The Great Thing About Electro-Swing
Caravan Palace are a french electro-swing band made famous for their music that mixes classical jazz with electronic beats. Cai got talking to them about the type of music they create.
For most people, the early noughties was about Britney, NYSNC and The Backstreet Boys. But for me, it was the birth of my favourite genre of music – electro-swing.
Electro-swing merges old school jazz and swing music with new, electronic production methods. It grew slowly from its humble origins in the 90s, where several hip-hop tracks, like Lucas with ‘Lucas With The Lid Off’, sampled vintage swing. It never really seemed to go anywhere, with many of the songs being one-off novelties. By the time we hit the early noughties, artists like Jimmy Luxury and Mr Scruff started to shape electro swing into a genre of its own, with songs like Hi-Ball Swing and Get A Move On. The real pioneers, who brought the influences, worldwide hits and massive audiences were artists such as Parov Stelar, G-Swing and Caravan Palace, who I was lucky enough to talk to.
When you were starting out, electro-swing was quite a new and original type of music – how did you get into making it at first?
In 2005 there weren’t any bands doing that type of music so there wasn’t even the name electro-swing. It was just some tracks from artists who didn’t do a whole album but more of a concept. We decided to do it because we were playing in a gypsy jazz band at the time and we were also electronic music producers. So it was quite natural for us to combine of it both of these styles … [and] it worked. It was not exactly the music we make today but it was the beginning of what would become electro-swing and we found it quite interesting. We decided to put everything aside and do exclusively that kind of music and that was ten years ago.
What was it like – pulling together those two styles of music that were very different?
It was quite natural for us because we were already electric producers [and] at the same time we were playing our instruments in bars and at weddings around Paris. When we [started] it was only natural for us to put in gypsy jazz, which was the oomph music we knew how to play and electronic music. It was difficult at the beginning because it always sounded weak or not very powerful so we had to work a lot on the sound. We felt there was something interesting with it, we were working on it for a year/year-and-a-half and at that moment it was like something came into our mind saying ‘wow, I think this is a good way to do it’.
Your music seems like great music to dance to – was that the aim?
Yes, that was the goal. At the beginning we didn’t know [what] we wanted to do with the music but it was evident to us that it was the way to work. We didn’t produce house music we did more like trip-hop music so we had to work a lot on the code and techniques of producing house music or dancing Music. It was quite difficult for us.
So does it have any other message or meaning?
If you listen to the lyrics in swing music they always talk about love, jealousy and [sometimes] death but we didn’t want to have a message for people except for one to tell them to dance and enjoy life.
Who are you inspired by?
Lots of people. At the beginning there wasn’t anybody that did it, so we had to find our own influences. We listened to a lot of Swing music because for us it was the main thing. We had to understand the codes of Swing music everything that goes with and around it. So we listened a lot to Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday and Lionel Hampton. For the electronic part, maybe daft punk and other French/Dutch artists.
Has that changed at all?
Since then we [have] discovered a lot of different electronic music, so if I say we are just influenced by Daft Punk it is not right. We are influenced by lots and lots of electronic music artists that we love and the differences are very subtle. It’s really important for us to have our own style, so we try to make it not obvious that something influences us. Everybody tells us that we have a unique sound so we try to keep it.
So how would you describe the type of music you guys create?
We used to say that it is electro-swing. Nowadays we think that we try to do something different than just electro-swing. There’s always some swing in it, some electronic music but we want to take it somewhere else. It’s difficult to answer your question because it’s just Caravan Palace.
How has your style of music changed over time?
I think we wanted to do something more current with our new album [<I°_°I>]. We say that electro-swing can be something stuck 10 years ago. Sometimes you feel [that] it’s always the same song and that’s exactly what we wanted to escape from. For example, [we] listen to things like Rhianna and it’s so well produced, so different, so modern that we wanted to do some things like that. Not necessarily Rihanna, but something like that sounds very current, that’s what we want to do. I don’t know if we succeeded but at least it doesn’t sound like in 2005.
Caravan Palace are coming to Bristol on the 10th December at the O2 Academy so if you want to dance along to some of their music, then’s your chance.
What do you think? Is electro-swing the next big thing? Is it something you could get into? Let us know on @rifemag
Or if electro-swing isn’t so much your thing, then you can check out the Night of the living MCs at The Station