Crane Orchard
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Crane Orchard

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The best kept secret in music

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"Nashville Scene"

Blending guitars, bass and drums with computer bleeps and glitches, Birmingham, Ala.'s Crane Orchard knit together a soft-hued sonic gloom that, though it may not be high on the list for a dance-club remix, has an undeniably seductive melancholy—imagine Syd Barrett producing a Neil Young record with the musicians from Portishead (minus the hip-hop grooves). Hell, let's face facts—happiness may be more fun, but morose reflection makes better music. It should be interesting to see how they combine the laptop with the hands-on in live performance...... - Nashville Scene


"The Happy Accident of Crane Orchard"

The newly formed, local indie rock quartet Crane Orchard sort of came into being by accident. Paul Fugazzatto was recording his solo material in Nick Punch's home studio, and Punch was adding electronic beats to his friend's unadorned guitar and vocal tracks. Before long, the twosome began to collaborate more closely on songs.

“It was just kind of a mutual thing,” Punch remembers. “I was interested in what he was doing and it simply evolved. I think we just knew enough of each other musically to know that it could work.”

The band was just a duo for the better part of two years, recording several songs and performing a handful of shows with a laptop as the rhythm section.

“Originally, Nick and I did not intend to be a band,” Fugazatto says. “It was just the two of us making and recording this music. I think we were trying to do something easy and we wanted to be able to get up and go with it. Then that turned into, ‘Well, we might as well play live.' And that turned into having to find musicians, which turned into what we're doing now.”

What they're doing now includes drummer Brandon Smith, formerly of A Delta Wave, and Vesper bassist Betty Rupp. The new band is full of multi-instrumentalists: Fugazzotto sometimes gives up the guitar to plays drums, Rupp plays keyboards when she's not on the bass and Smith sings and plays guitar along with his drumming.

“There's a good bit of switching that goes on at this point,” Punch says.

If Crane Orchard had to be categorized, “emo” probably comes closest to describing the band's sound — as the bio on their website proclaims, it's a combination of “the moody sympathy of folk and the driving energy of rock.” Punch laments how meaningless genre names are these days, anyway.

“It's particularly hard now for a band to define themselves when there's about 80 million subgenres,” Punch says.

According to Punch, Crane Orchard plays a diverse set, carried in large part, by the gentle strength of Fugazzatto's voice.

“He's closer to Nick Drake than David Lee Roth, but there's still some power to his vocals,” Punch says.

The addition of Rupp and Smith has energized the live show, but Crane Orchard still plays the kind of music that most people might prefer to listen to alone in a dimly lit room.

“There are a couple of songs that are bitterly slow,” Punch says. “And maybe what people want live is more of a chance to shake their booty. We've got some of that too — ruckus and noise and guitar to tear your face off.”

Fugazzatto figures that those sonic juxtapositions are what define Crane Orchard.

“The name actually came from the idea of putting together two things that I really like,” he says. “Cranes, as in the machinery, and orchards, which I think are just beautiful. The words fit together and sounded nice, and I was toying with the idea of contrast, which I think the name conveys — the idea of something synthetic and something organic coming together to create something progressive.”

In fact, the music features a lot of push and pull between the concepts of synthetic and organic: plaintive and plain acoustic guitar and Fugazzatto's rich vocals are combined with complex electronic beats and effects, resulting in music that sounds multilayered but not overproduced. The songs have the resonant sound of a slow-built thing, a tentative ensemble playing its way toward crescendo.

“It was much easier in the beginning to say that they were all my songs, but I don't consider myself the songwriter anymore,” Fugazzatto says. “Everyone else is bringing so much to every song. It's like a family in the sense that we're all bound by something, and sometimes it's difficult being part of a family. In a family it's blood that binds you and for us it's music, but that doesn't necessarily make it easier. But when it comes to music, we all love each other. It's a good fit.”


This Friday at The Nick, Crane Orchard shares a bill with local power pop outfit Teen Getaway and an Atlanta band called The Orphins. 252-3831 or www.thenickrocks.com - Birmingham Weekly Feb. 2005


"ABC Pick"

There's a subtle irony lurking underneath Birmingham, AL electro-folk four-piece Crane Orchard's balance of organic and mechanical sounds. What started as a studio project between singer-guitarist Paul Fugazzotto and studio hand Nick Punch manipulating Fugazzotto's uneven folk song sketches soon evolved into a lavish and off-kilter collaboration between the two players. The results of their coupling solidified in 2003 with the six-song EP Finish Raw Edges First, pitting layers of laptop rhythms and textures over Fugazzotto's supple singing and strumming.

From beginning to end, the two elements blend seamlessly into each other, bending natural ambient sounds with synthetic beats and a dark lyrical tone. Songs like "Bitter," "Please Forgive Me" and "Dirty" unfold with sparse, skeletal-thin song arrangements that slowly take shape wandering between icy melancholy and warm dejection. Such nocturnal tones come to a point with Fugazzotto's downtrodden vocal delivery touching on themes of God, drugs, money, guns and death, all with a wide-eyed and blissful cadence.

Over the last year, the group has expanded its lineup to include bassist Betty Rupp and drummer Brandon Smith. And with these new additions the group's songwriting has evolved; comparing the group to a gloomy Flaming Lips, Beck or Galaxie 500 makes sense. But in growth, Crane Orchard has retained its shadowy, formative beginnings, while continuing to embrace the subtle ironies of juxtaposing such divergent musical paths. "I grew up listening to metal," says Fugazzotto rattling off a laundry list of names like Celtic Frost, Sepultura, Carcass and Napalm Death. "But I was also into bands like My Bloody Valentine, and eventually I grew out of being so angry and metal lost its appeal, but it's definitely an influence. But just as our music is sometimes delicate, we're often drawn to these bloodied images."

Chad Radford - Flagpole Athens, GA


"Finish Raw Edges First Review"

 Crane Orchard is a band from the ever-growing Birmingham, AL music scene. In fact, Nick Punch, the guitarist and programmer of Crane Orchard, also fills those same musical roles in Audomobil?, another Birmingham band who have been favorably reviewed here on EvilSponge. Given the generally high quality of this release, it seems as if Birmingham, AL has a good bit to offer, musically speaking.

This album is grounded in the vocals of Paul Fugazzotto. His voice reminds me, slightly, of Jeff Tweedy, or that guy from Grandaddy, or Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips. It has a hint of a drawl, sounds like it will deepen nicely with age and smoke, and kind of drones through a light, back of the throat vibrato.

The music backing up Mr. Fugazotto is, well, different. Some of the tunes are almost folk-rock, consisting mostly of acoustic guitar. Occasionally computerized noises come in, and things sound, well, like a weird fusion of laptoptronica and alt.country. Surprisingly, it works rather well.

Bitter starts the EP off with a twangy guitar strummed at a lethargic pace. Fugazotto's accent shows through here, and the song moves along contentedly in a vaguely Wilco-ish manner.

The second tune, Hallways, starts with the same general vocals, albeit somewhat more nasally here, and then suddenly it explodes into a great rock song. A simple drumbeat drives it along, accompanied by a nice bass riff, and strange little keyboard noodling. Tons of overdrive fuzz the song out for choruses, and, on the whole, this works really well.

Hallways is followed by Beece Pancake, which is really glitchy, like an Appalachian folk song remixed by Autechre. There are both folksy elements and laptopped noises here and there. In all honestly, i think this is my least favorite tune on the EP. It sounds too consciously busy, as if the band had a simple folk tune, and decided to spice it up by adding in electro noises. These sounds distract from the overall song, rather than add to it. But it's just this one song that seems that way. I wonder if this was the first "laptopped" song that Crane Orchard did?

And that ends the first half of the EP, which sounds almost folky, despite the afore-mentioned electronic additions. The last half of the EP is a different beast entirely. Here, the electronic noises are merged into the songs flawlessly, and the overall tone is more psychedelic than country-folk. We have left the realm of Wilco and entered that of The Flaming Lips. This sound really works for Crane Orchard, although i must admit that anyone who doesn't like The Flaming Lips probably won't care for this final trio of songs.

The first tune of this trio, Please Forgive Me, is a simple poppy tune of strange electro beats and fuzzed out guitar. Pleasant enough.

The next tune is called Dirty and it succeeds in merging electronica with that big, quirky rock sound that The Flaming Lips are known for. The funky little electro blurts really work in this song.

Hold the Light follows, and is even better than the track that came before it. The drum machine stutters like it is having an epileptic fit. One guitar grinds through some overdrive, while this other is acoustic and light. A really nice combination.

So Finish Raw Edges First ends on a very positive note, and i must admit that it shows a lot of potential. After i wrote up my notes on the songs in the preceding paragraphs it occurred to me that the music gets more complete as the EP progresses. That is, the first songs are kind of raw, then they grow experimentally until the experimentalism overwhelms songcraft on Breece Pancake. However, the next three songs combine the previous experimental elements into a catchy whole that really works. Which makes me wonder if the six tunes presented here are simply the first six Crane Orchard tunes, in order of creation. A real growth is shown in the progression of the music, so that would make a certain degree of sense...

At any rate, i think that Crane Orchard have potential. There is some interesting stuff going on here, and i am curious to see where they go next. I am also curious to see when they are going to make the 3 hour trek over here to Atlanta and play....
- Evil Sponge


"interview with Paul"

Crane Orchard is a relatively recent addition to Birmingham's increasingly strong lo-fi scene. Their music immediately inspires wonder and provokes thought, launching the listener into the inner-space of personal and collective memory. The seemingly endless range of Paul Fugazzoto's vocals combined with the production and instrumental talents of Nick Punch create a dense atmosphere of all-encompassing sound. Fleabomb recently sat down with Paul to uncover obscured truths and get to the bottom of the whole "ALF" thing.

FB: Where did Crane Orchard spring from?

PF: Well, CO came mainly from my four-track and lo-fi recordings I’ve been doing for years, since 97. I played in band in West Virginia that was called Softest Blue, that was real pop oriented, kind of emo but not screamy; sentimental pop music. I was playing drums and writing the lyrics, and I moved here in 2000. I sold my life insurance policy for $2,000, which is a ridiculously small amount of money, but I was able to buy a four track and a guitar, and some microphones; your basic lo-fi setup, and I just started recording. Then I started to become friends with Nick Punch, through my playing with Rainywood, all the time doing these secret four track recordings.

FB: So what was Rainywood?

PF: Rainywood was a really slow, chord type country, bluegrass, indie-type band, referencing bands like Lowe, Dirty Three, and more contemporary Americana type bands. It was the brainchild of Nathan Peters, who is from here and went out to California to record, and he needed a bassist, and so I started playing bass and singing, and getting involved with that, and when Rainywood went on tour it brought up a bunch of issues that let me know that I couldn’t be in the band any more, you know--"After this tour, I’m out."

FB: What wasn’t working?

PF: Personality issues. I could never see the music evolving, because there was no creative input from anyone except for Nathan, and it was very much his. I just feel like if you have one person calling all the shots, and telling everyone what to play, it’s doomed. It’s just never going to evolve. I was also having issues with Birmingham at the time: "Do I want to stay in Birmingham, do I want to move to California?", that type of shit.

FB: How long had you been back in Birmingham at that point?

PF: Two years. You reach that point where you ask "Is it doomed? Is Birmingham just a cursed town? Will it ever be fun, cool, etc." I really just decided that I was going to be happy here.

FB: So did you answer that question or did you just throw it aside?

PF: I think I decided that it would be cool. That I would do my part to make myself happy here and get what I need to from Birmingham. Ultimately, you can do just about anything you want here. So I just decided to do certain things, one of which was buying a house, stuff like that, to make a decision to be here for a while.

FB: So you were throwing down the tent pegs…

PF: Yeah…and part of that was music. I had music that I wanted to stop being afraid to play. I guess I just thought it was going to be just me and a guitar and a drum machine or something like that, and then Nick asked if I wanted to record a song with him. He’s an engineer and has all this recording equipment at his house, and just told me to bring my beat and we could record on some nice mics, and it just started out as a fun thing. After we recorded that, I came back a week later and he wanted to record more, so we did three more songs, and he did all this amazing work; he had really enhanced the songs, with noises and different loops, and had come up with some guitar parts that I never would have thought of. It was amazing to me; I was totally blown away. That’s when I proposed to him to actually make it a band, to see what happened.

FB: So that was the beginning of Crane Orchard. Where did you come up with the name?

PF: When I was in Rainywood Nathan Peters was always calling himself something different, and he was kind of hippie-ish, so he’d be like Nathan Ocean-Cloud, or Nathan Spirit-Wood, or Nathan Shining-Water. At the time I was having some serious issues with my family, almost wanting to reject them. Nathan was going through the same thing, so I identified with that, and he said the way he comes up with his last names is that he just thinks of two things he really likes, and I’ve always loved cranes, like the machinery. I love birds too, but I was thinking of machine cranes, because they’re so powerful, and they defy gravity, and they’re just huge amazing weird things. I’m just totally fascinated by them. I love seeing them over a skyline. I love construction and building and architecture, and the crane is sort of the symbol of progress. And I just love orchards. When you drive past them on the road you just see rows and rows, and they’re all symmetrical. There’s this beauty to the symmetry. So when we were on tour Nathan would introduce me as Paul Crane-Orchard, kind of without my permission, but we were out in California, so who the fuck knows what my name is anyway? The name works because there’s a merging of organic and electronic elements.

FB: When did you discover your vocal range?

PF: In high school, when I went to St. Andrews, and I would drive back and forth from Birmingham to Sewanee as a junior and a senior. I was kind of going back to my youthful pop days, and I used to love Madonna, and I listened to the Immaculate Collection CD. Songs like Borderline and Lucky Star and things like that. A lot of those didn’t have harmonies to them, and I would find myself singing harmonies with Madonna all the time, and really getting into it, and saying "well that’s sounds pretty good" [laughs]. I never thought of it as "oh, I can sing", I just thought of it as being how you would sing if you were to sing. I never thought of applying it to my own stuff. I always thought of myself as a guitarist.

FB: So is there any chance of you covering Borderline?

PF: I’d love to but I think somebody’s done it. Also, I have to think of this as a musical partnership between Nick and me, and there are some things I’d be embarrassed to even propose to him. That might be one of them.

FB: Well, he might read this interview…

PF: Right [laughs]

FB: A lot of people would say Fugazzotto sounds more like a pasta than a last name...your comments?

PF: You are very perceptive to pick up on that...it actually is a kind of pasta and my family just adopted it as a last name when they arrived at Ellis Island from the old country.

FB: Is Crane Orchard, as a band, a "sky’s the limit" type of thing?

PF: I think so. We’re thinking more and more about it. As it’s revealing itself to be more and more accessible to people, and people are asking to hear recordings, we’re getting the feeling that people want us to play. So we’re just trying to figure out how to slowly move into being more ambitious. We’d like to bring more elements in, like a really good DJ, but we’re not about to put an ad in some national classified when we don’t even have a record deal.

FB: Well it seems like you already have a big resource you’re drawing on. Could you talk a little about the "scene"?

PF: Yeah, it was when I decided to stay in Birmingham that I really started to discover that there was one. Instead of keeping to myself and saying there’s nothing to be a part of, I realized that there was. That’s when the doors started opening, and was about the time that I first saw Ferocious Bubbles, and they just blew my mind. And then I went to see Vesper, who I hadn’t seen in about a year, and they blew me away. I started viewing music in Birmingham as just as good as any other music scene anywhere else. We’ve got some really good musicians and songwriters. It’s starting to get a little inbred, though, with everyone playing in each other’s bands…

FB: Are you afraid of seeing a musical three-armed kid or something?

PF: [laughs] On some level I am afraid of that, but at the same time, it’s not like that would be a bad thing, because all it would mean is that people are happy to do what they do best. I think that’s great. Everybody’s happy about it.

FB: Do you ever worry that having a strong collective gets rid of competition that could serve as an impetus for better music?

PF: I don’t think competition is always the best motivator. I think a better motivator would be for people to see that their music scene is just as viable as Athens, GA. or New York or wherever. I don’t think competition in music is necessary.

FB: Here are some recent crimes that have come out of Germany lately: a man was arrested for ritualistically castrating, eating, and finally killing another man who was apparently a willing participant, a zookeeper was arrested for holding drunken barbecues of his zoo animals, a man was arrested carrying the severed head of his sister-in-law in a village, and though this isn't really a crime, a man is suing a penis enlargement surgeon for malpractice, which wouldn't be so strange except that he borrowed 10,000 pounds from his mother for the operation. Are Rumsfeld and Bush right to call these people outdated freaks?

PF: Rumsfeld and Bush are never right...

FB: How do you explain the resurgence of ALF in the media? Could Germany be behind that as well?

PF: The ALF thing is really frightening...I am pretty sure that Bush is behind the ALF resurgence...a friend who actually knows ALF told me that he and Bush had some sort of sexual relationship that got out of hand...ALF started demanding power so Bush put him in some commercials and is helping to jump start his career again...it's really an abuse of power if you ask me...I think the sexual part is pretty exciting though.

FB: When reading your lyrics, I noticed a theme of obscurity, like lots of hazy images and dreamlike states, and then there is the way you sing, that obscures the lyrics. Is this an intentional theme that is running through the music, or if it’s just a byproduct of your brain?

PF: Lyrically obscuring things is intentional. As far as the performance, I just sing how the melodies come out. All the songs are very personal, based on emotion, years of depression, your typical artist/thinker material. There are plenty of people like me out there. I’m not saying I’m special. For me to sing something like "God I’m so depressed, why can’t I just feel better?"; I could say that, or I could say "In your head it’s always raining, in your head it’s always night." That to me is a more poetic way of saying something really personal, but also obscuring it so that it’s not so personal that it’s annoying. [laughs] Cause you hear some bands that make you want to say "shut the fuck up", you know? Get over yourself.

FB: Dirty is a lot different from all the other songs. It’s so angst ridden that it could be played as a punk song.

PF: Yeah, I still have problems with that song…

FB: Too direct?

PF: Maybe it reveals too much of myself. But, at the same time, it was a culmination of my experience growing up in religion in the south, and my experiences of working at a Christian bookstore for two years. Religion makes me really mad, so it is very angst ridden.

FB: What’s the best job you’ve ever had?

PF: Working at a college radio station. I was the metal director for two years, and I actually got paid, so it was really fun.

FB: So you’re slot was heavy metal?

PF: Yeah. I was totally into 1819, and lots of really heavy music, Swedish death metal and stuff like that [laughs]. I was really into it, mainly because of anger, not that you have to be an angry person to enjoy metal, cause I still enjoy it, to a certain degree; I’m just not as angry, and so it doesn’t express things for me the way it used to. I do identify with a lot of the sounds; a lot of the musicianship is phenomenal. Bands like Entombed have always been incredible. You know, cause metal kids have been in their bedrooms their whole lives because they have pimply faces and they don’t want to go out, so they just sit there and practice guitar. Or they’re in Sweden and they have nothing else to do…it’s cold. I really respect that. And Napalm Death, and Carcass, and Sepultura, who were saying a lot of shit at the time. But yeah, that was my favorite job.

FB: You’ve got an upcoming appearance on Velvet Stereo TV. What is your position on file-sharing?

PF: I’m all for it. There are probably ways where everybody could win. Big Labels are making enough money as it is.

FB: Liz Phair was on "Real Time with Bill Maher" talking on this subject, and she was making the point that people have this image of musicians as being incredibly rich, but they really don’t have that much money. What would you say to her if she were sitting across from you right now?

PF: You should just consider yourself lucky that you’re even able to still record an album. A lot people that really want to play music and give something real don’t get that opportunity. And there she is, going from post-punk feminist rhetoric to "Oh I’m in love and I’ve got a kid and husband" and now she wants to be Brittney Spears because she never was. I’m like, "fuck you, you’re making enough money to sit on this TV show. You don’t have much to complain about." If you’re able to make your living making music, period, point-blank, you should consider yourself a very lucky person.

Crane Orchard plays with Bleeding Hearts Choir and Mantissa at Sakura on October 26, and will be selling their newly recorded EP Finish Raw Edges First. Visit craneorchard.com for news, links, music and more - fleabomb


"Crane Orchard Live Review 1/15/2005"

 
We were invited to this show by Nick Punch, guitarist in Crane Orchard, based on the favorable review i gave their debut EP, and also because we liked Nick's previous band, Audomobil? The comment i made while reviewing their debut EP was that Crane Orchard obviously started off as the one man project of Paul Fugazzotto, and later he added in more people to make it a full band. My theory was that the weaker songs at the beginning of the EP would be better if they were fleshed out with more players. Well, after seeing Crane Orchard in concert, i am certain of it. They played lots off the EP, and it sounded even better. The songs were fuller, more dynamic. In short, Crane Orchard rocked.

They played as a standard rock four-piece (drums, guitar, bass, and guitar/voice) with the addition of a laptop for a few sequenced beats, and some samples of bird sounds on one song. The tunes really worked in a live setting, and Crane Orchard are a tight little band. They played a solid set of vaguely psychedelic indie pop, and i stand by my comparison to The Flaming Lips. They have that sort of psychedelic feel to them.

Overall, the three Minions at this show were impressed, and we hope that Crane Orchard make the drive to Atlanta from Birmingham more often. If you get the chance to see them, i urge you to do so. They put on a fun show, and their sounds are interesting.
- Evil Sponge


Discography

Finish Raw Edges First EP

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

The melancholic musings of Crane Orchard first took root two years ago in Birmingham, AL as the acoustic solo recording project of Paul Fugazzotto. Once recording began with Nick Punch the decision was made to join guitars, pedals and laptops for live performances around the southeast. With various artists lending their time and talent to the band over the years and after their first self-released EP the last two members were finally accumulated, Brandon Smith and Betty Rupp. Now as a musical four piece of guitars, drums, bass, keys, blips, and bleeps Crane Orchard’s musical evolution has come into full fruition. With the moody sympathy of folk and the driving energy of rock Crane Orchard promises the listener a deeply layered juxtaposition of textured sentiments and pulsating beats. Crane Orchard is currently working on a full length album to be released in the spring of 2005.