The Stone Foxes Bring People Together
By Phil Reser
Music StandsJuly 2015
By Phil Reser
It's an indescribable feeling knowing that your music is not only entertaining people, but is contributing to a greater good on the streets of cities in which you’re performing.
The Stone Foxes are an original blues rock band based in San Francisco, led by brothers Shannon Koehler (singer, harp player) and Spence Koehler (lead guitarist, singer) who grew up in the foothills of California’s Central Valley.
After high school, the Koehlers begin attending San Francisco State University, and formed the beginnings of The Stone Foxes, which now includes band members Vince Dewald on bass, Ben Andrews on guitar and violin, Brian Bakalian on drums and keyboardist Elliott Peltaman.
“You do what the song needs you to do. That’s how this band does it,” says Shannon Koehler. “You can go back to Muddy Waters and further for examples of this. With us, there’s this filter of blues and roots that we’ve created by soaking up that music, and when we write, everything gets put through that filter. It comes out as who we are today, but everything we do goes through this cultural fuzzbox.”
Reflecting on the band’s last CD release, “Small Fires,” he says, “There weren’t any blues covers. Our songs were more complex and we pushed ourselves musically. We’re huge Bob Dylan fans and we love lyrics that really have something to say.” While putting that album together, Shannon was inspired to write a piece called “Goodnight Moon” by people he encountered on his daily commute.
“Every morning I walked out of the same subway station in downtown San Francisco seeing folks who had slept on the sidewalk all night, and I’d pass by them without batting an eye,” Shannon says. “The day I realized how easy it was to walk by when someone was just trying to say hello, I felt sick.” “Goodnight Moon” is the story of someone trying to find a place to sleep. “He may be suffering from some mental illness. Maybe he gets lost and can’t make it to a shelter so he ends up sleeping on a sidewalk.”
After the song was recorded, Stone Foxes began asking fans to bring non-perishable food items to their concerts, working with the California non-profit SuperFood Drive to identify
food banks and shelters in each city the group visited, the musicians delivering the contributions the day after each show.
“Music needs to be a tool to bring people together,” says Shannon. “So if we’re able to make a difference, get fans to donate, that’s important. It’s beyond yourself and it’s a really powerful thing.”
According to SuperFood Drive, one out of six people visits a food pantry because they can’t afford to buy food. Half are children. They also tend to suffer from obesity and chronic illness like diabetes and heart disease.
Meeting some of the people in the shelters prompted the band to produce a video project with a number of displaced folks living on the streets and shelters.
“The first recording we did at a shelter was with a man named Charles who had lived under a freeway,” says Shannon. “He sang our song about cold nights in the city. After we stopped rolling, he called me over and told me how much the song meant to him. You don’t forget things like that. Goosebumps and watery eyes were the norm at these sessions. At shelters on tour and at home in San Francisco, people who know hard times have sang with us and shared their stories. It’s been an honor to listen. We’re just trying to share their voices.”
For its upcoming album, “Twelve Spells,” the band has been releasing one track every month that fans can download online, in an ongoing “First Foxes Friday” singles series.
The finished product will be available in August, with added live versions, remixes, bonus tracks and a tour scrapbook.
Shannon says, “We play a live show that feels like we’re a high-octane GT 500 engine, but we wanted to get that feel to translate to tape. We took the straight up rock ‘n’ roll that all of us love to play, and went through phases of punk, country, folk and pop sounds. This collection is the documentation of that process. It’s nothing like the old school albums we’ve done before. The songs all feel different, but they come from the heart of the same rock ‘n’ roll band.”
Thursday, July 9, Vintage Wine Bar in Redding:
Friday, July 10, Lost On Main in Chico: