painted saints
Gig Seeker Pro

painted saints

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States
Band Americana Cabaret


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


"splendid review"

Miles of Twine takes country-blues-folk at its finest and adds awe-inspiring cello, bar banter wisdom and a few wild cards for good measure, hearkening back to a mythical time when men were men, moonshine flowed freely and a musician couldn't get by if he didn't play a mean fiddle and whistle "For a Fistful of Dollars" in his sleep.
The band, which showcases the talents of multi-instrumentalist Paul Fonfara, touring partner with Jim White and sometime member of too many Denver bands to mention, also features members of Tarantella, 16 Horsepower and Woven Hand. With such a well of skill to draw upon, many records would end up a hodge-podge of half-realized ideas, but the Painted Saints keep a good balance between down-home charm and exquisite melody. From the title track's relatively simple buzzing plucked viola, more Earl Scruggs than classical, to more intricate arrangements such as "Kerosene"'s winding desert caravan ride (resplendent with clarinet and glissando strings), not a single track misses its mark. Even the tunes that push the six minute mark don't grow old easily; "To Answer Monotone"'s acrobatic violin ranks among the album's best moments (an achievement in itself).

Fonfara's lyrical persona resembles the drunk at the saloon bar who's seen it all. In "Company Town", he morosely says, "They'll kick you in the balls when you're two feet tall", but he isn't too cynical to wax nostalgic in the aforementioned "To Answer Monotone".

Painted Saints occasionally veer off their dusty roots-based track. The wailing bowed saw in "Barbed Wire and Tin" creates an expansive but desolate mood. This ultimately gives way to a Tom Waits circus soundtrack -- all theremin and what sounds like creaking gramophone records. While tempos and ambience vary from the frenetic Tex-Mex of the bizarrely-named "The Volvo King of New York" to "Cardboard and Silence Saved Us Again"'s languid Dirty Threeisms and louche whistling, the record maintains a remarkably coherent feel, held together by excellent playing.

Miles of Twine is not merely an excellent, evocative album, but something rarer -- one of those hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck recordings that comes out of nowhere and inhabits your CD deck for weeks. Let's hope it gets a wider release.

-- Nick Norton
- splendid ezine

"Front and Center Out"

Front and Center
Out of the shadows and into the spotlight, Paul Fonfara colors the world of Painted Saints.
By John La Briola

John Johnston

He wants you: Paul Fonfara (third from left) makes a point with Painted Saints.
Who / What:
Painted Saints
With Maraca 5-O and Ben Popken's radio drama The Golem
6:30 p.m., Thursday, April 24
Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, 1750 13th Street, Boulder
$7, 303-443-2122
Performance will be simulcast on KVCU/1190-AM

I like the fact that I'm not a frontman but I'm doing it anyway," says Paul Fonfara of his current musical project, Painted Saints. "I got sick of being in all these bands and being the forgotten guy on the side and not getting any credit. I think that's one of the reasons I'm writing my own songs now."
No stranger to the local chamber-roots scene, Fonfara has had his share of supporting roles opposite leading men over the years, including those in Munly De Dar He, the Denver Gentlemen, DeVotchKa, and Boston transplants Reverend Glasseye and His Wooden Legs. A highly skilled multi-instrumentalist who plays guitar, clarinet, saxophone, cello and bandeleon, among others, Fonfara is also the newest member of exotic road-surf outfit Maraca 5-O. But these days, the restless, sleepy-eyed 28-year-old who hails from the white-trash boonies of Wellington, Colorado, would much rather front than follow.

"The music I'm doing is similar to all of the other bands I've played in," Fonfara concedes. "I don't think it's the best band I've been in, but I think it's the most personal one. I don't think I sing well, but I think that's sort of a strength because I can be totally honest, write lyrics about what I do, and just get up there and feel like I'm naked on stage. When you don't give a shit about what people think, it's very liberating.

"My lyrics are all pretty self-absorbed," he continues. "I hate to say that, but I think they are. But in most good bands, one person has to be the final voice."

Singing his own compositions in a natural baritone (and sometimes even whistling), Fonfara covers topics of loss and black-sheep anguish with a set of pipes admittedly less stellar than functional. But as far as vivid storytelling in a Painted tune, it's not unusual for the Virgin Mary or St. John of the Cross to make cathartic, scene-stealing cameos. Or for a disillusioned protagonist to take a poignant header off the Hoover Dam. And given the current situation in the former Garden of Eden, a tune like "Doused Apples" borders on the prophetic: "He stretched the desert flat and read tea leaves to understand/He monitored the pulse of oracles on television screens/And ate apples doused with gasoline to prove them all wrong/And shot open a mouth filled with button eyes and razor-blade teeth."

"I spend more time thinking about cool string lines than I do about lyrics or my own voice," Fonfara says. "But I do write from scratch. It's probably not as good as if I did steal something, honestly."

Fonfara's dark and dense arrangements definitely borrow old-world riffs, running the gamut from Hungarian folk music and rollicking Dixieland to klezmer and spaghetti Westerns. In their current inception, the Saints (rechristened after a brief fling as the Grand Ouija Jihad Orchestra) feature several of the Front Range area's top-flight musicians: violinist Kelly O'Dea (Tarantella) and upright-bass player Mike Brown (Room 40, Gladhand), plus cellists Ian Cooke (Uphollow) and Tom MacKenzie ("a total L.A.1980s butt-rocker," Fonfara notes). Also on loan for several upcoming shows is the highly versatile Maraca rhythm section: drummer Mike Behrenhausen and marimba/saw player, Theron Melchior.

"I've got a different band for every gig," Fonfara says. "We don't have to practice, really. All of these people could hear a song once and play it live; they're all great musicians. But getting five people in the same room is a fucking monumental task.

"We've got a few offers to go play in Europe," he continues. "But not everybody wants to go on the road, not even to play the Lion's Lair of St. Louis. Honestly, I'm just gonna do it myself, and whoever plays, plays, and that's the end of it. You do it for its own sake. And if no one shows up, then it's just me -- and that's cool. I'll get up there and play my clarinet and sing out of tune. I don't really have anything else to do."

Considering Fonfara's busy schedule earning a teacher's certificate and giving clarinet lessons at Lakewood's Rockley Music Center, nothing could be further from the truth. To complicate matters, Fonfara suffers from insomnia -- a side effect that comes with being bipolar and mildly schizophrenic.

"I take so much damn lithium, my piss probably glows in the dark," he says. "It's radioactive. I have to take up to 750 milligrams of lithium a day. It doesn't really help, though. Sometimes my emotions have no reality with what's going on, and that's what's tough about it. There were times when I was living in my car and I was the happiest I've ever been.

"I always feel good when I do music," he continues. "That's the only thing that really keeps me going. I can't not do it. It's more helpful than any drug. I'll go a week where I'm just so pumped up, and I'll crank out three paintings. When I started this band, I wrote ten songs in a month, 'cause that's all I did all day. But then I'll crash and get so depressed that I won't even get out of bed."

While Fonfara's creative outlets can bring him hours of peaceful distraction, they also provide some fine music and artwork for the rest of us. A few of his paintings have recently sold through Stella's Coffee House (where they're on display until the end of April), and he admits spending more time lately at the easel than at the home recording station.

"If you look at my drawings, I do that stippling shit, you know?" he says. "It's not because I like it aesthetically, but it's very focusing to sit there for hours and work on one thing. If I don't, I'm in a million places at once."

Besides rendering intricate, dot-based designs, Fonfara also favors highly complex Celtic borders and interlocking branches with hidden words. But such repetitive detailing -- along with playing musical scales -- has wreaked havoc on Fonfara's ulnar nerve, a bundle of sensitivity located in the funnybone. For a serious craftsman and musician, that's no laughing matter.

"I actually lost control of two fingers on my right hand," he says. "I still play clarinet, but I can't practice anymore. I don't even touch it between shows."

While touring with DeVotchKa two summers ago, Fonfara often had to ice his hand extensively before he could perform. When he decided to take time off, the band moved on without him.

"Nobody really wanted to sit down and talk about it," Fonfara recalls. "It absolutely destroyed me at the time. I wasn't gonna play music anymore."

An invitation to tour as a cellist with Wovenhand, the side project of 16 Horsepower's God-fearing David Eugene Edwards, changed Fonfara's mind in a hurry.

"I was actually sitting in Denny's, writing letters, eating my hamburger, and I got this phone call," Fonfara recalls. "And it was David, and I didn't even know the guy very well. He said, 'Do you want to play with me? Do you have a passport? We leave in a month.' And that's kind of what got me back into playing music. I was ready to hang it up.

"David's the most dead-center guy I've ever met," Fonfara continues. "His shit is so together. I'd give my left nut to be that guy. I knew people liked him in Europe, but I had no clue. We had people hanging out in front of the bus, wanting to give him books of poetry and stuff. Somebody painted a mural for him. Their following over there is pretty amazing."

Besides rekindling Fonfara's love for music, the Wovenhand tour brought Painted Saints local exposure.

"I thought we'd play coffee shops," Fonfara says, "but our first show was at the Ogden opening for 16 Horsepower. Playing to a full house. And since I started this band, I'm all over the 16 Horsepower Web site. I get e-mail from people in Belgium and Holland asking about it."

Even Southern hick-hop sensation Jim White likes what he's heard, so much so that he's invited Fonfara to play on his next record and possibly tour later in the year. For the time being, Fonfara is putting the finishing touches on Painted Saints' debut, Company Town, and shopping around for a suitable label. He's also just completed his entry for the Turner Movie Classics film-scoring contest; for his offering, he synced up original music to a clip of Rudolph Valentino cheek to cheek with Nita Naldi in the 1922 vintage romance Blood and Sand. With the intention of one day using black-and-white projections as backdrops for P-Saints performances, Fonfara is branching out into other mediums as well, including a live radio drama of The Golem by experimental Boulder-based playwright Ben Popken.

"When I heard Radio 1190 was doing this live-drama thing, I actually called them and said I'd like to compose music for it sometime," Fonfara says. "It's about thirty minutes long, with an overture, scene-change music and lots of room for improvisation."

A twist on the old kabalistic story of a creature made of clay that protects banished Jews from persecution by a local despot, The Golem comes as a welcome change of pace for a guy who's spent much of his career in the shadows of others.

"Honestly, after playing in all of these bands over the years, I hate the whole idea of a band," Fonfara says. "It's bullshit. It's all a popularity contest. Most of the people who play in bands don't play music at all. If someone asked me what I do, I wouldn't say I play in a band. I'd say I write music."

- westword


Cuando el Oeste se cruza con el Este. Segunda parte >>


Recibimos a Paul Fonfara y a su novia Bailey un borrascoso día de marzo, con el invierno soplando en su último estertor. “Tiempo del diablo” –me comunica poco antes de llegar- “pero siempre brilla el sol en mi corazón”. Descubrimos a un tipo inquieto y jovial, empeñado en practicar su español a toda costa. Con 28 años Fonfara puede hacer gala de un currículum apreciable, aunque esa sería su última opción. Dotado multi-instrumentista, ha sido una constante en la escena de Denver, integrante en un momento u otro de buena parte de los grupos aquí tratados. Lo encontramos tocando con Jeffery Paul en la última etapa de Denver Gentlemen, y en las filas de Maraca 5-0 antes de ser reclutado por Devotchka en un momento en que estos se convertían en una de las bandas más famosas del estado. Su salida tras grabar el primer disco e implicarse en el segundo no fue todo lo agradable que él hubiese deseado: aquejado de una afección en el codo que le impedía tocar con regularidad, se alejó unas semanas y Devotchka continuaron tranquilamente sin él. “Sus canciones no son auténticas”, dice, refiriéndose a todo ese aparato melodramático que envuelve sus historias de desamor y chicas sexys.

Deprimido ante lo sucedido y un poco harto (“Estuve a punto de dejar de tocar para siempre”) Fonfara fue recuperado por David Edwards para integrar la formación de Woven Hand en su primer tour europeo en el 2002, una oferta que no rechazó, sobre todo porque, como él dice, tocar es lo único que desea. En el viejo continente pudo comprobar la devoción que los fans dispensan al líder de 16 Horsepower, especialmente en los países de latitud norte. Por esas fechas también parecía habérselas apañado para acompañar a Reverend Glasseye en un tour de tres semanas a lo largo del país; a la vuelta a EEUU, Paul recibió la llamada de Jim White. “Devotchka le teloneábamos siempre que tocaba en Denver –nos cuenta mientras papeamos comida turca-, es un gran tipo, un guitarrista pésimo, de hecho lo que él hace todo el día es escribir, y todo lo que escribe es verdad, es incapaz de inventarse nada; lo cierto es que algunas de las mejores canciones del disco han quedado fuera; pero no sé si hablar de Jim hoy, estoy muy enfadado con él. Toqué en su disco y le dije que me iba unas semanas a España mientras estuviera en proceso de producción, no sé si habrá tour por Europa, no lo sabe ni el propio Jim”. Componer sus propias canciones y reclutar una banda parecía la siguiente opción lógica: Painted Saints, grupo eminentemente volátil en el que encontramos a miembros de Maraca 5-0, Hellmen y Tarantella entre otros. Su versatilidad le ha permitido registrar en pocas semanas un puñado de composiciones, no exentas de ironía y un cierto surrealismo musical a lo spaguetti-western, pero mucho más confesionales y recogidas que la música de las bandas a las que ha pertenecido. De tono clásico –su cello se impone sobre todo lo demás-, recorrido por vientos directamente llegados del folklore europeo y algo de Dixieland, “Miles of Twine” ilustra el cálido punto en que Este y Oeste se encuentran, un disco realmente especial, tan a su aire como su autor, que debería ver la luz próximamente.

Su zigzagueante trayectoria obtiene su reflejo en un estado de ánimo cambiante como las turbulencias del tiempo –propio de alguien insomne podríamos decir- instalando su música en algún punto equidistante entre la dicha y el abatimiento, abocado a su propio impulso. Tras una noche de cigarrillos y cervezas los llevamos al motel mientras silba la fugitiva melodía de “The Black Box” de Tom Waits -el infeliz Wihlhem corriendo a través del bosque con el regalo del diablo en las manos-, después de haberse referido un tanto preocupado al problema de la vanidad de los músicos. Nada extraño en quien ha tenido suficientes ocasiones para experimentarla en carne propia y ajena, pero me parece una tontería y cuando le espeto que no piense en ello y que el ego no es nada, que es la nada misma, detecta a los viejos maestros zen y me mira con curiosidad. Se muestra luego conforme ante la posibilidad de que le organicemos un concierto en algún sitio. Le añado que escribo para el Ruta –lo que no deja de ser una falacia- y que si no le importará responderme a un cuestionario que le remitiré por correo; sinceramente me dice que adelante pero cometo el error de creerme Marlowe indagando en su pasado y comienza a escapárseme, entre incómodo y chistoso, como si le hubiese preguntado por antiguas novias: “Jim no es un compositor como tú dices, ni siquiera sabe qué es una nota. Tiene mucho oído y maña para los arreglos, y la suerte de que su casa discográfica le pone en contacto con grandes músicos (en su disco han colaborado habituales de Tom Waits y Morphine), pero es un songwriter, no un compositor. Y puedo decirte después de gastar parte de la noche discutiendo con él que... todo sigue en el aire”.

Sobre el resto de las cuestiones se muestra elusivo: “Es fascinante cómo los media crean mitos sobre la gente, el 95 % de lo que has leído y me comentas está equivocado. Existe una gran diferencia entre la realidad y las imágenes que nos llegan... en Europa me sorprendió la adoración de las multitudes hacia David Edwards. Una noche estaba hablando con una chica que quería un autógrafo suyo y que no dejaba de preguntarme sobre él. Cuando le dije que estaba en el autobús fumándose un canuto y jugando a la videoconsola no podía creerlo... le rompí accidentalmente la imagen que tenia de él y creo que no debí hacerlo”. OK Paul, empiezo a sentirme un pringado. En una entrevista para un periódico local de Denver, aseguraba haberse sentido fascinado por la recepción que el público dispensó a Woven Hand. En el mundo de pragmatismo en que parece vivir hoy, se despide asegurando que estos días está más interesado en sus dibujos y en la posibilidad de ilustrar libros infantiles que en la música, inclusive la de Painted Saints. Por el camino ha quedado también, completado pero en el limbo, el proyecto de musicar una obra basada en El Golem, el siniestro texto de Meyrink. Unas semanas más tarde, antes de desaparecer con su “mystical flying machine” adonde quiera que esta se dirija, todavía volveré a saber de él: “El músico de quien más he aprendido es Jeffery Paul de Denver Gentlemen. Mientras estudiaba música en el colegio y al mismo tiempo que tocaba la guitarra por mi cuenta, siempre luché con la sensación de que lo que hacía no era pertinente, ni guardaba relación con la vida y su fuego... sentarte en una habitación con amigos y meterte en esa atmósfera llena de humo y de peligro... Hasta que vi a Denver Gentlemen. Ellos eran la síntesis perfecta entre esos instrumentos clásicos y el espíritu del rock and roll, algo casi punk en el sentido de que ofrecían a la gente lo contrario de lo que éstos esperaban, y no les importaba nada. Denver Gentlemen se hicieron famosos por su sonido, sólo se me ocurre compararlos con Tom Waits... Tocábamos sin batería; clarinete, piano, violín y cello lanzados a un estilo lo más depresivo y violento posible. Era tan liberador que ni imaginas. Jeffery escribía canciones acerca de sí mismo y de su propia vida sin importarle lo demás. Pero a la larga aprendes de todo. Con Devotchka, aprendí a complacer al público y actuar ante él, intepretar canciones sobre sueños rotos como en una pantalla de cine donde nada es en el fondo real sino más bien un modelo... Y con Edwards en Woven Hand, aprendí a pensar en términos más amplios, dejar que las canciones avanzasen casi solas... una especie de poder que se nos iba de las manos... Con Reverend Glasseye fue una diversión loca, todas esas canciones sobre asesinatos. Y con Jim White, las suyas son sencillas observaciones sobre la vida... historias directas y verdaderas. Tal vez yo me siento más cerca de Denver Gentlemen y de David Edwards en todo este espectro de cosas, aunque creo que lo que haga será, inevitablemente, una mezcla de todo ello”.

NOTA: Finalmente, Jim White girará por Europa con Fonfara durante el mes de junio, tour al que ha tenido la amabilidad de invitarnos y al que por fucking supuesto –si los astros están de acuerdo claro- acudiremos.

P.S. En la imagen podemos ver a Paul Fonfara y sus santos pintados


- ruta 66 de barcelona

"hit pick"

Something of an all purpose, genre-juggling utility man, Paul Fonfara has played an integral part in several roots-driven acts of local renown, including the Denver Gentlemen, DeVotchKa and Munly De Dar He. Following a recent European tour as a cellist for David Eugene Edward's solo project, Woven Hand, Fonfara has turned his attention toward fronting his own ensemble, Painted Saints, which performs with Portland's pub-torching Dolomites on Friday, September 27, at the Gothic Theatre. Along with a few Hungarian folk songs and an adventurous cover of the anonymously penned "St. James Infirmary," the band aims to blend chamber-based rock and drums with avant-garde, Dixieland stylings. "Right now, it's kind of a mix between spaghetti Western, Portishead and Louis Armstrong," notes Fonfara, a natural baritone who mostly strums a six-string guitar in his current incarnation, in addition to warming the clarinet. With a quiet side to its sound, the experimental quintet boasts the talents of cellist Tom MacKenzie, violinist Kelly O'Dea (Tarantella), upright bassist Mike Brown (Room 40) and drummer Andrew Warner (Hellmen). Primitive but precise, the group is in the midst of scoring original music to accompany Luis Buñuel's pioneering 1928 surrealist film, Un Chien andalou (co-written by Salvador Dalí), with the intention of one day using black-and-white projections as backdrops to its performances. Trompe l'oeil! - westword


miles of twine LP
airplay on college and independent stations nationwide


Feeling a bit camera shy


painted saints writes tin can and twine romances in a color of rust with backdrops of long wind swept open roads framed by tangled barbed wire and naked telephone poles. Their songs are of ashtray broken hearts and lansdscapes of beauty and sorrow borrowing harmonies from old eastern europe, the desert southwest and the sentiments of working class rust belt americana.
After growing up in the wilds of Wellington Colorado, Paul went to the University of Colorado to get degrees in music and philosophy (aka the unemployment special) and then decided to play many instruments and make a career out of being a touring instrumentalist with folks like Jim White, Woven Hand (16 horsepower), Devotchka, Denver Gentlemen and Reverend Glasseye.

Over the last few years, Paul has had the pleasure of playing a former nazi bomb factory in Hamburg, an 18th century canon factory/hippie commune in Copenhagen, a hockey arena in Belgium, New York's Central Park Summerstage, a bar in Montana guaranteed to have at least one convicted murderer in attendance at any given time and Royal Albert Hall along with live broadcasts on Swedish National Radio and NPR's world cafe. After shaking hands with lots of namedroppable folks, Paul decided to sing his own songs.

Band Members