Painted Saints is centered around the songwriting of Paul Fonfara, and specializes in the ever so popular Spaghetti Western, Heroin Klezmer, Experimental Sad Bastard Gutter Blues, Avante Garde Shoegaze Chamber Folk, Psychadelic Motown Dirge, Andrew Bird if he was from Twin Peaks genre. While there are often odd cinematic twists in merging such disparate aethetics with tangled dense lyrics, there is also a transparent sense of sincere, and cathartic meaning to painted saints songs.
A transplant to Minneapolis from Denver, where after finishing a degree in music, 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 seven 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, Dark Dark Dark, and Polica.
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. There are songs based on Henry Darger paintings, a boxer comtemplating his life between the moment he takes a hit on the chin and landing on the canvas, children watching the world below from the tallest Pine tree in small town Wyoming, and bike rides through blizzards.
Painted Saints first record, 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 much more aggression, with a seething, sometimes tense wall of sound. Painted Saints 4th record, Giant, will be released in the Fall of 2014, which is more minimalistic, plaintive and textural.
Chris Hepola – drums, piano
Eric Struve – bass
Christa Schneider – violin, cello, erhu, vocals
Will Dockendorf – lap steel guitars
Paul Fonfara – guitars, clarinet, bandoneon, piano, vocals
Andy McCormick – saw
Channy Leneagh – vocals