This swing-based seven piece rock it like no other. In providing a catchy and rhythm-driven back-bitten base, then blending it elegantly with reminisces of gypsy swing evocative of the late, great Django Reinhardt, these French musicians have won many fans as pioneers of the electro-swing genre. Caravan Palace are like alchemists who have mastered the formula for the undeniable, foot tappin’ impulse that hits you any time you hear the group strike up a chord, a skill that has placed many under their spell- both within their native land and abroad (the group have performed in the US as well as extensively touring Europe). With a track record like this, it seems that Caravan Palace have refined a recipe for a brilliantly debauched and unique kind of musical prowess…
We caught up with Charles Delaporte (Contrabase) and Hugo Payen (scat, synths) fresh from their performance at Secret Garden Party, UK, in our very own secret garden, deep in Paris’ 18th arrondissement. Through a playful mix of English and French, we took the collective temperature in the band’s run-up to bigger and better things…..
Text by Kat Rutherford.
Interview by Kat Rutherford and Amy Tabarly
Photography shot on location in Paris 18e by Mickael Davis
With thanks to Nick Bateson and Caravan Palace.
FAULT: You’ve just appeared in a string of English music festivals, including Secret Garden Party and Boomtown festival. What are your impressions of the way we do things there?
Hugo: Boomtown Festival was impossibly crazy. The whole idea is that the festival is this apocalyptic town and everybody acts if it’s the end of the world. There were huge fiery spiders blowing flames into the sky! We just don’t see things like this is France! We were not there for long but long enough to be very impressed.
FAULT: How does this compare with playing in France?
Charles: We have toured in France for ages. Therefore when we go on tour there it’s like a holiday camp with more whisky; we are twelve with a nice bus and a lot of excellent energy. Our French fan base is much stronger than in any other country, as they have followed us since the beginning, so our gigs are also full of this energy. It’s nice.
FAULT: As a group of seven musicians, I imagine the tour environment is pretty intense. Does your song-writing process also involve all seven of you? If yes, how do you stay democratic?
Hugo: In fact, it’s not all seven of us who create the music at it’s base! Myself et Arnaud went to school together, and found Charles and another member when we moved to Paris. Almost all of us have studios at home. In the beginning stages of the process, we work on these things at home and send the results to each other. If we get a quick response, we know it’s good!
FAULT: So how did you find your other three musicians?
Hugo: They actually came to us via Myspace. As we have evolved our music it has become clear that other elements would have to be added to our original line-up. So we have acquired our singer, clarinettist and percussionist over the years!
FAULT: So your large group size is most useful for your live performances…?
Charles: Yes. Although it’s harder to do, we prefer to play our music live. Many electro-swing artists are djs who can work alone. What we do as musicians is rarer than you think nowadays but closer to what we enjoy.
FAULT: In this respect, you are pioneers of your genre. But who else do you keep track of on the electro-swing scene?
Charles: Of course, we love Parov Stelar, Simian as well as many smaller acts…the genre is growing much at the moment. There are a lot of artists now who are becoming more mature. It is not always a success but these people are trying.
FAULT: Your lyrics are in English despite your French roots. How does this affect the feeling and meaning of your songs?
Hugo: Swing as a genre has always been American. Even Django Reinhardt wrote in English. We think that the sound is just more natural. French as a genre doesn’t swing, it has a different rhythm to English, which doesn’t work as well for this purpose.
FAULT: What attracted you to making this type of music in the first place?
Hugo: We already played swing, in the start we were a jazz manouche band. At the same time we were producing electronic music for others. The two just naturally married, and the relationship is a success!
FAULT: So what is your strategy to get the crowd swinging at Rock-en-Seine in a few days time?
Charles: It will be the first time that we have played Rock-en-Seine… the crowd will be bigger, and so it will be a challenge to get them all moving, which we love. This is a very indie rock festival, so we must make our music stand out even more…with more energy, to create those dancing rhythms.
FAULT: After your immediate plans for the end of the festival circuit, what will you be doing next?
Charles: We are not really starting on it yet but we would love to make a third album. For now we have concerts in the UK,, France and Germany to make people dance even more!