R. Kelly fits into the equation. With melancholy lyrics such as, “My coat pockets full of stones / Hurl at your window while you sleep / You don’t let me hang around / but I’mma tear your ass down / run to the river bridge and leap,” it is evident most of the album is born of something heavier. But the overall feeling of the collection is summarized easily in the album name. The record represents both the bloom and the blight, exploring and relishing a vast spectrum of artistic sentiment and expression.
Where does this wide array of expression come from? Aside from some of the more predictable artistic influences such as dead authors, nature, and “the greats,” Vogel also cites “absinthe, a walk through the park or through obscure and silent darkened alleys,” as primary influences. These unique pockets of inspiration translate themselves into a unique sound, a unique album a unique band.
Vogel has always drawn inspiration from realms outside of music. A painter since childhood, he claims to have “an eclectic slew of interests that I have to keep up to aid in keeping head and heart away from the wolves. Photography, illustration, gouache painting are all present while we transient through these landscapes.”
As for the tour, Vogel hopes to keep a sense of present awareness in their music and performance. While compiling the set lists for each individual show, Vogel prefers to, “listen to the nighttime, to [the] environment, see what it asks for.” The organic approach has always seemed to work for the band. When it came time to producing the record after being on hiatus, the group chose to record the album exactly as they wanted to, then let the business side of things take care of itself. Ultimately, ATO accepted the record as is and offered to release it with no corporate haggling involved.
Fans cross their fingers the group will stay together after concluding this tour. According to Vogel, the band intends to continue writing and recording after touring for this album.
“It seems we will be on tour for a good amount of time, which we are honored to be able to do. These songs deserve to live, and we are the vessels of this intention, so we will be delving into that big world for a while. Then, back into the studio.”
As Vogel says, “The Bloom and the Blight is as present in expression to how we feel currently, and as honest as our previous recordings. In a strange way I feel we have matured, while musically exploring a more innocent time.”
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