Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
Something that you shouldn't - and I've never - asked either of the Two Gallants, the rakish, stringy-haired drummer Tyson Vogel or the gentle-faced lead singer with the faintest look of a mean streak loitering inside Adam Stephens, is to pinch them or to feel for yourself the firmness of their biceps or deltoids. It's uncouth and terribly rude, but there's that seeing/feeling is believing mentality that you'd like to somehow confirm or dispel with those two. There's just no evidence in science, just in fiction, that anything other than hard living and carousing can pack on the years and make the 30-year-old appear to be close to retirement age and cheaper buffet prices at the Ponderosa or Bonanza. All those cigarettes and all of that hard liquor can whip you into the leathery goon on the outside and inside, but to keep the body, the outer appearance free from the accelerated aging process, while tagging the innards and especially the soul driving the engine with a certain degree of antiquity - learned and experience-based antiquity, but the same stuff all the same - is wholly impossible or next to it. Where one goes, the other usually follows at some point.
Stephens and Vogel are young. They've always been young and will be considered such for quite some time still. They're just small numbers, attached to the vine, pulled into the roots and tapping into the bloodstream without beginning to turn yet. They're green, hard as statue apples, violently gripping onto the branch they popped out of. You see, these two young men are mirages of vim and vigor, of libido, not lethargy and the graying of the temples, the winding of the days. This is the outside them, the veneer that reads as the 20-somethings that their birth certificates show. The inside them is all wrinkles and disappointment. Beyond the surface level is a world of years that haven't gone right, girls who have turned into ladies who have turned into women who have turned into grandmothers and then died (and those are just the love interests), and the diminished state of optimism. The longer you live, the more you've seen not work out the way it should have or was supposed to.
It is what it is, depressing as it may very well be. The coldness of it is real. When Stephens closes his eyes - on every album he sings, not just the excellent new, self-titled disc - he must see things that freak him out. They're meant to be the visuals for a much older man. Vogel must close his eyes and see the same things, or else he plays along with very realistic tellings of gruesomeness and tragedies that felled men who remembered where they were when Babe Ruth hit 60 homeruns in one season or when the Lindbergh baby went missing. Theirs is a world that belongs on old Super 8 mm film, projected loudly and crackly and still without any sound at all. It should be allowed to explain itself in vernacular that's completely outdated, almost in a Larry McMurtry meets William Shakespeare meets Deadwood, S.D., sort of way.
Something's happened to the way their insides work in response to the things that happen on the other side, where most of the electricity and all of the light is. They're comfortable, it seems, in the skin they wear, counterfeiting nothing and staring down the ladies who want to bid them adieu or locate themselves hundreds of miles of distance away. They sing of contradiction made more obvious a wealth of time. They are perfect complements to each other - two hammers when they have to be and one of each (the other being a down blanket or mattress) when the time calls for something altogether different. They don't find youth to be one of their stronger suits, just the only true path toward those timeless days of complaining about shit and enjoying every second of it.