Back when local rockers the Stone Foxes were just beginning, their main goal was simply landing a gig at the humble Hotel Utah. The SoMa saloon on 4th and Bryant seemed to be the place of their peers and a marker of success.
“To us, that was the pinnacle. In college, we knew a bunch of people in bands who were playing there and we felt like, ‘Man, everyone plays the Hotel Utah! We want to do that!’” drummer Shannon Koehler tells the Appeal.
Three albums and five years later and the Stone Foxes have gone from seeking out any gigs they could find to finding themselves overwhelmed with performances, an experience that saw the foursome play a marathon 12 shows in just four days at this year’s SXSW.
“We had a day where one show started at 4pm and the next one was at 5pm at another venue. We were swift with our schlepping and got lucky because the venues were across an alley from each other,” explains Koehler.
SXSW also acted as a gateway to the Stone Foxes’ touring life. Jansport followed and filmed the band for a full week, nabbing footage of live shows as well as other surprising performances.
“It was pretty nuts. We did all these weird gimmicks,” Koehler says, “I dressed up as Mrs. Doubtfire and rode a mechanical bull; just zany things to keep to yourself sane.”
Their latest album, Small Fires, sidles right next to that fun-loving side with a heavy dose of darker imagery. Produced by Dan Boehm, who’s done work with the Vines and gone but not forgotten SF band Girls, Small Fires comes on with sparks of energy radiating throughout its ten tracks. Opener “Everybody Knows” is a jolt to the system, its opening bursts of guitar punctuating frontman Spence Koehler’s cries of guilt in this day and age.
The Stone Foxes have always been a band with a social message and their current tour reflects that explicitly. Each venue acts as a donation site for canned goods and nonperishables. All items are donated to local shelters and nonprofits. Those donations act as an important extension of their message, especially in San Francisco, where they’ll be playing the Fillmore this Saturday.
“We have such a high population of folks who need it,” Koehler says.