Zel is a fortune teller. She works out of her century-old house removing clients’ aches and pains, advising gamblers and channeling cranky spirits for a quick check-in with their loved ones. Zel is very good at her chosen profession, but she also receives some unique assistance. For as long as she can remember she has shared her home with a group of ghosts — a priest, a bride, a mute child, some washed up vaudevillians and a noisy group of sight-impaired musicians — who pass on incredible knowledge and abilities from beyond the world of the living.

All goes on at the family homestead as it has for generations, until a mysterious light appears in the woods. The ghosts suddenly realize they are trapped and forge a rebellion, tormenting Zel with all the aggravation and insanity they can muster. When Zel uncovers the origins of these spirits, she is forced to choose between her comfortable if strange existence and letting go of the only family she has ever known.

Zel’s unique story is a lesson in hope, habit, and folklore. The atmosphere is utterly enchanting, an odd realism tinged with humor and wonder. Angela Bettis, respected cult actress known for roles in MAY and GIRL, INTERRUPTED delivered an extraordinary performance as Zel. Superstition, sound and the intricate details of the claustrophobic house feed the film’s construction, allowing the story to unfold like music. This is no surprise, as writer/director Tim Rutili is also a founding member of the band Califone, who appear in the film and provide the lush original soundtrack.


Tim Rutili is musician, filmmaker and visual artist. Founder of bands Red Red Meat and Califone, he serves as principal songwriter, lyricist and vocalist. Also a member of Ugly Casanova and Boxhead Ensemble, Rutili has contributed to albums by Modest Mouse, Sage Francis and many others. He has composed music for television, documentary and feature films, as well as directed short films and music videos.

Recent film work includes Key to the Highway a film and video installation commissioned by Chris Doyle for the 50,000 Beds exhibition at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum. His film Three Legged Animals was screened at the Getty Museum as part of Distributed Memory: Projected Images and Live Music. He also contributed photographs, collage and paintings to Series 2 & 3 at Brooklyn Fireproof. Rutili’s installation 500 Polaroids was part of You are My Sunshine/You is My Sunshine at Canada Gallery in New York.

He has performed worldwide and provided a musical score to numerous films and curated programs including: live score performance to Early Abstractions by Harry Smith at Images Film Festival in Toronto, as a member of Boxhead Ensemble at Doclands Film Festival in Dublin, Stories, Maps and Notes from the Half Light- live score performance to short films by Gem Cohen, Laura Moya, Braden King, Grant Gee, Paula Froehle, Gustav Deutch and Barbara Meter, and God Builds Like Frank Lloyd Wright: Califone and the Animated Films of Brent Green at Sundance Film Festival.

Together with Glen Sherman he founded Better Angel Films, which produced his feature directorial debut All My Friends Are Funeral Singers, premiering at Sundance 2010 and distributed by Indiepix. All My Friends Are Funeral Singers is also the companion piece to Califone’s ninth album of the same name. The screenplay for the film and many of the songs were written in tandem and incorporate many of the same images and characters. The album was released in October 2009 (Dead Oceans).

Currently, Rutili and Califone are creating the original soundtrack for The Calling, the Kindling Group’s four hour PBS series exploring faith and religion.


In an underground music landscape where 140 characters equals “journalism” and lone MP3s propel bands to momentary internet stardom, bands are here today and gone tomorrow. Califone is a band that defies this blueprint. Their albums are full of layers and textures, offering endless depth, entire universes to lose yourself in – and beyond the thick spectrum of sound, they do something even more important: They write great songs. Califone is a band that will stand the test of time.

The band is at the peak of its powers on All My Friends Are Funeral Singers, its sixth song based album. The long-awaited follow-up to 2006′s acclaimed Roots and Crowns, the album is the strongest collection of songs in a career with no shortage of strength. The subtlety and detail of Califone’s previous work is present here – the atmospheres are carefully nuanced, the percussion is both rattling and melodic, the melodies are rich and soulful, interspersed throughout softly strummed folk and electrified blues. All My Friends Are Funeral Singers is a dense collage of sounds, expertly formed into fully realized pop songs.

Roots and Crowns brought a newfound immediacy in Califone, most notably on their cover of Psychic TV’s “The Orchids.” They had never recorded a song that would function as an obvious single before this, and the results were spectacular. All My Friends Are Funeral Singers expands upon these explorations – the hook on “Funeral Singers” is urgent and undeniable; the melody in “Polish Girls” is pop perfection. “Buñuel” is as epic as it is catchy, while “Evidence” and “Krill” are both absolute studies in beauty.

This pop exploration runs through the album, but it’s not at the expense of Califone’s vast musical vocabulary. The band’s multi-instrumentalists (Joe Adamik, Jim Becker, Ben Massarella, Tim Rutili) and several notable guests utilize an orchestra’s worth of instruments on the album, from the more typical (guitar, bass, piano), to the unusual (optigan, prepared piano, stylophone). Throw in more strings (fiddle, mandolin, banjo, baritone ukulele, cello), percussion (mbira, marimba, steel drum, thumb piano), some horns (bass clarinet, clarinet, French horn) and a whole mess of other oddities (ring modulators, loops, “effects,” synth bass, electronics) and the careful production and mixing of longtime collaborator Brian Deck, and you’ve got the perfect ingredients for Califone’s finest and most ambitious album to date.

Califone’s music has often been described as cinematic, and the band has been known to contribute live improvised soundtracks to silent films. Many of these performances have been released on Califone albums Deceleration One and Deceleration Two. Primary songwriter and vocalist Tim Rutili’s artistic endeavors stretch beyond music, and include the creation of surreal short documentaries, music videos and experimental films.

From the same font of inspiration–and on the same theme–as the songs on All My Friends Are Funeral Singers comes Rutili’s first feature-length film. Also titled All My Friends Are Funeral Singers. The screenplay for the film and many of the songs were written at the same time and incorporate many of the same images and characters.
The movie was shot in an old, rickety house in Indiana in the spring of 2009 and stars the respected cult actress Angela Bettis (Girl, Interrupted , May, Carrie). The band will be performing a live, interactive soundtrack to the movie for many of their performances supporting the album, adding a new element to the band’s live show. It will be a truly special and ambitious event, and unlike anything Califone has done to date. A stand alone edit of the movie will be submitted to film festivals come 2010.

All My Friends Are Funeral Singers is the record that the great Roots and Crowns hinted at. The songwriting is fleshed out, the musical vision is boiling over, the sonic experimentation is indulgent and dense, yet there’s a great cohesion, a sense of purpose and a newfound focus to this Califone effort. Never has the band felt so vibrant, so alive, on one of their albums. All My Friends Are Funeral Singers is built for the long haul. Make space on your record shelf, because this one is here to stay.


Giving Away the Bride
Polish Girls
Funeral Singers
Alice Marble Gray
Better Angels

FUNERAL SINGERS coming home to Mill Valley!

by IndiePix
October 6th, 2010

Alright fans, here at Better Angel we’re thrilled to announce that ALL MY FRIENDS ARE FUNERAL SINGERS is an official selection of the prestigious Mill Valley Film Festival! It’s here in beautiful Marin County, CA, where the film was conceived, and it’s here we’ll make our next stop, with Califone in tow! The boys will be screening the film twice at MVFF (Saturday, 10/16 and Sunday, 10/17), along with the ever-popular live score accompaniment by the band. Additionally, Califone will be playing a full show at the legendary Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco on Monday, 10/18! Head over to the IndiePix Box Office to get your tickets to all of these upcoming events (as well as a recently announced Califone show back home in Chicago)!

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