We Don’t Want Anything for Christmas (Except For an End to Homelessness)

written by Emanuel Cavallaro
December 19, 2012

Earlier this month, I spoke on the phone with the husband and wife songwriting duo Fuzz and Carrie Sangiovanni of Caravan of Thieves, a gypsy-jazz band from Bridgeport, Conn. At that time, they were in South Haven, Mich., on the last leg of their fall tour promoting their third album, “The Funhouse.”

The band is donating proceeds from downloads of two of their holiday themed songs, “I Don't Want Anything For Christmas,” and “Ms Priscilla Pumpkin” to the Alliance. You can listen to both songs and download them from the band’s website. And you should, not just because it would benefit the Alliance, but because they’re really great songs. Trust me. I spoke to them about the band, the tour, and the reason they’ve decided to devote so much time to the issue of homelessness.

(By the way, check out the end of the blog post for what has to be the coolest Michael Jackson cover ever.) Here’s what Fuzz and Carrie had to say.

So how’s the tour going?

Fuzz: Right now we’ve been out for about two weeks. The whole tour is roughly two and a half months. At the end of their Fall tour. We started in the beginning of October and we were out for several weeks straight. This Monday we’ll be home for a couple of days, then we’ll be back out for another couple of weeks.

Why are you calling it the “Homeless for the Holidays” tour?

Fuzz:  You know, we’re not going to be home for the holidays. It seemed like kind of a fun spin on the play on words for the tour. But as we started thinking about it, we had a lot of ideas about how we could make it more meaningful and benefit people. It’s like, what can we do? How can we help people? Even in our songwriting, we like to bring up socially-conscious things, but we don’t do it in a preachy way,

Carrie: We’re covering the whole country, so we wanted to raise awareness and raise some money. It’s not going to be a crazy amount of money but it’s not just the donations, it’s the awareness. That’s why we’re calling it the “Homeless for the Holidays" Tour,” you know and along with what we’re doing with you guys, too, obviously. So it’s kind of a play on words, but with a deeper meaning.

Back in Bridgeport is the issue of homelessness important? I’m just curious why you guys arrived at this issue.

Carrie: Right now we’re traveling all over the country, and we see homelessness everywhere we go. It’s a national issue. I have met a few homeless people and talked to them. It always frustrates me when I hear someone call someone living on the street a lazy bum, and say, they just need to get a job. There are so many circumstances that can put someone in that position. And I think we, as people who haven’t experienced that kind of hardship, have a responsibility to get some perspective and, you know, help them. That’s kind of our job.

Fuzz: Connecticut is a funny place because a lot of it is really wealthy, and then you’ve got a few pockets like Bridgeport, which are not. Bridgeport may not be as bad as other places, but there’s homelessness there. You go some places, and you can’t imagine the wealth that’s there, but there’s also places like Detroit, where you’re like wow, this is a city that can use a lot of help. There’s enough of homelessness out there…we just think that it shouldn’t exist. Homelessness can happen to anyone.

What are you saying with your song, “I Don’t Want Anything for Christmas?”

Fuzz: With “I don’t want anything for Christmas,” we’re saying, you know, people who are buying more gifts than are really necessary, why not tone that down? As a society we throw a lot of things out, and we spend money on things that we don’t really need. Either way, it just doesn’t seem right that there’s so much excess in this country, and yet there are people out there who don’t have any place to live, or who are just so poor that they’re barely getting by.

Carrie: The lyrics go with what we’re doing. It’s like, instead of spending all your money on things you don’t need, get a couple nice things for the people you care about, and maybe give something to the people who really need help this season.

How did you guys hear about the Alliance?

Carrie: I found it about it this fall when I was researching organizations. What I like about the Alliance is that it’s national. We didn’t want to pick just one local organization because we are going to so many different places, and we wanted for people all over the country to participate.

Fuzz: Our tour pretty much took us through the whole perimeter of the country, down through the southeast, then across the south, through the southwest, up the west coast, then across the north. We’ve covered a big part of the country over the last few months. And we made little cards that we handed out at our shows that had information about our tour and what we’re doing and links to the Alliance website and the song.

Carrie: Also, for this last leg of shows, we made a run of these little buttons that said, “I don’t want anything for Christmas,” and we sold them for $3, and a portion of the proceeds from that are going to the Alliance too.

How are audience’s responding to your message?

Carrie: There were some places where we told the audience, and it was kind of quiet, and some where they were just, “Yay!” they’ll applaud. And you can tell it strikes a chord. And some people are grabbing the buttons and saying, “let me get a few of those,” and you can tell they’re psyched about helping. So the audience reactions vary. I don’t know if that’s because people have different views on the issue or what.

Fuzz: Well, it comes out of left field for us too, because our general vibe onstage borders on the comical or theatrical. We do goof around a lot. So when we turn around and say here’s this very serious issue we want to talk about, it catches people by surprise a little bit. But a lot of times our audience is older. A lot of the people who come out to our shows are a little progressive, and our audience is often more of a folk audience. So when you bring stuff up like this they’re usually on the same page. The response hasn’t been overwhelming, but it’s been pretty good. At the very least we’ve gotten people thinking about the issue, which is great. We’re just happy to be using our music, not just to entertain, but to educate.