Even if you don’t recognize the name, you’ve probably heard the Stone Foxes. Their music has been used in multiple TV shows, including Showtime’s Shameless, FX’s Sons of Anarchy and a 2013 Jack Daniels TV campaign that prominently featured their cover of Slim Harpo’s “I’m a King Bee” (a song once covered by The Rolling Stones).
Ahead of the release of their most recent album, the Stone Foxes ran into an increasingly common problem for bands these days.
“Every single person who makes vinyl is backed up like 6 months,” singer and multi-instrumentalist Shannon Koehler says, referring to a global dearth of vinyl pressing factories.
Despite the hold up at the plant, the San Francisco band’s fourth full-length, Twelve Spells, still managed to ship in time for its March 18 U.K. release. When I speak with Koehler, he is just completing the final preparations for shipments and signing records for pre-orders.
Though technically an album, the production of the set of songs on Twelve Spells was unorthodox. Instead of going into the studio to record the whole album in one go, the songs were recorded at different times. Even more unorthodox is the fact that the composition of the band itself changed in the process. In this sense it is a document: capturing a band in flux, and highlighting the changes the band has gone through since being featured on national television.
“It was this chronicle of how new guys got into the band,” Koehler says, describing the album’s development, and the gradual accumulation of new members.
A propos of the process, the band decided to release each of the songs individually, putting a new one online once a month for a year.
“At the end we thought, well, this is an unconventionally put-together record,” Koehler says. “Should it be put out like a conventional record? We kinda thought it would be cool to give our fans something new every month.”
It’s clear that the whole band thinks of the record as their first step in a new direction. And for the three newest members (guitarist, bassist, and drummer), it literally is.
Since its U.S. release last September, the band has been touring regularly, crisscrossing the states and making their first jaunt across the pond. England is a long distance for the California natives, and they recently followed up the tour with a show that took them almost home, to Fresno—near where the core members of the group grew up, just outside the even more remote Tollhouse, population: 2,000.
The group’s rural upbringing is clearly audible in their sound, which pays homage to all things Americana. And though it might now have rebranded itself around hyperreal techno-capitalism, not that long ago, the sound of San Francisco used to be similar.
“There’s such a rich heritage,” Koehler says, poignantly, on the music of San Francisco. “From the garage guys, down to the punk ’80s scene, to the Dead and Big Brother, and Quicksilver Messenger Service, Canned Heat, Sly Stone, and all that stuff …”
The sounds of San Francisco’s Summer of Love can be heard all over Twelve Spells. Keyboardist Elliott Peltzman channels gone-electric Dylan with tremulous, “Like A Rolling Stone” organ and stabbing metallic Rhodes chords. Lead guitarist Ben Andrews strangles his axe with Hendrix-ian aplomb and occasionally picks up a fiddle along with bassist Brian Bakalian. And when the Foxes are quiet enough, you can almost hear the casters of the speaker cabinets rattling in harmony with the amplifier tubes.
With these elements in place, they have all the touchstones of a classic San Francisco lineup. Though they’re based only an hour away, the Stone Foxes have rarely played in San Jose.
“It’s kind of bizarre,” Koehler says. “It’s like Santa Cruz, you know, they’re both great spots, but for whatever reason we don’t get down there very much.”
For years there was not a single mid-sized venue downtown. But with the recent opening of the Ritz, more national acts—like our neighbors, the Stone Foxes—are finally coming to San Jose.
“We’re excited,” Koehler says. “Its cool to be able to stay close to home on a weekend and just party as hard as we can.”
The Stone Foxes
Apr 1, 8pm, $10-$13
The Ritz, San Jose