The Stone Foxes are a group of guys who play badass heavy blues-rock and explode with energy onstage for super-exciting shows—and whose talented keyboardist is looking for a woman to call his own and, until recently, thought “MMM Bop” were the only lyrics of the song.
Yeah, I think that about sums it up.
Spence Koehler, Shannon Koehler, and Elliott Peltzman make up the core of the band, with Zach Ryan and Brian Bakalian filling in temporarily on bass and drums respectively. Glam caught up with the group at Ploom’s S.F. event at the Mission District’s glam-grunge The Chapel in the waning days of summer, meaning we were all bundled up appropriately for the chilly Bay Area weather.
I’d seen them play earlier in the year at the Jansport Bonfire Sessions evening, where a Stone Fox had climbed on top of the equipment for a high-vaulted tambourine groove. I knew I liked them before, but the spontaneous speaker dance sealed the deal. On this round-two experience, I quickly figured out that the performance shenanigans were just an example of how the Stone Foxes get things done. They’re full of life in the least cliché of ways on and off the stage, and their primary goal is to find connection with the audience through musical engagement, whether it be the crowd at a corporate event like the one I had met them at or the masses of a rock music festival.
That night was no exception. The group powered through their high-energy set of sing-along anthems with attention-demanding vocals that they all participated in, cool keyboard crooning via Elliott, a harmonica solo performed by Shannon, and Spence’s killer strings. Shannon took to the floor to call for an audience stomp circle during one rock-influenced riff, which the people, Glam included, participated in without question. The guys had told me earlier in the night about a show in Missoula where they, along with their small audience, had stripped off their tops. ”We’re not a shirt-taking-off band” Shannon insisted. And seeing the well-meaning power this band had over the Ploom crowd, I believed him. Shirt removal was just one of the random crazy stupid things the Stone Foxes can make happen when they take the stage.
Despite the rock-star professionalism, the Stone Foxes came from humble beginnings—a trio of Central Valley–Nor-Cal kids, some of whom ended up in San Francisco for college, who came together as a garage band before starting with some self-releases and eventually touring. Things got serious soon after: They opened for the Black Keys, showed at Outside Lands, and most recently headlined the Fillmore. In February, they released their new record called Small Fires. While no single thing can be credited for their success, the group acknowledges the influence that the cultural city they call home has had, agreeing that San Francisco’s unique, deep political and spiritual leanings have trickled into the music.
And along the ride, they’ve remained genuinely cool with one another too. Halfway through our chat, Zach’s six-foot-plus body ricocheted onto the ground, his chair flipped over, his legs in the air. Two beats later, the band’s inevitable harping on their fill-in bass player had begun, the witty snipes and jokes at full-throttle—”Put that in your women’s mag!”—before finally asking solicitously, “Wait, are you in pain?” Uncensored familiarity. Bona fide friendship. Brotherhood. Family. What other scene could have so organically represented such genuine banter among a genuine band. When asked about this de facto family they clearly had developed, about roles each may play, the guys agreed. Spencer is a realist, an “it is what it is” type of guy, balancing out brother Shannon, who is sometimes emotional and worrisome, and Elliott is their token reserved intellectual.
With several shows by the Stone Foxes on tap around the U.S. in the next few months, I’d suggest you leave the stilettos at home and get to a dance-demanding set. Just don’t ask Elliott for a Hanson cover.