Paul Fonfara – guitars, clarinet, bandoneon, piano, vocals
Chris Hepola – drums, piano
Eric Struve – bass
Christa Schneider – violin, cello, erhu, vocals
Will Dockendorf – lap steel guitars
Notable Guests and Alumni, Andy McCormick- Saw, Kelly O'dea - violin, Jon Kaiser - cello, Josh Granowski - bass, Channy Leneagh – vocals, Ian Cooke -Cello, JAckie Beckey -Viola
Painted Saints is centered around the songwriting of Paul Fonfara. With odd cinematic twists, and a transparent sense of sincerity they tackle a Spaghetti Western, Heroin Klezmer, Experimental Sad Bastard Chamber Folk, Psychadelic Shoegaze Dirge Motown, Andrew Bird if he was from Twin Peaks sound.
A transplant to Minneapolis from Denver, where after finishing a degree in music studying Clarinet, Fonfara got his start in DeVotchKa, then moved on to record and tour internationally with 16 Horsepower/Woven Hand and with Jim White on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label. When Fonfara settled in Minneapolis 9 years ago, his well-honed and exploratory talents were immediately recognized as he became a member of local favorites Spaghetti Western String Co., balancing the precision and delicacy of that band with the raucous playfulness of the Brass Messengers, and silent movie film scores of Dreamland Faces. To fill out Painted Saints, Fonfara recruited many of Minnepolis’ finest players including members of The Poor Nobodys, and Dark Dark Dark.
Throughout all of his time working with other bands and collaborators, Painted Saints has remained Fonfara’s outlet for his own songwriting. A talented painter, his songs become sprawling sonic landscapes of visually imagistic lyrics, often as melancholic and forceful as they are shimmering and lovely. Lyrically, the songs are populated by escapist dreamers, flailing underdogs, and children’s imagined civil wars. Songs find inspirations in Henry Darger paintings, a boxer comtemplating his life between the moment he takes a hit on the chin to hitting the canvas, children watching the world below from the tallest Pine tree in small town Wyoming, and bike rides through blizzards.
Painted Saints 2006’s Company Town and 2007’s The Bricks Might Breathe Again, share much in common with his work with other bands, with more focus on Slavic-style orchestrations, building on a chamber-folk sound. No Match For Greater Minds, from 2011, takes a turn for more aggression, with a seething, sometimes tense wall of sound. Paul began his work in film writing music for an English documentary about Slava Polunin, made my the same film makers who did the cult favorite Searching For the Wrong Eyed Jesus. While the film was struggling to finish itself, Paul won a MN Artist Initiative grant using the film's musical sketches. We was then able to record his first mostly instrumental orchestral album and create a series of 8 original films: Seven Secrets of Snow which was released in December of 2015, and received a 4 star review in Downbeat magazine.
"Fonfara’s magnetic playing provided the evocative embellishment you didn’t realise a song could benefit from until you heard it. The occasional use of looping gave the (mostly) sad songs an otherworldly veneer." The Scotsman, Glasgow
"Fonfara's unique stylings could be heard as some gentle perversion of Americana into modern, individualistic song". Vijay Venkat, The Guardian London
"(Seven Secrets of Snow) has a serene, wonderstruck quality, owing largely to the clean, penetrating tone of Fonfara's woodwinds...far reaching and vivid' Brian Zimmerman, Downbeat