Meet The Two Gallants. Perhaps the loudest dreamers to stumble into your life with a clutch of heartbreak and a story to tell.
Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel make music that is steeped in traditions of America. Playing just drums and a guitar they write songs which could drain your heart of blood as it departs in a schizophrenic scramble of love and regret.
Rarely does a recording possess so much unbridled honesty, assumed pain and a driving need to reflect than that of The Two Gallants. You can effortlessly recall the wildest corners of the dusty world in which they have travelled together as best friends, documenting their lost love, chances and dreams. It’s atmospheric to say the least.
“The funny thing about our songs,” muses drummer Tyson, “is that they come out dark and heavy and in some ways it’s the nature of how we see these things. I don’t think that it’s always pain and anger. What some people find harsh to someone else can just sound honest. To a certain extent that’s just one side of how Adam writes. We don’t really speak about it.”
Their first album, ‘The Throes’, was released on Alive Records, home to The Black Keys. The US press immediately dubbed them ‘The Blacker Keys’ thanks to the angst, pain and sheer darkness they cram into their earthy blues folk tales.
Tyson however defends their love of the melancholic: “Even when honesty is a happy thing it can be kinda sad. You are told that your grandmother passed away, it’s a heavy thing but it’s an honest moment as you have to admit that death exists but at the same time it’s a happy thing.”
Adam takes up the point: “I would like to think of it as more of a celebration of pain and anguish if anything. I don’t consider our shows to be depressing and I don’t really know of too many people who do. But the record is a different thing and darker thoughts arise when you are locked alone in a studio. We do have some playful songs out there but they just tend to die off much quicker.”
They also get the expectant and unimaginative comparisons to The White Stripes but to dwell on this would be to advocate idiocy. Their blues, folk, rock combination however was quickly identified by indie stalwarts Saddle Creek who have just released their second album ‘What The Toll Tells’. It’s a work riddled with the stories of a man with his eyes and heart wide open. Taking their lead from Country narrative they plead, shout, scream and thrash their fresh path through the musical Wild West where few have yet ventured on record.
Although still young the lyrical content hints of years which belie them. Adam’s vocals are revelatory as he himself admits. “There is clearly something confessional in some of the songs that I can’t really help but I still feel a limitation in words and music. It’s like having to fit something vast through a very small hole; some people can do that with ease; others can’t. I am not sure where I stand. All I know is that it does not come very easily.”
To write songs in a universal way you need honesty. It doesn’t mean that you have to be a tortured artist.
The singer’s bloodied and raw vocals kidnap your attention as quickly as the agonised death screams of a large animal would in a black night on the Yorkshire moors. Their recent single ‘Steady Rollin’ hears Adam confessing having shot his wife before dumping her body in the ’Frisco bay. It’s delivered with such force and agonising poetics that you find yourself subconsciously believing him before the track ends and the spell is broken.
Both Gallants studied as artists after travelling extensively and clearly have an appreciation for the wider arts, taking their name from the sixth chapter of a literary classic. “We both decided on it a bit hastily, it comes from a James Joyce novel called The Dubliners and within this it’s about all these people and their lives in Dublin. We both felt an affinity towards the name and the characters represented the dynamics of both us as people and of friends. The chapter follows these two characters throughout a day and it delves into their relationship and the way the go about their day. Of the two characters Corley and Lenehan: Corley is outspoken and dapper whilst Lenehan is the artist and he’s a little more shy and like introverted and cautious – we joked about how we were like these characters.”
Their bond as musicians is deep but their bond as friends is almost eternal in the scope of their brief lives so far. They have known each other since they started school and have grown up side by side. They toyed with the idea of getting in bass players or experimenting with strings. They even made signs and put them up around the in San Francisco where they failed their art degrees, with corresponding results.
“We decided that it was a little unnecessary. Also we felt that it was honest and to a certain extent it would be hard to bring in someone else but because me and Adam had been so close for so long and with that a friendship and a musical connection which would be hard to duplicate if someone random came in. In the end it’d cover up a lot of things which I think keep us special because a bass sometimes smoothes things out. We wanted it raw and emotional.”
In that case, smash up the bass. The Two Gallants need nothing more than each other, their battered instruments and enough space to live another day and bequeath their legend to a song, a ballad which no doubt would have a universal accessibility around the world, a fact Tyson recognises.
“To write songs in a universal way you need honesty. It doesn’t mean that you have to be a tortured artist, there’s no right way, and if someone feels something then you have to follow it. Like if you listen to old county songs, like Johnny Cash, which have all been universally accepted but some of the songs I don’t think he even necessarily felt himself but just understood the songs. It’s maybe more like an awareness of a certain thing you are focussing on, the mode of life and frequency of things around you, to write something that is universal has to do with just being open mindedness.”