Today, I talk with Spence and Shannon Koehler, brother-
bandmates in the San Francisco- based rock band, The Stone Foxes. They talk to us about the origins of the band, the rules of the road while doing live shows, and their process of writing
their highly acclaimed album, Small Fires.
Can you tell us how the band originated?
Shannon and I have played music together for as long as we can remember. When we got to college, we put the band together with some of our close friends and roommates at the time and started playing around SF doing the bar band thing.
Where did the name for the band come from?
We thought it sounded like the music we were playing, and was a bit of a goofy thing to call a group of dudes, and we liked it that way... so it stuck!
It's been said that your music incorporates many musical styles including rock, country, blues, and a touch of San Francisco. Could you tell us what the latter entails?
I'd guess that would relate to the musical and cultural melting pot that SF has come to be. In the 60's, Santana was mixing Latin beats with rock and roll here in SF, and The Grateful Dead were mixing blues with long psych jams. The city's neighborhoods and people are just as interwoven. It all plays together and affects the music we make.
You covered a very well known song called 'I'm a King Bee' which was featured in a national commercial for Jack Daniels. What was that experience like?
It was a surprise to us to get the phone call. We worked on demos for about a month until we finally had a version that Jack's CEO gave the nod to. It?s been fun rolling into a new town and hearing that people discovered us by Shazaaming the commercial and are now fans.
It seems that when siblings are in bands together, it can get old real quick, and some of those bands break up time and time again. What do you guys do to overcome this pre-conception?
Shannon and I are pretty lucky to be such great friends. We've gotten along like this most of our lives, so it's just a natural thing for us. It's very easy actually... if Shannon gets mad at me, I just buy him an ice cream.
Rock musicians are known to boast about their exploits with sex, drugs, and booze. How do you guys break that mold?
The drug thing is overrated, and keep in mind this is also a business no one wants to depend on a burnt out business partner. But hey, take it easy... no one ever said we don?t enjoy a cold brew and the company of a beautiful lady!
You guys are known to test new songs constantly during your live shows, something a lot of bands are afraid to do. What do you see as the benefit to this, and are there any songs that completely didn't work?
It's good to know if people like your songs before you put them on a record. During a drop or a climax, you can find out whether people dig it or not. If the claps are outrageous, then it goes on the priority list. If the claps are like crickets, it's time to rethink some things. And oh yes, we've played duds before. But like Batman's dad says, "Why do we fall Bruce? So that we learn how to pick ourselves up."
Any really interesting (good or bad) stories while on the road and/or playing live?
We have a rule that if only three people show up to a show, we all have to play without our shirts on. We got worried one night in Missoula, MT, that we would have to, but a good crowd showed up, thank goodness. When we told the crowd about our rule and how happy we were that we didn't have to play with out shirts, they all start yelling at us to take off the shirts. By the end, everyone in the venue was in stomping and clapping in a circle without shirts on. It was a glorious day to be a Stone Fox.
There's nothing like some good stomping and yelling in unison to get an audience behind you, something I feel your band perfects and so many others fail. Why do you think this may be?
Clapping can feel like a schtick, and unnatural. But I think when everybody in the audience is on board with you, they feel the music the same way that you do, and that giddy up energy just starts making it's way out of our hands and feet together.
What's the process of writing songs with the band? Lyrics first? Music first? Does it change with each song and/or album?
It totally depends on the song. I'll bring in lyrics and melody to Spence or Elliott, or Spence will have a riff and I'll write lyrics to that. We find that most things are successful when written with just an acoustic guitar and a voice or piano and just a voice. If it sounds great simple, it has a very good chance of sounding great with a full band.
What advice would you give bands just starting out?
We love The Band, and Spence and I grew up on our mom's Led Zeppelin 4 album, but there are a million contemporary bands and old school bands that we love. We would be bummed if someone said we sounded like Michael Bolton, but then again, he's got millions of dollars in his bank account and we don't, so maybe we should give him a little more credit.
What's next for The Stone Foxes?
We finished up our big tour with a show headlining The Fillmore, and now we're wrapping up some new demos. We're really excited with the way that they sound. More recording and writing is on deck, so stay tuned!
Visit The Stone Foxes website by CLICKING HERE
Visit The Stone Foxes Facebook page by CLICKING HERE
View the official music video for 'Everybody Knows' below