It’s just another day in a life of a California rock star as Shannon Koehler gazes at the lofty buildings of the San Francisco financial district. He’s on his way to meet with his lawyer before brainstorming ideas for the newest Stone Foxes music video. Yes, they still make those.
July 3 | 6 p.m.
Sally Gephardt Amphitheater | Truckee Regional Park
“It’s a lot of bullshit, but it’s really fun,” says the 32-year-old frontman for one of San Francisco’s best living rock bands. “I keep trying to look up and it’s giving me a good perspective.”
Part of his work today consists of trying on various pairs of white pants for the upcoming shoot.
“I’ve got these little spindly legs, so I gotta have the perfect pants,” he says. “No one likes shopping around in these department stores. I’m in the dressing room with Levis I can’t get my legs out of and an ass that fits just right, but I think we’ll figure it out.”
After another day in the trenches, Koehler BARTs back to Ocean Avenue where he’s watched the Golden Gate city turn from bohemian mecca to corporate dystopia before his eyes.
“The wealth disparity is incredibly real, and we sing about that a lot,” he says. “I feel like its always good to dive into the injustice. It’s incredibly inspiring for dark and beautiful music. We’ve been lucky enough to keep it rolling and that’s wonderful, but the city’s hard for a lot of people. At this point, we’ve made it a point of pride to stay in San Francisco and keep playing music in the city that we migrated to. It’s the roots of everything that we started playing. We’ve grown up and gotten our own tastes and turned the music into our own music, but to be a part of that and to follow in the San Francisco path has been a beautiful experience.”
Later that night, Koehler will scope locations for choreography in an Oakland neighborhood, probably Rockridge or somewhere nice and quiet where he won’t cause too much trouble.
“It’s all part of the gig,” says the humorous, yet humble artist. “Somebody has to figure out how many hip thrusts to do and where the people show up for the random dance party.”
The video will support a new EP The Stone Foxes plan to release this fall. It’s been four years since their last LP “Twelve Spells” and its 2016 follow-up “Live From the Loin” on which the crowd was instructed from the outset to “be f**king loud.”
They might not have needed that much encouragement. Since forming in 2005 when brothers Shannon and Spence Koehler left the sleepy Southern Sierra hamlet of Tollhouse for college at San Francisco State, they’ve been a hard-driving, passionate and fearless city mainstay known from stripping rock ‘n’ roll back to its primal roots in no-holds-barred live shows.
Shannon describes Tollhouse as “a post office with a gas station and what used to be a videotape rental place”.
“That’s why I play,” he says. “I just wanted to play baseball and he got a guitar and if I didn’t do that with him, I didn’t have no one to play with.”
Although Spence rarely plays live with the group anymore — he helped open for Weezer at the Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium in January — he and Shannon still get together to write music for the band.
“My god growing up was Bob Dylan,” says Koehler. “I’ll argue the merits of song versus jam all day long, but I need the song, the lyrics and the story. Being up front a lot more singing and playing harmonica, it’s like an evolution. For so long, I was really concentrated on drumming and trying to get better at that. My focus sort of switched to melody and vocals and what are we really trying to achieve outside of hitting hard all the time.”
A rotating cast of Bay Area contemporary, rock-music royalty including Elliott Peltzman, Vince Dewald, Ben Andrews and Brian Bakalian flesh out the unfiltered, straight-up rock ‘n’ roll performances on the road.
“I’ve always been a people person,” he says. “I love the music, but most of all I love the people. Although we never totally get away from where we came from, if you stop moving you get stuck and you get in a f**king rut and that’s no place to be. There’s an evolution happening in myself and in everyone in the world so that’s what I’m feeding on to. It feels good if you can embrace it.” | tdrpd.org