Two Man Gentleman Band dismisses the ‘retro’ label

The Two Man Gentleman Band is Full Condon, left, and Andy Bean.
The Two Man Gentleman Band is Full Condon, left, and Andy Bean. Photo provided

Rye whiskey and wry humor are the modus operandi of Los Angeles’ Two Man Gentleman Band, a string instrument duo with a vaudeville flare. Within the past decade, the pair — multi-instrumentalists Andy Bean and Fuller “The Councilman” Condon — have gone from Central Park buskers, to a hot national touring act with seven albums under their belt to Disney Channel composers.

Based in the musical idioms of the early 20th century — most prominently ragtime, blues and jazz — the Gents’ original tunes boast boisterous rhythms, tight melodies and a good-time atmosphere, complete with an occasional shot of hootch and ribald innuendo.

The milieu of the Roaring ’20s is en vogue thanks to films like “The Great Gatsby” and TV shows like “Boardwalk Empire.” Don’t, however, write the Gents off as a novelty act looking to cash in. Bean maintained in an interview that he and Condon simply aim to play the music they love, squeezed through their contemporary sensibilities.

Weekender: What attracted you to the sounds of the early 20th century?

Bean: It’s hard to pinpoint an exact “Ah-ha!” moment. Fuller and I met in college in New York City; we were both playing in rock bands and that was leaving us unfulfilled. We heard some recordings from the period on the internet — then, just like today, you could pretty much discover any genre of music there is to hear through the internet — and delved into it. Dance band jazz from the 1920s, 1930s Western swing, and a little bit of 1940s rhythm and blues and doo wop became our reference points for Two Man Gentlemen Band.

Weekender: And those songs and styles were considered “pop” for their time, correct?

Bean: Oh, yeah. There was a commercial aspect. Tin Pan Alley in Manhattan was around back then, turning out hits weekly.

Weekender: To that end, as all eras of pop will have their supporters and detractors, is the classic argument “This generation’s music is superior to that one’s” even worth having?

Bean: It’s tempting to take a romanticized view of “how it was” when it comes to popular music, but that’s not applicable in every instance. Some musical ideas can’t be bound to one moment in time. A person wouldn’t say “This is so 200 years ago!” while watching an orchestra play classical music. We’re contemporary men, we don’t mind the present. At the same time, we don’t see the music we play as retrograde. We’re not trying to replicate a certain singer, or the way any one particular recording sounds. We just like it, and want to play it our own way.

Weekender: Two Man Gentlemen Band composes and performs music for the Disney Channel show “Wander Over Yonder.” How much of a departure from your albums and stage shows has that work been?

Bean: The lyrics are certainly family-appropriate, but the musical ideas are our own and we maintain a focus of appealing to both kids and adults. The actual show is like that — it’s very colorful and psychedelic; there are elements that children and their parents can enjoy. It’s been a great experience to compose for the show. At no point has anyone said to us “Make it sound like ‘kids’ music.’ ” So, there’s a good deal of creative freedom there.

Two Man Gentlemen Band’s latest record, “Enthusiastic Attempts at Hot Swing & String Band Favorites,” was released in July.