The life of a touring musician isn't often as glamorous as it might seem, so seeing it through the lens of a zany quartet known as Caravan of Thieves is a real eye-opener.
This group of part-vaudevillian, part-gypsy, part-musical shape-shifting madness is releasing its third studio album today (March 31). And to help promote Kiss Kiss, a collection of 12 wide-ranging songs written and produced by husband-and-wife co-leaders Fuzz and Carrie Sangiovanni, Caravan of Thieves is premiering the video of "Home" at The Huffington Post.
Caravan of Thieves -- also including Ben Dean (violin, viola) and Brian Anderson (double bass) -- first came to my attention at the 2010 Four Corners Folk Festival in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, where I called this "rowdy bunch of unpredictable party animals" who hail from Connecticut "the most pleasant surprise of the day."
Five years later, it's the same as it ever was for this band of fast, funky, fun-loving folkies who cover everything from Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer" to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" in their highly entertaining show. This ain't no disco, this ain't no novelty act, this ain't no foolin' around (OK, maybe a little of the latter).
Members of Caravan of Thieves (from left): Brian Anderson,
Carrie Sangiovanni, Fuzz Sangiovanni and Ben Dean.
The Kiss Kiss tour began last week in Colorado, and "it seems the altitude has gotten to us now," Fuzz said before Saturday's stop at the Walnut Room in Denver, their Mile-High State finale of the spring leg.
Judging by the video, shot by Fuzz and Carrie starting on the road in Florida and throughout their drive home up the East Coast, Caravan of Thieves remains quirky, comical, crazy, compelling ... and quite adorable.
The Sangiovannis recruited good friend Dan Salazar of Perro Loco Films to get the New York City and Connecticut shots and handle the post production for the video, which took about a week to put together.
"He and his wife Nina, who's a visual design whiz, also filmed and edited our 'Raise the Dead' and 'Dead Wrong' videos," said Carrie, the down-to-earth darling of the group who shares vocal, guitar, percussion (and even the retro-chic cover design of Kiss Kiss) duties with her animated mate.
Listen carefully, and you'll hear some special guests providing background vocals on "Home." Siblings Ian Holljes, Eric Holljes and Brittany Holljes, along with singer Elizabeth Hopkins, are members of Delta Rae, a rising North Carolina-based act about to release their second album, Chasing Twisters.
"They were recording at Tarquin Studios in Bridgeport, Connecticut, at the same time we were, so Greg (Giorgio) and Peter (Katis) from Tarquin asked them and they were happy to join," said Fuzz, the primary percussionist of the band whose instruments include pots, pans, cans and everything else but the kitchen sink.
So check out the video for "Home" and try to figure out the members behind the masks. Then, in the subsequent email interview, get some details about the video, the song and the album from the masterminds behind all of that. And make sure to see Caravan of Thieves, as its Kiss Kiss spring tour continues throughout the country, before this lovely bunch of coconuts makes it all the way home.
ROAD TRIP WITH FUZZ AND CARRIE SANGIOVANNI
What else would you like people to know about the album?
Carrie: Though Fuzz and I self-produced the album, we had an amazing team of people to really bring our concepts to life, starting with the rest of the band as well as the engineers, our guest musician friends and a few ghosts who were just hanging around.
What inspired the very cool cover design for Kiss Kiss?
Fuzz: Bebop jazz and that era came to mind when thinking of our album title, so we went to some of my go-to jazz albums like the Lester Young Trio and a few Charlie Parker albums and the look and feel were perfect ... with a little added passion and danger, of course.
Who's the principal subject of the song "Home" and who are the "vampire leaders" and "bottom bleeders" he's constantly fighting?
Carrie: The principal subject can be any one of us searching for a way back to a time when we were carefree and in the safety and comfort of a parent's warmth.
Fuzz: In this song, the subject is looking for ways to fill that void and falls victim to the false sense of happiness being promised to him by the grown-up toys and lifestyle choices he's chasing after, which often leave him feeling empty. The vampire leaders and bottom bleeders are the people who dangle those carrots in front of him.
What do the four farm animals (pig, sheep, chicken, cow) represent in the video?
Fuzz: We mainly wanted to represent the four of us in Caravan of Thieves, each as a different animal character. But we weren't really going for something Orwellian or Pink Floyd
Carrie: It was more about the small toys being the inner child to the "adults" wearing the corresponding masks, who are trying to reconnect with that part of themselves.
Who's who in the video? (I'm guessing Carrie is the sheep.)
Carrie: Good guess! And Fuzz wound up switching between the pig, cow and chicken since we didn't have the rest of the band with us at the time. Plus we had our friends Joel and Cynthia Davis and Nina Salazar stand in to wear masks as well. It was in Joel and Cynthia's house that we shot the ending sequences ...
Where did you go toy shopping and where did you get the masks?
Fuzz: We had a pretty fun day of toy shopping at U.S. Toy in Apopka, Florida. The masks we found on Amazon.
What's Caravan of Thieves' means of transportation on the road and how many miles is on the odometer? Whose vehicle is it? Who does most of the driving?
Carrie: We, as a band, own a 2004 Chevy Express Van, which has over 300K on the odometer, but still is quite the workhorse.
Fuzz: Brian does a majority of the driving, he just gets in a zone and goes ...
Away from the stage, what's the craziest experience you've had on the road (that you can share)?
Carrie: Not sure how crazy this was but something we wouldn't forget too soon is the time hanging out in the daylight at 1 a.m., lighting bonfires and having drinks on the tundra of Baffin Island, Canada. That was when we traveled up to the Arctic Circle to play the Alianait Arts Festival.
What's the most popular item on the road menu? Which fast food restaurant is impossible to pass up?
Fuzz: We definitely all order this breakfast sandwich more than anything else: 2 eggs, cheddar, tomato and grilled onion on dry rye toast ... to go, please.
Carrie: Since Brian and I are vegetarians and none of us eat much meat, we hardly do fast food, but Chipotle is a pretty common stop when our options are limited.
Favorite city to visit while on tour and why?
Fuzz: New Orleans, not sure this needs explanation ...
What's been the longest amount of time spent away from home? When was it and where did you go?
Carrie: So far, the longest tour we've done as Caravan of Thieves was about nine weeks in the spring of 2012. We covered most of the U.S. on that run, coast to coast.
Where is "home" for each member of the group these days? Do you ever entertain thoughts of moving?
Carrie: We all live in Connecticut. Fuzz and I live together in Bridgeport. Brian is in Bridgeport as well, just a few minutes away, and Ben is up in New Haven.
Fuzz: But we do occasionally have dreams of living some place warmer and less congested.
What do you miss most when you're away from home?
Carrie: Our bed.
Fuzz: Our bed.
How long has Caravan of Thieves been touring and how long do you expect it to continue?
Carrie: It's been about 6 years since we started leaving the state of Connecticut. Not sure how long it will go on, but if our Freaks keep coming out, we'll keep entertaining them.
Caravan of Thieves publicity photos by Shervin Lainez.