Holistic Healing: The Prog-Rockers in Cat Lung Find Slivers of Hope and Connection on “Fragments” Album


Cat Lung's Pamela Benetti, David Beauchesne, Diane Crang, and Steven Crang stand outside near two tree stumps with a group of trees behind them.

Cat Lung's Pamela Benetti, David Beauchesne, Diane Crang, and Steven Crang make a plea for healing on Fragments. Photo courtesy of Cat Lung.

After feeling torn apart during the pandemic, Cat Lung assembled a holistic approach to healing on Fragments.

The Ann Arbor prog-rock quartet replaced shards of disillusionment and loss with slivers of hope and connection on its sophomore album.

“I was doing a lot of the lyric writing over the pandemic, and there was a lot of stuff that was going on—societal unrest, oppression, violence, climate change—you name it,” said Diane “Impi P.” Crang, one of the band’s vocalists and a multi-instrumentalist. “There’s so much nastiness in the news, and that’s where the lyric ‘what a world’ came from.’”

That lyric repeatedly appears in Cat Lung’s insightful title track, which features guitarist Pamela “Pammy Whammy” Benetti, bassist Steven “Even Steven” Crang, and drummer-percussionist/vocalist David “Dr. David” Beauchesne with Diane “Impi P.” Crang trying to process a divisive world alongside chaotic instrumentation.

Crang sings, “What a world, what a world / What a world we’re living in / When does sanity begin? / Patience gradually wearing thin / Graciousness can be found within.”

“The music for this track was initially written by Pam about 30 years ago, and we dusted it off, polished it up, and I wrote lyrics for it. The song is an observation, as well as a plea for us all to do better—for ourselves and for each other,” said Crang, who joined the band after husband Steven Crang, Benetti, and Beauchesne met through two different craigslist ads in 2016. “The four of us are all pretty done with the ugliness in the world and hope for better days ahead. In the end, Fragments being the title of the album was one on which we could all agree.”

Despite the album’s title, Fragments is anything but a piecemeal approach to classic prog-rock for Cat Lung. Akin to the improvisational sounds of the late 1960s, early 1970s Canterbury scene, it features cohesive elements of jazz, rock, classical, psychedelia, and experimental music fused across 10 imaginative tracks.

“We actually and intentionally try to make every song unique, and every song usually, as you’ve probably noticed, has some sort of breakdown or change,” said Steven Crang, who counts King Crimson, early Genesis, Pink Floyd, Caravan, and Frank Zappa as some of the band’s major influences. “We really want to add distinctness and do different things and not just sort of have a sound.”

While more than just a sound, Cat Lung uses serene sonic textures via the Mellotron on the nocturnal escape ballad “Dreamland.” Bird tweets along with wistful electric guitar, bass, synth, and drums lull listeners into a mental space where they can imagine peaceful slumbers that provide a portal to visit lost loved ones.

Crang sings, “In the land of dreams, we are travelers / Dancing through enchanted forests / Taking Daddy’s hand / How we long to be in the land of dreams / Flying through enchanted forests / Taking Daddy’s hand.”

“The song evolved because I had come up with the Mellotron intro on my own, and these guys suggested that we start the song that way. And I was going for this dreamy sound, and it ended up being this classic Mellotron sound … and I thought, ‘I’m going to make a song about dreams and sleeping,’” Crang said.

“I have this recurring dream, and it’s a vivid childhood memory. It’s of me greeting my father when he was coming home from work. When I was five or six years old, I would walk to the bus stop, and I would meet my dad when he’d get off the bus from work. I’d take his hand, and we’d turn around and walk down the sidewalk and go home.”

Next, Cat Lung shifts from serious to silly on the aptly titled “Cat Lung,” which takes inspiration from the band’s fun moniker and pays a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the Crangs’ and Benetti’s felines and daily litter-box cleanings.

Feisty electric guitar, bass, and drums zigzag around Crang as she sings, “How’d you get it? / You might ask / Cleaning cat box / Dirty task / Breathing dust, breathing dust / Now you must.”

“We all deal with dusty litter boxes, even though we like to complain about it a little, it is a labor of love to take care of our furry friends. David is a dog person, but he seems to like the rest of us anyway,” said Benetti, who has six cats and a dozen-plus barn cats while the Crangs have six felines, including foster cats and kittens. “This is one of our Zappa-ish tracks. It’s silly and fun and just kinda ridiculous. We have tons of fun with each other and our music reflects that. We wrote this because we never take ourselves too seriously.”

The band pays additional homage to felines on Fragments closer, “Dark Acrobat (Aliisa Kissa Tuonelaan),” or “Dark Acrobat (Alice-cat Goes to the Underworld),” a 10-minute jazz-prog track with three movements about a cat origin story from old-world Finnic mythology.

Based on tales from the Kalevala, the national epic of Finland, the track explores how the farm cat Alice shepherds stranded souls to the underworld, or Tunoela, where they can finally rest.

It’s also inspired by the Finnish classical composer Jean Sibelius, who wrote the poem “The Swan of Tuonela” in 1895, and one of Benetti’s late barn cats.

The nimble instrumentalists follow Alice’s adventures as Crang sings, “Alice, sacred traveler, we are yearning for / Someone who will lead us through / The open door / Alice, can you help and guide us evermore? / We are sad and weary, take us to the shore / Of Tuonela!”

“The idea I was going for with the lyrics was that cats have legacies and grand stories that can be told about them,” said Crang, whose parents came from Finnish immigrant families.

“They’re not just creatures that live in our houses or in our barns—they are autonomous beings who have rich lives and a history of their own, apart from any associations they may have from us. We should respect and love that about them.”

As Crang wrote the lyrics for Cat Lung’s Fragments, Beauchesne recorded the drum tracks for the album at the Crangland and Cat Farm home studios right before the pandemic hit in early 2020.

Unable to get together for in-person recording or rehearsing, the band emailed digital files back and forth to shape the album over a three-year process. A year of that included mixing and mastering with Rooftop Recording’s David Roof.

“Everything was kind of fully composed, and so it was mostly a matter of getting it down. Of those initial recordings, the drums we couldn’t redo, but we did have other recordings,” said Steven Crang.

“We were able to layer things on top of those, and then I went in and changed the bassline. We were able to continually refine it over the drums.”

Cat Lung will bring its Fragments tracks to life on stage at several upcoming live shows, including June 8 at Ziggy’s in Ypsilanti for Ypsiarboroo, August 26 at Unity Vibration in Ypsilanti with Cyrano Jones, and September 1 at Northville Winery in Northville.

“In live shows, we’ll often play a mix of our older and newer material, including one of our more classically influenced songs [that’s] not on either album, and we make sure we play a variety of songs that feature all of our different instrumentation,” said Steven Crang. “Then, we like to close with a recognizable prog cover, such as [King Crimson’s] ‘21st Century Schizoid Man,’ which people really like.”

Outside of live shows, Cat Lung has started thinking about its next album and assembled a folder of “song bits” for new material. Those “bits” will become part of new compositions over the rest of this year and coalesce into the band’s third album.

“I think we have a band ‘family’ amongst us, and I find that inspiring,” Benetti said. “I know I can count on my bandmates to be there musically and personally.”

Lori Stratton is a library technician, writer for Pulp, and writer and editor of strattonsetlist.com.

Cat Lung performs June 8 as part of Ypsiarboroo at Ziggy’s, 206 W. Michigan Ave. in YpsilantiThe band also performs August 26 at Unity Vibration, 93 Ecorse Road in Ypsilanti, with Cyrano Jones.