If swing music and electronic music seem like an odd pairing to you, get ready for a surprise. Not only that, but you’re behind the times. Caravan Palace, a seven-person group from France, has been pioneering the electro-swing genre for nearly 10 years. The first few members met while composing the score to a porn film, and the group has only grown in the years since. This summer, they’re coming to North America on a tour to support their new album, “<|°_°|>” (pronounced “robot”). WSN had the chance to speak with one of the founding members, Hugues Payen, about their past albums, their present tour, and the future of the industry.
WSN: Since the band formed in 2008, how do you think the music industry has changed?
Hugues Payen: Wow, it’s totally revolutionized. When we began 10 or 15 years ago, the system was changing, and unfortunately we have the old-school contract. When we began music prof, we were sure that we couldn’t do anything without a label or a publisher, and today it’s the contrary.
WSN: The Internet makes it easy to get noticed internationally, but how hard – or easy – is it to get business done internationally? What’s the hardest part of touring North America when you’re from Europe?
HP: The internet has changed the relationship between business and musicians, and we had the chance to become famous at the beginning of the internet wave thanks to myspace. In france we were quite famous before the internet thanks to myspace, so we’re the children of that. But now, not so much – now myspace has changed, and the business is just totally different. We are musicians from the business world, but we learned to do it, even if we had to let some people do it for us when we’re not able to because of contracts and things like that. There’s a lot of different sources and proposals – for instance, for advertisements on the internet. So you have to deal with contracts and paperwork, and that’s not our job so we have to hire some people for that, because if you’re not used to it, it’s impossible. But i have a lot of friends who are very good with that sort of thing – even better than some professionals – so we’ve got a lot of good help.
Basically, being a musician is now a 3-D job, when it used to be a 2-D job.
WSN: You had mentioned back in your interview with Sensible Reason in 2014 that you felt like Caravan Palace’s first album “had 2005 stamped all over it.” What makes you say that, and how did you stamp 2015 onto your latest album?
HP: Very good question, because it’s an everyday fight. Even for the second album, in 2010, we wanted it to be totally different. It’s a struggle. Sometimes a singular sound can be reworked three or four times and sound different because we make different sounds on it because it sounds like what we already did. We want to get far from whatever we’ve done, and propose something different for general music, not just for electro swing. It’s a struggle. It’s always a question we ask ourselves.
WSN: How does the process of writing music with such a large group go – is it a lot of give-and-take, or do you feel like the group has figured out how to collaborate with ease at this point?
HP: Well we are not all 7 making the songs, just 4. But it’s still quite difficult, because we are all four making different things on each song and each track, so it’s still a good question. You are never used to collaborating. It’s a lot of compromise to be intelligent enough to understand that the people in front of you cannot understand what you’re trying to tell them. It’s an everyday fight to get your ideas together. But today we know each other very well because we’ve worked together for 10 or 15 years, so it’s cheating a bit. But you’re never used to the work – sometimes you want everything to go away and say it’s none of my business, but it is! It is my business, every day.
WSN: Where do you see the music business headed in the next 5 years – do you think artists will still be making albums, or will there be some sort of paradigm shift with streaming & other ways of listening and interacting with music?
HP: I think that now the machine is launched, so it is changing. The new system is not totally stable yet. So instead of 5 years, maybe we should look to 10 or maybe 15 because then, things will be more stable. Then it might be more disciplined, especially with the work with multimedia and the way it’s going to work with music. It will never work anymore to just be a musician – we’ll have to prepare it with a lot of media. The best way for musicians – we always complain that the money we make is in other pockets. The way to take that money back is a lot of work and it’s our main job, so we have to learn it… But the new generation won’t’ make the same mistakes.
WSN: What are you all looking forward to with this tour specifically – are there any favorite stops you’ll be making, or certain cities you like touring to more?
HP: Of course, because it’s the fourth tour over there, so we have a lot of places we already like. We already played the majority of places we’re going to. We are looking forward to New York – we have a lot of friends there. Also San Diego, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and even Montreal. And we’ve been to Salt Lake City, but it was very brief, so we’re trying to spend more time there… every place is like a new adventure to us!
WSN: Anything else to add on?
HP: Come to the concert, take your dancing shoes and your vitamins!