The Stone Foxes spent a few days in New York City this month, playing the Mercury Lounge then heading into the studio to record some live tracks. I was lucky enough to hang out for a bit while they talked about San Francisco life and their recent NYC gig before heading back into the studio to perform a few of their songs.
Fortunately, I brought a secret weapon with me to meet the band- a good Northern-Californian friend of mine, who hails from outside of San Francisco, and was able to chat up keyboardist Elliot Peltzmann about “smart school” Dominican University, and drummer/vocalist Shannon Koehler about being from the mountains outside of San Fran. Not that I needed much help to feel comfortable– the atmosphere of the evening was super relaxed, with plenty of beer and pizza to go around. Vince DeWald, the band’s bassist, talked about learning how to play the right-handed bass upside down, but more appropriately playing a lefty guitar for the gig. I asked them about their recent show at Mercury Lounge, one of my favorite venues, and was delighted to hear that it had been the best show of their tour so far. After hearing their new album, however, I have a feeling that the shows are just going to get better and better. After telling Peltzmann about a pop-rock show I had recently seen at Mercury Lounge, he joked that the Stone Foxes were “taking the popular out of pop-rock.” That’s not entirely true of course, as the band, well known for self-releasing their albums, has built up a large following, played SXSW, opened for Cage the Elephant and the Black Keys and been featured on several major television shows in their ten years together, to name a few accomplishments. Their ability to get their music out there and heard by a large audience is really admirable, and they deserve all of their success.
The guys performed a few songs in the intimate studio space, and one that really stuck with me was “Cold Like A Killer,” which may be the best track off their new album, Twelve Spells. Frontman Shannon Koehler has always been open about his difficult medical past, having had 11 surgeries for an inborn heart defect. The song seems to be in part about this struggle and his pacemaker, with lyrics like, “It don’t feel like it’s a part of me” and “It feels cold like a killer on my TV screen.” The song is emotional, with steady drums and blues guitar, and seems to confront feelings of disconnect with another person. It shows that a song can be personal and discuss important, life-changing moments without being a love song, which so many bands tend to gravitate towards. Koehler writes a song that hits to the very core of his being, and makes you hate what he has to deal with– that’s powerful songwriting. The band also performed “I Am A King Bee” and “It Ain’t Nothing,” both of which illustrated the energy between the different members. You could see that they play off each other, and they all performed really well, showing a devotion to their instruments and their album. Another heartfelt, stand out moment was when Brian Bakalian played his violin.
Coming home from hanging out with the band, I started listening to Twelve Spells with a new, personal investment. At times, the record reminded me of the White Stripes. “Eye For Love,” the first track, is loud and heavy, followed by “I Want To Be You,” dominated by a powerful guitar, similar in style to the first track, but faster. “This Town” has a classic rock feel, while “Dying Star” is a little more country.
The Stone Foxes made an awesome impression, and I hope they have continued success. If any band deserves to go big, it’s them, but there’s also certainly respect in keeping it close to the chest and having control over your work. These guys have so much going for them, and they deserve all the praise they get.
– Claudia Arnoldo
Below, watch a video of the band performing “Cold Like A Killer” live at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall.