Interview With Caravan Palace  (10 Questions to…)

I have been interviewing artists for over a year now. When I started publishing them, I didn’t even dream that I would have the opportunity to ask 10 questions to Caravan Palace – one of the world’s most famous Electro Swing bands. They have recently released a new album, Gangbusters Melody Club, and are now on a European tour. This makes me even more incredibly excited that, despite his busy schedule, Arnaud, i.e. the guitarist and music producer of Caravan Palace, found a moment to answer my questions. Questions that probably every fan of this brilliant band would like to know the answers to. It is with great pleasure that I present to you this interview – 10 questions to Caravan Palace. You will find out a whole lot of interesting facts, you will read, among other things, about the behind-the-scenes of the band and the production of their albums, facts about their music videos and about their musical inspirations.

01. LadyDot: Hey, what’s up guys! Pam padam, I know you can dance! You also know how to make brilliant music, and I’m incredibly excited that you, Caravan Palace, have agreed to let me interview you, and to do so in preparation for your tour and the release of your new album “Gangbusters Melody Club”! I have read that the story of the formation of the Caravan Palace band began with… a silent film for adults! Oh, please tell us about how you managed to form a band that is now known and appreciated around the world. How many years did it take to work on your first album, “Caravan Palace”?

Arnaud Vial (Caravan Palace): Hello! Yes, the story of the silent film for adults is amusing. A French television channel that used to broadcast adult movies on Saturday nights at midnight wanted to bring back films from the 1920s and 1930s. However, obviously, there was no sound in these films at that time, so they wanted us to make music to accompany it all.
They wanted it to sound “1930s” but with a touch of modernity. At the time, we had a swing band, rather focused on gypsy jazz, but we also did electronic music in our studios. So, we naturally mixed the two, and that’s how Caravan was born. Unfortunately, the films never came out, but the band was born.
The first album took us 4 years; we mixed it several times, restarted songs numerous times until we found the balance that pleased us.

02. LadyDot: You are one of the forerunners of the electro swing music genre. Where did you get the idea to combine the old-school swing vibe of the Prohibition era with electronic music, a whole lot of effects and subtle gypsy music influences? Did you want to create exactly this kind of music from the beginning and were you one hundred percent determined to take a risk, to surprise the listeners with something new, something that was not yet in the music industry? Or did you have completely different plans for your music career?

Arnaud (Caravan Palace): I answered a little bit to that question above. But I can expand. In truth, we played acoustic swing more for pleasure; we had a real passion for Django Reinhardt and the Quintette du Hot Club de France. However, we thought we would pursue a career with the music produced in the studio, which was influenced by trip-hop at the time. We were fascinated by groups like Portishead, Massive Attack, and Zero 7.

Nothing was calculated with Caravan; it was just this story of the porn movie that led us to develop this genre. We weren’t conscious that we were inventing something.

03. LadyDot: Every artist or band has one such breakthrough moment in their career. The kind of pivotal moment that suddenly makes you wake up in the morning and say: okay, this probably heralds a huge success and now everything will change. At what point in your career did you have such a situation? Was it after the release of the first album “Caravan Palace” or maybe much later?

Arnaud (Caravan Palace): I’m not sure we’ve ever said that! Nothing is ever guaranteed. Naturally, the viral success of the track “Lone Digger” left its mark on us, but it happened rather slowly, after all. Today, when we see that the video has surpassed 400 million views on YouTube, yes, we’re proud of it, but it’s somewhat in the past. What interests us is moving forward and continuing to offer things that appeal to the fans and listeners of the band.

04. LadyDot: Speaking of your successes, I can’t help but mention the more than 1.7M subscribers on YouTube, 2M listeners per month on Spotify and more than a billion views of YouTube videos, wow! Add to that platinum albums and the fact that… by your own admission, you don’t post much on social media. What then, in your opinion, has made your work reach so many people around the world, and you are constantly getting new fans who expressly buy tickets to your gigs?

Arnaud (Caravan Palace): It’s true that we’re not very present on social media, which is probably a shame, but at the same time, we live in an era of art personification via social networks, which is sometimes a bit unhealthy. People seem to be more attached to form than to substance. To an individual’s charisma rather than their art. It’s a bit sad.

In any case, it’s not really our nature; we’re rather reserved, but we try to make efforts.

What’s amusing is that some of our tracks have gone viral on platforms like TikTok, for example, “Wonderland”, then “Comics”, and “Aftermath”. This was absolutely not calculated; it completely overwhelmed us, to be honest. If so many people are listening to us, it’s probably because we offer something different from the current musical landscape. Something catchy, accessible, often danceable, but still musically demanding.

05. LadyDot: I can’t let go of this opportunity and have to ask about your totally offbeat music videos. Each one is different, crazy, totally surprising. For example, the video for “Plume” is not at all associated with summer chillout and beach parties, although the song evokes such a vibe. The dancing demons in “Mirrors”, the Texas massacre with claws and fangs in the iconic “Lone Digger”, the worms playing brass in “MAD”… This is cosmic! Do you come up with the concepts for your music videos yourselves? Or do you have a specialist in your team to creatively come up with the scripts of the coolest clips on YouTube? :)

Arnaud (Caravan Palace): I guess we do like things that are a little strange in the end. Generally, for our videos, we find an artist who interests us, whose style and universe we appreciate. Then we invite them to discover ours and make a proposal. What often comes out of it is quite unusual, and we like that. Sometimes, we might come up with our own idea, but it’s often counterproductive; it’s more interesting to let the creator fully express themselves. To give them maximum freedom.

06. LadyDot: I think it’s wonderful that over the course of several years the attitude of fans towards electro swing has changed so much. It is no longer a musical genre that has to conform to one common pattern, and listeners are increasingly open to mixing various other genres. Such was the album “Chronologic”, released in 2019 – a whole lot of pop and electronic music, some melancholy, a lot of experimentation. I love it precisely for this diversity and breaking schemes (you have not produced a so-called summer hit before, and “Plume” totally stole my heart). And most importantly, this is the first album to be released on your independent label. What challenges did you encounter on the way to producing and releasing this album?

Arnaud (Caravan Palace): “Chronologic”, that’s a sensitive subject. It’s clearly the most divisive of our albums; some love it, others hate it. At least we can’t be accused of not being adventurous. Overall, I think we wanted to make songs, which we had never really done before. To give more space to the vocals, invite guests, work with other people for a change. Spend more time on the lyrics. It was interesting. So yes, it’s a more pop album, which may have put off some people, especially fans of the first two records, but it was surprising, and that’s interesting.

07. LadyDot: On March 1st you released a new, fresh, fantastic, different from all the others, unique album “Gangbusters Melody Club”. Although actually, having listened to it some 24334592 times, I feel that it is a coherent continuation of “Chronologic” (I totally feel the vibe when I listen to “81 Special” and “Spirits”) with subtle references to the other three albums (for example, the brilliant “Portobello” and “City Cook”). What was it like working on the tracks from this album? The choice of “MAD”, “Reverse”, “Mirrors” and “Fool” as promotional singles was obvious?

Arnaud (Caravan Palace): This last album was great to compose. We really had a lot of fun and I think you can feel it in the tracks. Compared to Chronologic, it’s obviously more on the jazz side. More complex harmonies, more solos, more destructured tracks and more punch. We think it’s very versatile too. Different tempi, different moods, colours etc…
It took us a bit too long, because we really made a lot of tracks to finally keep only twelve, but we really hope to release some more as soon as possible.

The choice of single wasn’t that obvious. Coming back with MAD, which is a low tempo, smokey track was somehow a bit dangerous. But its dirty mood, its reference to the old big band orchestra, the gritty jungle sound with strong 808 bass, yeah we like that.
I won’t surprise you admitting people are often waiting for a new Lone Digger or something in that genre. Easy, beat driven up tempo track.
Fool was a bit risky too, the voice is more on the soul / rhythm’n’blues side, very loud and expressive, something we don’t usually do. But it was cool to propose something different once again. Mirrors and Reverse are a more obvious choice.

08. LadyDot: It can be said that “Gangbusters Melody Club” is completely “your” album, because this time you did not decide to invite other artists to collaborate, as was the case with the song “About You” and “Waterguns” from “Chronologic.” Why such a decision?

Arnaud (Caravan Palace): Yep no feats on this album. Why? Really don’t know… Just a natural thing. We didn’t really think about that, Zoé’s voice was working great on the songs so why would we look for other ones? In the end, it’s probably a good thing, we can play all the songs easily on stage, which can be a bit tricky when you’ve made some with other voices. Except for Fool which isn’t sung by Zoé, it’s an acapella from Ella Washington. We’re gonna keep it on stage, and Zoé’s gonna play saxophone.

09. LadyDot: I love to ask this question, because I love getting new musical inspiration from my favourite artists. I myself am a huge fan of French touch and French electronic music in general, and I’m sure you are too, because there is a whole lot of inspiration from these genres in your songs. Recently, when I listened to “Cotton Heads” from the album “Panic”, released in 2013, I totally heard there was a very similar vibe to Daft Punk! So, what kind of music do you listen to on a daily basis? What can you recommend to me and the readers of the Electro Swing Thing blog?

Arnaud (Caravan Palace): I will speak for myself here. I was quite amused when I discovered my Spotify 2023 wrapped, my favourite artists were Mozart and Beethoven… I just had a baby, and I was playing him a lot of calming pieces of piano. So I listened to it a lot as well. :)

Honestly, I listen to a lot of classical music, which is for me the most inspirational music.
If you want some French touch I would recommend Debussy and Ravel of course, but also Berlioz, Fauré or Camille Saint Saens.

Aside from that, I really like Jungle and Sault lately. Both British, both very good.

10. LadyDot: You have a tour ahead to promote the new album, and then…? What are your plans for the near future? Continuing to tour around the world, more music videos, or maybe a moment of rest after an intense time or some special surprise for fans? Maybe you have a dream you would like to realise, such as creating a song in collaboration with some artist? By the way, see you at your show in Brussels, I can’t wait!

Arnaud (Caravan Palace): Yeah the tour is gonna be something this time. A lot of dates, that’s great, we’ve been locked in our studios too long, we need to see the world again. We would really like to release some new tracks pretty soon. We’ll see if we have time to finish them, the tour can be a bit overwhelming.
We would like to make some new mixes for our youtube channel as well, fans seem to like them. The last one, the chill mix, was cool to make, so why not a new one? Or maybe a more upbeat one? Or maybe both :)

See you in Brussels !

Interview by LadyDot; Date: 2024-03-25


Electro Swing Radio