Whether you realize it or not, you have heard The Stone Foxes before clicking into this article. The powerhouse brothers Shannon and Spence Koehler have been writing, recording, and relentlessly touring their politically charged, hook-heavy rock and roll under the name for fourteen years, and their music has been heavily featured in film and television, appearing in the series Sons Of Anarchy, the Academy Award-winning documentary Free Solo, as well as ads for BMW, Jack Daniels, Budweiser, and Levi’s, to name a few.
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The duo is soon to release a new EP called ‘Gold’, that recorded with their mainstay partners Ben Andrews, Brian Bakalian, Vince Dewald, and Elliott Peltzman, and featuring three amazing female vocalists Oona Garthwaite, AhSa-Ti Nu Ford Tyehimba, and Kelly McFarling on two tracks, including the first single, “Can’t Go Back.”
The new single features virtuosic guitar work by Ben Andrews and Spence Koehler (who, if you listen close, throws in a squelchy nod to the Beavis and Butthead theme in the first guitar solo), and with hooks so instantly satisfying, it’s no wonder The Stone Foxes have been so successful having their music placed all through Hollywood. The groove grabs you quick and doesn’t let go, and the chorus and background vocals pack a punch that makes it hard not to go right back for a second listen.
For music so energetic, it’s also quite thoughtful. Writer and singer Shannon Koehler told American Songwriter how he eschewed introspection in favor of writing songs that try and make sense of the times.
“I’ve been trying to be a little more vulnerable in my writing and look at things in myself, but then there was this feeling of the whole world going nuts, reverting back to another time, and things just weren’t making sense,” he said. “The whole time I was thinking, haven’t we been through this already? Haven’t we progressed? And all these songs were written as a reaction to this upswelling of nastiness, with the Charlottesville riot and everyone becoming a lot more conscious with the me-too movement.”
This fear of backsliding and losing ground on progress made is evident in the lyrics, “I’ve got a feeling that I can’t go on/ But I can’t go back/ You know I can’t go back/ To the dark age/ On the side stage/ To the good old boys in the old days/ To the ruler/ And the führer/ In the same nightclub as the crooners singing.”
The songwriting process in The Stone Foxes is truly collaborative, with Shannon explaining how the melody came to him as he hummed along while the band jammed to a chord progression from Ben Andrews: “It started with that and then I wrote the lyrics and we jammed it out together as a band, and I didn’t have the chorus figured out but I knew I wanted women’s voices on it, because it felt like there had to be that female representation on it in a song like this, and it was really cool to get three of my favorite Bay Area voices Oona Garthwaite, AhSa-Ti Nu Ford Tyehimba, and Kelly McFarling. I was singing the chorus with them on the recording, and Ben said, ‘you’ve got to get your stupid voice out of there.’ So, we cut me out during that chorus until the end and kept their voices, and they destroyed it. They were great.”
For Shannon Koehler, collaboration is an essential part of the DNA of all The Stone Foxes’ work.
“I write the lyrics and think of melodies in my head so I can hum it out to my brother or to Vince, or Ben, or whoever we are writing with,” he said. “But it actually makes the song better when I rely on someone else to think of different chords or to hear it a different way, because I can sing something to someone and it can come out completely different, and you kind of go, ‘oh, well I didn’t think of it that way, but that’s really cool so let’s go with that.’ Pretty much all The Stone Foxes’ songs are a big collaborative effort with a lot of different writers and things like that.”
The new EP Gold is out February 28th, and The Stone Foxes will be on the road with a headlining appearance at NoisePop 2020 (San Francisco, CA: Feb 29) and supporting dates across the country this Spring.