STORY WRITTEN BY DAVID WANNOP
For Digital First Media
I met Caravan of Thieves at the Philadelphia Folk Festival a couple years ago, long before songs from their current album, “Kiss Kiss,” were written. A dynamic festival and theatre band, they will soon take the stage at the Sellersville Theatre. Via e-mail, Fuzz and Carrie Sangiovanni, the song writing duo and married couple in the band, spoke to me. They insisted on first name basis.
I queried about festival vs. theatre energy and presentation.
“The song selection doesn’t change all that much, it’s just varies in our execution, and that goes for any type of venue from small listening rooms to huge outdoor concert fields, said Carrie. “The smaller and more intimate the venue, the more we focus on the intimate connection with each person in the crowd. As it gets bigger and more spread out we focus more on bigger musical moments and gestures, things that get everyone reacting together as a group.”
Fuzz explained the contrast between the current album and previous releases. “We loosened the grip a bit more on some of our connection to gypsy jazz and swing era music and filled in the gaps with a broader range of sounds and styles. Still going for some form of retro, exotic and mysterious where needed, but allowing the songs to dictate the musical setting, not the other way around.” Carrie added, “We also allowed the instrumentation to expand outside of the norm for our ‘four piece acoustic band that occasionally drums on buckets and bowls.’ So we included some circus organ, marching band instruments, honky-tonk piano, cello and a few other unexpected additions to our freaky orchestra.”
Carrie described the method they used on “Kiss Kiss” which contrasts with how they made albums before. She said, “On the last two studio albums we put the material together and recorded everything within six to eight months. For ‘Kiss Kiss’ we did much more editing, both on our writing and studio production. We wrote, recorded, rewrote and rerecorded most of the music two and three times, over the course of a year and a half. Fuzz and I really stepped into the role more as producers and even engineers on this one. We did most of the vocal tracking in our bedroom….”
One thing that didn’t change is their effort to capture the energy of the live performance in the studio.
Even still, some songs took longer than others to jell.
According to Fuzz, “Shortest had to be ‘I Got You.’ We intended to keep the feel simple and spontaneous, so we didn’t over think the song or the production.” Carrie added, “The longest was probably ‘Parents.’ Or ‘Punch’? We had been playing both of those live for the past couple of years, taking them in and out of rotation and making changes to them as we went, all the way up through the recording and post production sessions.”
Fuzz clarified as to why they recorded an album in a world increasingly lending itself to downloaded singles and EP’s. He said, “It’s just been a while since we released anything, so we wanted to get as much new music out as we could. And often we write many songs at once, and they all seem to lend to a bigger concept and mood, so putting them all together in a collection such as an album really solidifies that.”
Carrie added, “Plus we did release ‘Dead Wrong’ as a single last year, which wound up on the ‘Kiss Kiss’ album, but everyone from radio DJs to caravan fans had the same reaction: ‘we love the song, where’s the rest of the album?’ ”
Their style encompasses a casserole of post W.W.II. genres which eventually melded into the R&B, rock and roll, and country-western that came later. Of course, they are not old enough to recall those days personally.
“Well, sure some of the musical styles were popular decades before any of us were born, but the music is still very much alive and now more accessible than ever. We tend not to follow current trends so any decade, or century for that matter, is fair game,” said Fuzz.
“And post war 1940’s and 50’s is actually a move to be more modern for us, we’ve been stuck somewhere between the Victorian and 1930’s swing eras for the past few years,” he said.
But, is Caravan of Thieves part of a continuum, a retrospection, or a revivalist group?
According to Fuzz, “We are paying homage to music from an era long gone, but taking it off the shelf and not being afraid to beat it up a little and get it dirty at times… This is also how I feel about my old Martin guitar, coincidentally.”
Carrie added, “We do see ourselves as part of a continuum, which is how we see all art out there when you observe it over time. It’s always moving forward, just like all human ideas, and building upon the foundation of ideas that preceded it.”
IF YOU GO
What: Caravan of Thieves
When: Show is at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 25. Doors open at 7:30.
Where: Sellersville Theater, 24 W. Temple Ave., Sellersville.
Tickets; $19.50, $30
Info.: Call (215) 257-5808 or check www.st94.com, For information on the band, check caravanofthieves.com.