You might not expect a band that launches into a version of “Psycho Killer” to care about much beyond a hard pounding beat. But the Stone Foxes are different.
“We might seem aggressive when we play,” founder and lead singer Shannon Koehler says, “but we’re huge believers in community, social justice, and taking care of one another. Our goal is to create a sense of oneness.”
What began a decade ago when two brothers dabbled in The Rolling Stones, Zeppelin and watched The Band’s epic film The Last Waltz over and over as students at San Francisco State has blossomed into one of the city’s most socially conscious, prominent young rock bands, well-rooted in the past yet assertively looking forward.
The group does a few choice covers like Slim Harpo’s swamp rock classic “I’m A King Bee” and Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer,” but this is an almost entirely original setlist, replete with ’60s-style social protest lyrics with all cylinders firing.
“We moved to San Francisco precisely because of its rock ‘n’ roll lineage,” Koehler says. “Things are kind of screwed up these days, and our generation needs to be the one to buck the system and create positive social change.”
Instrumentally, the band is prolific and multi-talented. All but one of the members double on other instruments, creating diverse lineups like three guitars, harmonica and violin, anchored by precise keyboard work. Every member also sings.
“It’s cool having such versatile musicians and they’re all just monster players,” Koehler says. “We play straight-up rock ‘n’ roll with a little piss and vinegar.”
The band’s recent fourth release, City on the Water, is a case in point.
“It’s about our love/hate relationship with San Francisco,” Koeler says. “We love it for being one of the most creative and happening cities in the world, but we hate its dark side of hunger, income inequality and homelessness caused by the exorbitant rents.”
The band has a forward-looking outreach program called Goodnight Moon. Audiences can bring cans of non-perishable food to the merchandise table at shows and in exchange receive a free 7-inch EP. The food is distributed to the Bay Area’s homeless. A win-win-win.
Heady stuff, yet the group maintains a sense of humor. “In the very beginning we would show up at gigs and club owners would ask where all the hot babes were,” Koehler says. “We would say, ‘You’re looking at them!’”
LIVE IN THE VINES WITH THE STONE FOXES 6pm Thursday, July 26. Folktale Winery 8940 Carmel Valley Road Carmel Valley. $25-$45. 293-7500, liveinthevinesfeaturingstonefoxes.eventbrite.com