The Stone Foxes bond over the blues once removed 

click to enlarge The Stone Foxes say they don't care if anybody remembers their name.
  • The Stone Foxes say they don't care if anybody remembers their name.

The music of San Francisco-based rockers the Stone Foxes has one foot in classic blues and the other in a modern, individual sound. The band has refined its approach across four albums, starting with its self-titled 2008 debut, and built a large fan base in the process. But in the nearly two years since the release of its fourth album, Twelve Spells, things haven't gone so smoothly for the Stone Foxes.

"For a while it wasn't working very well," drummer-vocalist-songwriter Shannon Koehler admits. Less than a year ago, he was approached by bandmate and songwriter Vince Dewald. The bassist brought a song to Koehler and his brother, guitarist Spence Koehler.

The Koehlers didn't think "Christmas at McKinley Pub" was good enough to record. Shannon recalls thinking, "Well, shit... what are we going to do? Are we just going to brush it off? Or are we going to actually work through the struggle?" The band came close to breaking up at that point. "It was really scary," Koehler says. "We thought, 'maybe the chemistry here just isn't working.'"

After they seriously considered going their separate ways, the musicians took a shot at working things through.

"We had a little bit of whiskey — which never seems to hurt anybody — and we went to work on the song," Koehler recalls. (Whiskey looms large in the Stone Foxes' story; their cover of Slim Harpo's "I'm a King Bee" was prominently featured in a 2011 Jack Daniel's ad.)

They talked things out, found another chorus for the melody that suited everyone involved, and finished the track. The band's resolve and cohesiveness were strengthened by the whole episode. Soon after, they spent some time together at a friend's Central Valley California farmhouse, a getaway that yielded a clutch of new songs. "We decided, 'Let's just get back to the root of why we work together, because we have that blues narrative at our core.'"

The Stone Foxes don't play classic 12-bar blues, but the band acknowledges a clear debt to the style. "I think the blues is the base of everything," says Koehler. "We love all the originals, and we loved the takes on that by the British Invasion guys. I don't know if I would call us a blues band, but that's the root of what we are. And it's the root of what rock and roll is."

The band originally came together over its members' appreciation of the Grateful Dead, Canned Heat and Creedence Clearwater Revival, all blues-once-removed acts. Koehler recalls thinking, "I want to be a part of that lineage, however it can be. And I don't care if anybody remembers my name."

The group's plan — then as now, with a fifth album on the way — is to let all the influences seep into their collective psyche. "That's what was so cool about all those blues guys," he says. "They were all just trying to do it their way. And that's what we're trying to do."


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