Post script to last week’s HOT Rewind and the “tequila” pictures of Reckless Abandon…After reading my blog, my boyfriend (who is right about MOST things!) walked over to my purse and said – nicely paraphrased – “You didn’t have an actual camera with you that night so you reached to the bottom of your purse and used the old pocket camera.” Oooohhhh (insert Edith Bunker light bulb here)…riiiight. THAT, my friends, must be the blonde. smh…
Sad news in local rock history…NRBQ drummer, Tom Ardolino, passed away January 6. A local legend, his death is mourned by many in the CT music industry. RIP…
Support LOCAL! And, as always…
Occupy a VENUE!!
“Spot”light on…Caravan of Thieves
The story goes… If Django Reinhardt, the cast of Stomp and the Beatles all had a party at Tim Burton’s house, Caravan of Thieves would be the band they hired.
Caravan of Thieves is a four piece gypsy swing band out of the Fairfield area of Connecticut. Comprised of singer songwriters Fuzz (of Deep Banana Blackout fame), his wife, Carrie, along with Ben on Violin and Brian on double bass. Formed in 2008, they have one studio and one live album under their belts and a new album hot off the presses in February.
Their unique brand of acoustic gypsy swing has been entertaining audiences throughout the US as they have toured extensively the past 3 years.
As I sat down to speak with Fuzz and Carrie, I found them to be personable, warm and completely in tune (pun intended) with one another with smooth and lively conversation as we go through my questions.
lsg: You started Caravan of Thieves with Ben on violin and Brian on double bass in 2008. What was your vision for this?
Fuzz: Well, we wanted to make music that was fun and interesting and stuff that we were passionate about. We were going around performing a lot in open spaces in the public and parks and it was almost sort of a street performance and we wanted to do something that we could perform anywhere – in a street or in a park and kind of keep that interactive form of energy and bring it to the stage. We were also really into gypsy music and swing music and that sort of stuff so the idea of keeping everything acoustic, which is what we were doing previously, Carrie and I as a duo, we love that sound because we thought it really complimented the harmony vocals a lot which was one of our focal points previously. So, keeping it acoustic and adding the violin and upright bass was in line with that. And was also typical of some of the early gypsy jazz groups and hot club stuff so it just made sense for what we were doing and we wanted to find the right guys who were willing to go, you know, a little bit over the line with how we perform and act and look and the kind of music we were doing and they were right for the job.
lsg: You’ve been working on a full length studio album. It sounds like I think it could be done, The Funhouse, which you are set to release nationally and have done some pre-release. Is that soon?
Carrie: Yeah. The record is done. We actually got it in our hands, or some copies anyway, at the end of the summer and we sold some pre-release copies this fall to people that came out to our shows. And we also gave them out to the people who did the Kickstarter Campaign (Program to help bands fund album production). It helped to raise money for the record and the fans get lots of fun rewards in return. So, there are a few copies out there but it’s not actually officially released to the world until February 28th. We are really excited with how it came out. We recorded it right next door. So it was a really fun recording experience. We were able to walk over to the studio and get right into it. We only have one studio album and we have a live album and so it’s a nice step forward from our previous studio album. The sound has really kind of evolved over the last 3 years. We’ve been touring all over the country and playing a lot of shows. It really allows you a chance to grow and explore your sound while you are doing that so.
Fuzz: And we’ve added a few more bells and missiles on this record from the first one. Using some of our on-stage antics with the banging on the buckets and pots and pans and stuff, it became part of the new record sound along with a couple other instruments that we thought would help color the sound that was still acoustic using a banjo and a ukulele. (We used) a resonator guitar which is kind of the old sort of blues type sound but it’s got a very gnarly kind of tone to it so it adds a little more punch and a little more grit to it than the first one while keeping the acoustic sound at the center of it all, you know.
lsg: I have heard “Eat You” and “Candy” and I loved them. Any favorites that you have coming off this album?
Carrie: Those are 2 of them, actually. “Raise the Dead” is another one that we just did the music video for and we’ll release in the next couple of weeks. We shot that here in Bridgeport and New Haven and Hartford.
Fuzz: Another homegrown project. The folks are from Hartford who helped us do the video. Dan and Nina are great videographers and producers so it was a great project. We shot it all in cemeteries and old theaters in the state of Connecticut. You know, that’s one of the great things about New England and Connecticut is that there’s a lot of old stuff here, a lot of history. And so we go to a lot of old cemeteries and buildings that kind of make you really feel like you are stepping back in time. Especially if you find the right spots so that helps contribute to the vibe of the video.
lsg: You’ve done some interesting covers like “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Psyco Killers” which, of course, I love and sort of think I know why you guys would pick something like that to cover, but how do you pick a cover song?
Fuzz: We usually try to pick something that’s like a good song that people would know. Because we know we’re gonna change it right off the bat, that we’re gonna make it totally different. We’re gonna fit it to the Caravan of Thieves sound which is not usually like too many of things except maybe if we cover some gypsy jazz which we don’t actually do because we like to cover other things that we are forced to transform in the Caravan of Thieves sound. So, we’ll pick something very recognizable like the songs that you mentioned or we do “Thriller” from Michael Jackson and things like that. We like to find something like that which is such a challenge because it’s so far removed from what we are doing so we get to pick it apart and put it back together. The only criteria is that it’s a great song and it’s got some kind of coolness to it because if it’s a little too poppy or a little too bubblegummy, it’s probably going to be a little hard to sound a little dark. So, even if it is like a happy song, it will still have to have something satirical or kind of cynical about it in some way. So we have to kind of pick tunes that have that. Like Queen has a classical influence in their sound so it’s kind of easy to do a Queen song in that way or “Psycho Killer” we picked because it’s a little dark and we did it for Halloween. It’s always easy to find songs to do for Halloween because they seem to fit with what we are doing.
lsg: Carrie, who’s your vocal inspiration?
Carrie: My vocal inspiration? That’s a good question. You know, I’ve been singing since I was 2, since I learned how to talk really. I think I grew up in a musical family where my father was a song writer and played guitar and would always be like “Find a harmony”. I always listened to a lot of great music growing up like the Beatles, and Dylan, and the Indigo Girls, Pink Floyd, you know a whole span, classical to classic rock. Growing up, there were some female song writers I really admired. One of them was Sara McLaughlin and Joni Mitchell and Ani DiFranco was another one. I guess my vocal style is just been something I’ve been working on, like I said, since I was a kid and that comes naturally to me. I’ve taken voice lessons and studied voice but essentially I always just kind of went with a gut feeling and what came naturally.
lsg: Fuzz, I’ve been a fan of your work for years. From Tongue & Groove and Deep Banana – and you still play DBB shows. How do you feel your music has evolved?
Fuzz: I mean it’s kind of evident how it has. I think it has evolved from, I would say stylistically; one of the most obvious things would be from going from playing electric guitar in a funk band to playing acoustic guitar in a gypsy swing type of band. But those are all conscious choices and I decided to do that because I wanted to change things up. You know, you kind of want to shed skin and break new ground and that sort of stuff to kind of change it up so as not to get stuck in the same place all the time. But I think that the biggest evolution over time has just been wanting the content and song writing to be more meat on the bones, I guess. The early days with Deep Banana doing that music, we were funk music and party and its fun so that’s always been sort of the main objective. But I wanted to come up with new music where I could expand the style more and not get stuck with one type of thing and also maybe make the songs have a little bit more lyrical content and get a little more creative with where the songs could go. I felt, in Deep Banana and in the funk music there’s kind of a specific way it has to be done if you want to do it right and I didn’t want to get stuck with that. Maybe it’s gone from the party song to some stuff that has a little bit more to it. A little more of a story to the songs, a little more substance. That’s been sort of the evolution in allowing more influence besides just a couple of things. Caravan of Thieves really has a wide range of influences sort of funneled into what we’re doing. To me, at this point, it’s kind of bringing together all the things I love about music and performance from a fun energetic and engaging show to intricate musical passages and melodic vocals and songs and harmonies.
Carrie: And the lyrics being a big part of it. We don’t skimp on that part of it. We spend a lot of time revising the lyrics and working on those.
Fuzz: I find that in this setting when we’re doing an acoustic show and we’re like talking about the sounding board where people sit and listen. To us the lyrics are hitting people more. In the party scene, funk scene the lyrics are not paid attention to as much, you know. And I’ve found that over the years, because I wrote a bunch of those songs too in Deep Banana, you know I always thought “How come people aren’t singing along”? Because they were just grooving out and dancing and that’s cool so the lyrics weren’t what that was about. It was more about getting down and partying and so I was like this is kind of cool that we can do something where people actually pay attention to the songs a little closer.
lsg: “Dude! I wrote this epic song! Why aren’t you singing it?!?!”
Fuzz: (laughing) I know. I know. That’s funny. You know its fine. I came to terms with that a long time ago. It’s fine. You don’t have to.
Carrie: I think people were singing along but you just can’t hear them cuz you guys are really loud! (laughing)
(This piece of the conversation becomes untranslatable because it’s riddled with all of us laughing. We stop to guffaw a little more before composing again.)
lsg: So, you guys were in the midst of a pretty extensive fall tour. Are the dates you are doing now, including the one January 14 in West Hartford, are they a continuation of that or is this kind of a warm up for the new record release?
Carrie: This is the calm before the storm! We had that nice chunk in the fall and we’ve had some time home and the dates have been local, New England shows and that’s what we were planning on through January/February. Just little weekend shows to kind of get new material going and playing here and there. We’re going to hit the road at the end of February and all of those dates will probably be announced in the next few weeks. We’re going to do a whole full spring tour with the release of The Funhouse.
lsg: Are we going to hear a little bit from The Funhouse?
Carrie: Oh yes! At the show? We’ve been playing a bunch of the songs at the shows. In fact it’s one of the best ways for us to kind of let the songs evolve and take on a life before we record them. It helps to really give them a chance to grow as we play them live, you know. So, not all of the songs will be played live and some of the songs we have not played ever live and may never play live. But a bunch of them like “Candy” and “Raise the Dead” and “Eat You”, “Monster”, those songs will definitely be part of the show.
Fuzz: We’ve even, since the record has been done, have been playing those songs and even transforming them a bit in the show so we kind of have live versions of the songs now that we incorporate even more of what we do on stage playing on the junk and the buckets and stuff and also some of the extended things that we would do in the show so they’ve been taking on their own life. We’re going to have a big announcement in a week or 2 and we’re going to be launching our new website and the tour dates. We’ll do it all at once and it’s going to be the tour dates, the website, the video, the record release. It’s what we are working on now. Final touches for everything. We’ve been behind the scene busy beavers putting everything together for the big announcement.
lsg: So, being a husband and wife team, how do you balance home life along with your professional life? How do you make that work?
(They both laugh.)
Fuzz: I guess I’ll start. Home life and professional life, they definitely intertwine especially because home life goes out on the road and then the road kind of becomes home life. And we do a lot of our music and business at home and so I think our biggest thing is that we have to consciously say OK, this is gonna be a time when we aren’t doing music and business. We’re going out and having dinner or do something as a normal couple. You know and then sometimes we have to be at home working on things.
Carrie: But sometimes we’ll intentionally kind of do both where we just got back from a little cabin in Virginia. You know, we wanted to have a little time away, just the 2 of us. But we also wanted to work on some new music so you know we got this little cabin and some time was just Fuzz and Carrie, married couple and then Fuzz and Carrie, song writing team and you know, worked on some new ideas. It’s fun. People ask sometimes is it hard, isn’t it challenging to work with your spouse? I think any marriage is challenging. I think it’s just…we wouldn’t have it any other way. We feel fortunate to share a passion we both have in our lives and have that time together. And I’d rather have more time with Fuzz than less so…
Fuzz: I think it would be more of a challenge if
Carrie: we were both doing our own projects and always touring and never seeing each other that would kind of not feel like a marriage at all. It’s not something we went into intentionally when we got married to be a musical partnership as well. That was something that came really naturally and we both realized it was a good thing together so we went with that. Otherwise we would have tried doing separate things but it just seemed like that was part of the whole reason we even met and came together.
Fuzz: I think it’s allowing us the opportunity to have both because I think that in some way one might not be able to happen without the other. We might have had to say we aren’t going to be able to keep pursuing this music thing because we’re doing it separately and giving us too much time apart or something like that. I think it takes a very special marriage for people who are musicians. There’s a lot of time we spend together but I think it takes a special kind of a marriage for what we do as well because I think that some people get on each other’s nerves and
Carrie: And that never happens to us nooo
Fuzz: But it’s not as often as you would think!
Carrie: I think that the important thing too is that you know we definitely have to make a conscious decision that this time is actually apart. This is Carrie time. This is Fuzz time and I’m going to do that and you’re going to do this. Whereas most couples naturally they have 2 different jobs, they don’t see each other during the day maybe and they come home and it’s like oh time together. So, we have to kind of go away intentionally and come back. It’s nice to miss somebody sometimes.
Fuzz: I miss yoouuu…
lsg: OK. So last question. And this is kind of my goof off, throw away question. Since it’s a new year, New Year’s Resolutions…Yes or No…and why?
Carrie: We aren’t really big “Well my resolutions is” people but one of the ones we did make was to keep better in touch with friends when we’re home. It’s so hard when you get back from touring because you just want to become a hermit, you know and stay in. But we really want to make sure we make more of an effort to maintain those friendships that we have at home because they’re special and we care about them. So that was definitely one that we said.
Fuzz: Yeah. Keeping in touch with friends and family too. Our families are here in New York and Connecticut so we try to do that. And I think also just giving ourselves and being able to separate that time. It’s easy to get wrapped up in things. We are very passionate about what we’re doing with the music so we want to give ourselves some designated, separated time. You know and putting time into normal people things that we don’t do a lot of like keeping our place more organized and stuff like that. And working on music because we spend a lot of time trying to make sure that the band is getting off the ground and that takes a lot of work when you’re getting started because you don’t have the best team together. So, you have to pay attention to all the little details and all the particulars about the growth.
Carrie: We have a new team in place because we are releasing the record on a label and we have new management. So hopefully this team will relieve that.
Fuzz: And they are. So that’s why we did that cabin get away. We said lets go have some time when we can really just focus on music and not be distracted by the other things that come along with being in a band, you know the business and
Carrie: The Facebook
Fuzz: My New Year’s Resolution. No Facebook!
Hmmm. Yeah. Mine too. Not!
Caravan of Thieves plays this Saturday, January 14 at Universalist Church in West Hartford. Show time is 8:00 pm. For ticket information, contact (http://folknotes.org/)
What’s HOT this week…
Friday January 13
*Bad Rooster, Illusions Dance Club, Wolcott – 6:30 pm
*Live and Local presents Little Ugly, Atrina, and Elison Jackson, The Wadsworth, Hartford – 7:00 pm
*4toGo presents On in 5, Four Points Sheraton, Meriden – 8:00 pm
*The Hippocampus, The Main Pub, Manchester – 9:00 pm
*I Anbassa, Two Boots, Bridgeport – 10:00 pm
*Indie Night at the Oak featuring Zen Lunacy, Night of the Rabbit, Shame and Cupcakes, Charter Oak Cultural Center, Hartford – 8:00 pm
*Riders on the Storm, Arch Street Tavern, Hartford – 10:00 pm
Saturday January 14
*Caravan of Thieves, Universalist Church, West Hartford – 8:00 pm
*All In, The Green Line Café, Wolcott – 9:00 pm
*Gray Light Campfire, LuLu’s Hot Spot, Bridgeport – 9:30 pm
*Diamondback and In the Red, The Brickhouse, Newington – 10:00 pm
*Big Fat Combo, CJ Sparrow, Cheshire – 8:00 pm
*Bandwith Karoake, Center Station Pub, Berlin – 8:00 pm
Sunday January 14
*In the Red, Webster Theater, Hartford – 4:00 pm
Hey! You! We’re not done yet! Check out my fb page – http://www.facebook.com/lsgoriginal – and follow my antics on Twitter at @lsgoriginal. Web page forthcoming!
Lisa Sanchez Gonzalez aka lsg
Lover of music and the visual arts, Lisa Sanchez Gonzalez is the insanity behind lsg original photography. lsg specializes in artist and performer photography. She’s had the honor of photographing national bands such as Weezer, Snoop Dogg, A Simple Plan, Paramore, Whitesnake, Wye Oak, and The Antlers along with countless local bands and performers.
Hailing from Hartford, CT, Lisa is a life- long music connoisseur. Growing up, her mother exposed her to everything from The Stones to Simon and Garfunkel to Earth, Wind, and Fire to Loretta Lynn…and everything in between. No genre was left unexplored in her vinyl collection. She saw her first concert at 14…Rod Stewart at the (then called) Hartford Civic Center. Thirty years later, it’s still her favorite pastime.
Lisa has two kids (grown!) and a day job. Her loves of music and photography have melded into a second career. And her love of CT keeps her promoting and pushing for local artists and performers. Lisa spends the greater part of her free time seeing and shooting live bands, performers, and artists and art work…and purchasing vinyl!