“This album should be played loud,” read the line notes of “Small Fires,” the new third outing from Bay Area blues-rockers The Stone Foxes. And rightly so. The disc – anchored in the gravelly vocals of frontman Spence Koehler and fiery harmonica of his drumming brother Shannon Koehler) crackles with Willie Dixon fervor, from the sinewy “Everybody Knows” to a stomping “Ulysses Jones,” a gravelly “Cotto,” and the forlorn “Goodnight Moon,” sung from the perspective of a homeless man. “It’s a totally conflict-driven record, whether it’s violent or religious or economical, given the hard times we’re living in,” says Shannon. “So if you have a ‘small fire’ of an idea you’re trying to get out? You’d better say it.”
You have a song about notorious boxer Miguel Cotto, and your album cover features a kayoed pugilist next to a bloody human heart. Big fight fan, are you?
Ha! Actually, anti-violence is a real passion of mine, and I’m a pacifist myself. But for some reason, I really get into boxing. So maybe I’m not a very good pacifist. But I was watching some classic old fights on ESPN Classic, and I ran across this fight with Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiao, and it was just unbelievable that this guy Cotto just had no idea when to take a hint. And you could see Pacquiao being the merciful god – he probably could have killed that guy. So it was an interesting life lesson through boxing – sometimes your pride can drive you to keep getting up when you really shouldn’t.
Your cover of Slim Harpo’s “King Bee” recently was in a commercial for Jack Daniels’ Tennessee Honey. How did you get that hookup?
Well, they were looking for a blues-rock band and talked to KROQ in L.A., and they said they knew us. So they called me and said “Hey – can you do a demo in two days?” But we were in Austin at SXSW, playing shows. So it was just absolute madness. We’d play a show, then go into this recording studio, come back and play another show. They wanted “King Bee,” but a rock version. So we did a couple of different tries, and they were mellow things. But then we played in this church house in Austin, banged out a great demo, and did the recorded version here in S.F. at Hyde Park Studios.
Was there free booze involved?
No. They just gave us money, which is fine. And of course, you wish the song was an original. But we did with it what we do to songs, and if that’s the gateway to somebody learning about us and our music, then that’s awesome.
IF YOU GO
The Stone Foxes
Where: Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Contact: (415) 346-6000; www.livenation.com