Adam Stephens, guitarist and songwriter of Two Gallants, is going to miss The Grill. He remembers enjoying a band in the Red Room while he and the other Gallant, drummer Tyson Vogel, dined post-show with friendly Tucsonans.
It’s a poignant memory that fits neatly, if a bit painfully, into themes from the duo’s latest release, “We Are Undone,” a song cycle preoccupied with the passing of things that matter, as all of us stand passively by, hopeless or heedless. The song “There’s So Much I Don’t Know,” for instance, reflects Stephens own sense of estrangement from his changing hometown, San Francisco. Longtime downtown Tucson denizens may empathize.
The title song is a raging, and crazy-danceable anthem to waking up and paying attention, for God’s sake, to what we’re doing to our world and our society. And, more importantly, what we are allowing others to do.
Two Gallants songs can also be amusing, novella-like or gothic, couched in music that can fill a hall with as much grunge-thrash-Southern-headbanging guitar rock as it can hold. They make an ample racket, and a thrilling one, much bigger than concert-goers might imagine. And they occasionally even flip into a singer-songwriter mode that could satisfy a hardened shoegazer, with borderline antique-y story songs like “Katy Kruelly.”
The arrangements on “We Are Undone” span the duo’s musical range, but the mood of the lyrics, at least in the songs that stick in your brain, is mainly bleak. Is that intentional?
“I think there’s some humor in some of our songs, a little bit more lightheartedness,” Stephens says. “I guess this last album is probably more cynical.
“I’m not writing with a lot of intentions. If it’s bleak in nature, that’s because what we’re doing to our surroundings—the environment, the world that we depend upon, that’s extremely bleak. And most people just would choose to ignore it. That’s how our society and our economy functions and keeps functioning, by people ignoring the consequences of the things they do and the things they’re dependent upon.
“I’m not trying to shame anyone. I think (the) recurring theme in the album is my own guilt.”
The concert at Congress is sure to let us off the hook somewhat with a mix of songs from the band’s repertoire. Still, maybe we should pay attention to the band as a gateway to paying more attention to our lives. “I think there are so many things about our lifestyle that we could change that would help the world,” Stephens says, “just getting involved a little more in decisions that are being made on their behalf. So much of our political system has been taken over by people who don’t care about others.”
As examples he cites small towns and communities that have banned plastic water bottles and plastic bags at convenience stores. I explain that the Arizona state legislature passed a law forbidding any government entity to disallow the use of plastic bags. A silence ensues. It’s a case in point.
It would be a mistake to think that any Two Gallants concert could be tied up in pedantry. In fact, asked what to look forward to at the Congress show, Stephens responds, “There will be lots of nudity!” Note that cameras are allowed.