CL Feature: Two Man Gentlemen Band, a Tin Pan Alley/R&B/hot jazz/Western swing neo-revivalist duo from NYC who play New Word Brewery on Thursday, Sept. 30 (audio included)

The resulting tunes are rather clever, although Bean admits, “there’s a song on the new record that’s very silly and not terribly sophisticated, ‘I Like To Party with Girls.’ It was written on the spot, when somebody was introducing us to somebody else as being guys who ‘write smart songs.’ And I wanted to disavow them of the notion right there. We like to follow our baser instincts sometimes, not just use our heads.”

[image-1]Bean and Condon met several years back as students at Columbia University in NYC, and played in some college rock bands until they eventually broke off to form a two-piece. “We had some old time songs that we’d written, and we took them out to the park, and people just started throwing money at us,” Bean says of their first experience performing. That was the summer of 2005 and they continued busking every weekend for the next few years that followed. “Then we got impatient dealing with lousy weather, and more importantly, it’s really competitive to street perform in NYC – you have to get up at 7:30 in the morning to go get a spot, even though you won’t actually get any money until noon. So we took the act on the road.”

TMGB has put out six albums over the five years they’ve been active, including Live in New York! in January and their fifth and latest studio album,!Dos Amigos, Una Fiesta!, in August.

The Gents actually invited their fans to vote on a song topic to be tackled in !Dos Amigos, Una Fiesta! prior to its release. The result, “Put it in my Ear (When You Make That Music),” turned out to be easy and fun to write. “The topic that received the greatest number of votes for us to write a song about was ‘two-man music,’ and that, of course, is one of our passions. The second place would have been more difficult – actually, it wouldn’t have been difficult, but it would’ve been a little more dubious. It was a song about the Clap.” He laughs. “But that also could’ve been done nicely, too. You know, there’s clapping and then there’s the Clap. We could’ve worked both in.”

Live shows are high-octane affairs and draw incredibly diverse audiences that vary in age and musical interests. “We don’t do too many shows where we just show up and play for people who’ve never heard of us and we have to win them over from scratch. Not that we don’t enjoy doing that, because we do. We get them all to shout along about fancy beer and William Howard Taft, so we get them rowdy no matter who they are.” Bean says although he thinks it’s become less important for people to see them live because their recordings have gotten so much better, “We would rather people come out and see us rather than just buy the record, just ‘cause we like to see people and we like to see how they respond to our songs.”

Two Man Gentlemen Band has already enjoyed a career pinnacle – opening three dates for the Bob Dylan-Willie Nelson-John Mellancamp 2009 summer tour. “We still have no idea how it happened and in retrospect, we had absolutely no business being there,” Bean remembers. “We opened up in these giant stadiums that were already full of people when we went on, and we played and people went sufficiently bananas for our taste and we got to stay and watch Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. We said at the time that we had achieved our maximum level of success on those nights, and it was all down hill from there.”

Two Man Gentlemen Band

with Poetry n’ Lotion, Thurs., Sept. 30, 9 p.m. doors, New World Brewery, Ybor City, $7.

Check out Live from New York! below, which includes many of the tracks mentioned above, LIVE!, so you get an idea of what you're in for...

A pair of blithe and dapper chaps in vintage suits and hats sing in robust two-part harmonies, the one named Andy Bean (below right) taking lead vox and playing guitar and occasionally banjo, the other, Fuller Condon (aka “The Councilman,” left) plucking away on upright bass, both delivering performances with charismatic finesse and trading quickfire, seeming off-the-cuff repartee in the midst of much whistling, scatting, heel-kicking and foot-stomping.

The New York City acoustic duo is Two Man Gentlemen Band, its members neo-vaudevillian entertainers with matching offbeat wit and the ability to craft it into irreverent ditties within a 1920s and ‘30s-era stylistic framework, their sound drawing on Tin Pan Alley, classic rhythm and blues, Western swing, and hot jazz influences. They are inadvertent revivalists, however. According to Bean, “we just wrote some tunes and they sounded old fashioned ‘cause that’s what we were into, and then we just sort of ran with it.”

Subject matter ranges from historical – the Hindenburg disaster, the woes of Presidents William Howard Taft and Franklin Pierce, the former too fat for his own good, the latter too dependent on booze – to absurd, like upbeat numbers on drip-dryin’, chocolate milk, reefer, moonshine and fancy beer (a crowd favorite), or faux-balladry using mini-vans and sandwich-making in naughty metaphor (“I’ll be the bread, honey, you be the meat …”).

There’s virtually no research involved. Ideas for songs are spawned during those seemingly endless hours on the road (upwards of 200 days a year) as the Gents attempt to break the endless tedium by amusing each other. “Pretty much everything we’ve ever thought of comes at those times. We’re kind of mining our brains of everything we’ve ever learned.”

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