The Cravens: "We're Feeling Like We're 25 Again"
But for their personal warmth and goofy sense of humor, "grizzled" would be a good word for these veterans of rock and roll (and a wide range of other musical genres).
Friends and off-and-on bandmates for more than 30 years now, the Cravens are the latest incarnation of the long musical evolution of Ron DeSaram and brothers John and Bill Storch -- South Florida boys who paid their Clubland dues in the cities of the Northeast and lived to sing the tale.
"Bill and I met Ron DeSaram in 1980," John Storch told New Times. "Bill and I were in an alternative band called Black Box Approach and Ron was in a similar band called the Demos. We latched on to each other as there were just a handful of bands in West Palm Beach/South Florida playing this type of stuff back then. It was all Foreigner and Journey and bullshit. We played gigs together from Miami to West Palm in the early '80s."
DeSaram and a pair of his high school buds went on to form the band Crossfire Choir while Black Box Approach changed its name to Ata-Tat. In what John Storch called "a big, incestuous history," Crossfire Choir moved to New York and Ata-Tat moved to Boston, and the two bands traded off personnel over the years, including DeSaram, who joined Ata-Tat in the mid-'80s. (Still with us, dear reader?)
"Crossfire Choir moved on to become the 'house band' at CBGBs, was managed by Hilly Kristal (from '83-'97)," John Storch said. "They signed a record deal with Geffen and had an LP produced by Steve Lillywhite. Ata-Tat never signed to a major label but had a handful of regional hits in New England and toured extensively, including multiple shows with Crossfire at CBGBs."
Ata-Tat broke up in 1989, DeSaram rejoining Crossfire Choir and the Storchs returning to South Florida. The brothers branched out into a wide range of musical activity, working with a good portion of Palm Beach County's visual and performing arts community in one form or another, creating soundscapes that owed more to Ravi Shankar and KarlHeinz Stockhausen than to the Glimmer Twins -- not to mention projects touching on country Western and soul.
DeSaram returned to South Florida in 2000, after Crossfire Choir broke up, and reconnected with the Storchs. "Ron, Bill and I worked together in 2003 as the Sewing Circle Sues," John Storch said. "It was a kind of Crossfire Choir/Ata-Tat reunion band. We did a 'World Tour' with two dates: One at CBGB as part of its closing celebration and the other at Respectable Street."
The Cravens emerged out of a 2013 memorial service for DeSaram's mother, where the three honored her with a performance. "We continued to get together on a regular basis, playing guitars to cheer up Ron's spirits," John Storch said. "We did some cover songs and, at Ron's insistence, some of the many originals we had recorded over the years."
The band's performances now draw primarily on the originals. "It's singer-songwriter stuff but heavier," DeSaram said. "It's more involved than your typical three-chord material." Asked for contemporary models he mentions Lloyd Cole and Ryan Adams; John Storch cites Gillian Welch and Lucinda Williams.
The group's long nightlife years, partying away, are behind them now, and family is central to their lives. "We don't feel like we're 'settled down' though," Bill Storch said. "We're having so much fun," DeSaram said. "We're feeling like we're 25 again."
Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers South Florida news and culture. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.