Andy Bean has a confession to make about the Two Man Gentlemen Band: They are bi-coastal.
"That's right. The Gentlemen are living the bi-coastal lifestyle. Both of us felt like we'd done our time in New York and it was time to move to where we wanted to move to."
Bean moved to his wife's native Los Angeles, and partner Fuller Condon moved to Charleston, S.C.
"It turned out to be no strain on the band whatsoever," says Bean in a phone call from his home. "For two guys who have very little equipment it's easy to slide back and forth when you need to do tours. And we've found there are people here who are eager to hear Two Man Gentlemen Band music that we hadn't gotten to before, so it's working out well."
The Two Man Gentlemen Band are unlike just about any other act performing today. The duo tap back into early jazz, ragtime, blues, country swing and maybe a little rockabilly. They write original songs, but the songs are in the style of vintage tunes. In that spirit, the duo sing an awful lot of songs about drinking and food. The duo's new album, "Two at a Time," contains the songs "Pork Chops," "Tikka Masala" and "Don't Water It Down" as well as upbeat numbers such as "Prescription Drugs."
"On this one we said, 'We don't need to do any songs about food and drinking,'" says Bean. "But it turns out that we can't help ourselves. They just come out! If nothing else, it leaves things honest. It's what we know and it's what everybody knows! I eat and drink almost every day!"
Bean and Condon first met at New York's Columbia University when both auditioned for a rock band named Clancy. They both became part of the group, but dropped out to pursue music that reflected the vintage styles they loved. Before too long the friends' love of old 78-rpm records and vintage songs got the best of them and the Two Man Gentlemen Band, with Bean on banjo and tenor guitar and Condon on stand-up bass, was founded in the early 2000s.
The duo incorporated lots of humor and style of vaudeville and hokum groups from the 1920s and '30s — although the two never pretended to be purists."Two at a Time" takes the duo's love of vintage sounds one step further. It was recorded with vintage equipment and sounds more like something recorded in the 1940s or early 1950s.
"It seemed logical to us since our favorite records are older records to do it, not necessarily as gimmick, but just to do something we liked the sound of," says Bean. "I knew there were certain guys around the country who had old set-ups like Jimbo Mathus from the Squirrel Nut Zippers, and there are other guys spread around the country. But we found this guy out here in L.A., who used to play with Big Sandy and the Fly Rite Boys (Wally Hersom) who had all the stuff. We said, 'We just want to record straight to mono tape.' And he said, 'That's good. That's all I got!' So we were good to go."
The new album reflects Bean's love of swing guitar pioneer Charlie Christian.
"It's all from the same family. We're just going off in different branches," he says. "Our spirit stays the same, but our approach changes a little bit and that's enough to keep it interesting for us. On this album we're a little swingier than it has been in the past, and I'm playing guitar more where it was the banjo. So we're branching out more in small ways from record to record. In the live shows we put in everything."
He says the interest in groups like the Avett Brothers and Old Crow Medicine Show might help the Gentlemen Band, even though they don't have the same sound.
"I think a rising tide lifts all boats," says Bean. "Even though I wouldn't say any of our records sound like an Avett Brothers records, they have a banjo and we have a banjo. But to people to whom the subtleties don't make a difference, it just sounds old!"
Two Man Gentlemen Band
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Morelock Music, 411 S. Gay St.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!