Two Gallants

Two Gallants Biography

Two Gallants traveled thousands of miles, across counties and continents, to make what the toll tells. Their sophomore album swells with the kind of worldweary storytelling and musical dexterity that arises from travel, loss, and triumph coupled with an unusual affection for literature and legend. But it all starts and ends with their home, the city streets of San Francisco. Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel have been friends since the first grade. Their earliest gigs were on Mission street corners, a fresh-faced band earning an audience in front of the 16th Street BART station. They’re both still on the sunny side of their 20s, but know there’s a badge more telling than age. So they continue to draw their path with humility and brandish music like a beacon.

It’s a style that allows for little flourish, where every element has stark purpose: two voices, guitars, drums, and a harmonica. Overdubs and guest musicians are kept to an effective minimum. With that lean arrangement, Two Gallants reveal a thousand tales, a dizzying timelessness, and a potent range of emotions. Once they took to the road, Adam and Tyson found instant grass-roots rapport with fans across the U.S., and word spread quickly. In short time, they went from hand-to-handing their homemade CDRs to national distribution of their acclaimed Alive Records debut, The Throes. Not surprisingly, England also took notice: NME lauded their breakout performance at last year’s SXSW, while London’s Rough Trade record store declared The Throes the first great album of 2005 and recently included it in their top 20 albums of the year. Their initial flirtation with British audiences came in front of 2005’s Reading & Leeds festivals.

Now signed to Omaha’s Saddle Creek on the strength of their debut and riveting live show, Two Gallants present what the toll tells, to be released in February 2006 in America and Europe. The album was recorded on 2-inch tape at San Francisco’s Tiny Telephone studios by Scott Solter (Spoon, Mountain Goats, John Vanderslice) and steps up with a greater sense of hurt and humor, and more melody and racket than their previous work. The almost casually insistent hooks, observational songwriting, and tangled interplay remain, but here emerge with a deeper musicianship and broader scope. While the epic lament of “waves of grain” waltzes like slow heartbreak beyond the nine-minute mark, “16th st. dozens,” one of the first songs written by the band, unloads in a quick, blitzkrieg fury. Adam narrates the first-person account of an outlaw at the gallows in “las cruces jail,” the record’s country-punk first single, and unspools a gorgeous paean to city strife in “age of assassins.” Tyson might be the Cassius Clay of drumming, dropping crescendo blows on the venomous “long summer day” and nimbly jabbing through the album’s crux -- the boozy, rapturous fan favorite “steady rollin’.” The boxing metaphor is apt -- there’s opposition and cooperation, beauty and violence, when this duo steps into the ring. what the toll tellsdemands patience and an emotional commitment. It rewards with understanding and a renewed faith in so-called folk music; that is, music made by folks.

These folks, Two Gallants, have had each other for years. With what the toll tells, they give a little of themselves to us.

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