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Friday, March 23 News

Sound Surfing: Musical wheels keep turning for Caravan of Thieves

When Fuzz and Carrie Sangiovanni explain how they started Caravan of Thieves a decade ago and where they are right now with their music, it’s as if they’ve gone full circle. The musical couple, who bring their very popular and highly eclectic acoustic ensemble the Caravan of Thieves into Voices Café in Westport at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 10, took time out recently to share thoughts on their music and their musical roots together in a joint email interview.

“Caravan of Thieves grew out of us doing ‘Fuzz and Carrie’ acoustic duo performances and exploring a variety of styles in that setting. We had done everything from alt-country to indie rock to classic rock to reggae to blues and R&B, our own music, as well as covers,” explained Fuzz and Carrie, who first met in 2003. “We had been searching for a common ground and direction, and once we started to bring some of the Django Hot Club music and other swing music from the 30s into the mix with our own songwriting style, our sound really started to have a focus, and we began gaining momentum as a band.”

Other styles and influences expanded the range of the group. “We never tossed out our original concept, which was a blend of gypsy jazz, macabre themes, playful, catchy melodies and lots of harmony singing,” they said, “but we added to the pallet by bringing back some of the other music we had experimented with prior to Caravan, like R&B, blues, rock, etc., and trying to blend it with our existing sound.”

The Caravan of Thieves has four albums to date, its full-length debut album, “Bouquet” (2009), the live “Mischief Night” (2010), “The Funhouse” (2012), and “Kiss Kiss” (2015). The band has shared stages with the likes of Emmylou Harris, Keb Mo, Tom Tom Club, Iron and Wine, John Jorgenson and many others.

Fuzz and Carrie’s latest disc is “Maple Hill Sessions, Vol. 1,” from 2016, which brings us to the full-circle part. It’s an EP with six superbly crafted songs delivered in tight two-part harmonies recorded by just the two of them in a barn. “We always wanted to make a duo record, even before we started Caravan of Thieves. Just never got to it,” they said. “So once we had a break in our touring schedule and had a bunch of new song ideas, we sat down and starting working on them. We saw that some of them might be a little too far removed from the Caravan style and would work better as a duo. In addition, breaking it down to just the two of us in the Caravan of Thieves shows had become one of the highlights, so we decided to pursue more, and if we could, we would add some of them to the Caravan set during one of those duo moments.”

Besides his work with Caravan of Thieves and in the duo format with Carrie, Fuzz Sangiovanni is well known as the dynamic lead guitarist for Deep Banana Blackout, the progressive funk band that has had a major impact on the area's music scene. “Since we started playing together in 1995, the live music scene has changed quite a bit,” said Fuzz, about his DBB experience. The band continues to perform five-to-10 shows a year. “When we started, the clubs were mostly bringing in ‘90s rock and pop cover bands, and the festival scene was mainly Grateful Dead influenced jam rock. You didn't hear much classic funk and soul, though it took a few years to catch on. Once it did, we had a niche carved out that only a handful of new artists were contributing to. Now, there's much more diversity and lots of great funky bands out there. Maybe we helped pave some of that way.”

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And as he explained, the crowd’s vibe has a lot to do with the vibe that’s happening on stage. “The local scene, which is not exclusive to the hometown, always feels like an extended family,” he said. “We got to know so many of the music appreciators and fun seekers at home as well as regionally, since they'd often travel from show to show, and all across the country. No matter where we stopped, we were fortunate to meet some really fun and interesting people. That relationship can be symbiotic, so the people making the music and the ones listening can influence each other. We not only feed off one another’s energy during the shows but also face to face when we are discussing music, likes and dislikes, and educating one another. The creative flow is dynamic and fluid if you allow it to be so, and I like to let it move where those influences take it.”

Saturday’s Voices Café performance promises fluidity as well, with a Caravan of Thieve set list that, according to Fuzz and Carrie, includes: “as always, a mix of music from all five albums and a few cover songs we've made our own, certainly some of the favorites like our song “Raise the Dead” and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a little banging on some buckets, pots and pans, sing-alongs, and rolling around on the stage.”

Joining Fuzz Sangiovanni on guitar, vocals, and percussion, and Carrie Sangiovanni on guitar and vocals in the Caravan of Thieves, will be Rich Zurkowski on upright bass, and Dan Foster on violin. Voices Café is located at The Unitarian Church in Westport, 10 Lyons Plains Road. Tickets are $25. Visit voicescafe.org.

Mike Horyczun’s Sound Surfing column appears every Saturday in The Norwalk Hour. Mike can be reached at news2mh@gmail.com.