From the very first beats of any one of their songs, Caravan Palace bridge together swing and electro pop into a high paced catchy tune that’s simultaneously modern and nostalgic. Caravan Palace is a 7 member band whose influences are shown throughout their style of music, most notably Django Reinhardt, who was a French Romani jazz guitarist and composer who created a style of guitar playing called ‘hot’ jazz guitar. Caravan Palace debuted in 2008, and quickly gained popularity with their self titled debut album, which reached No.11 on the French pop charts and remained in the French albums charts for 68 weeks. Caravan Palace (2010) introduced the public to the band with album singles such as Suzy and Jolie Coquette that worked to establish the band’s sound and image. Jolie Coquette opens up with violins and strings and initially leads the listener to believe that this is a swing style jazz song with a quartet of musicians playing. However, Jolie Coquette quickly transforms into a electo-swing style song from the minute vocalist Zoe Colotis starts singing. The blend of electronic sound and electric dance music along with the swing style of jazz rapidly grew popular in France, especially among the local bar and club scenes.
Citing influences from artists such as Django Reinhardt, Daft Punk and Lionel Leo Hampton, Caravan Palace works to keep a certain style of music alive while transforming it into a more modern sound. Their main goal is to keep the spirit of swing and ‘gypsy’ jazz alive, and in an interview with the Boston Globe, cofounder and violinist Hugues Payen credits Django Reinhardt’s music as being the main source of inspiration for the band, stating that “At the very beginning of the story, because of Django, we played Gypsy jazz, so we played swing, so we played Caravan Palace. Without him, there’s no Caravan Palace. What he did for swing music — I think not for Gypsy jazz, but for the whole swing style — is very important.” The electronic influences of the band comes from Daft Punk, as well as Mr. Scruff, whose 1999 song “Get a Move On” became known as the first electro-swing song to be created.
The septet has released three albums total – Caravan Palace (2008), Panic (2012) and <|°_°|> (Robot Face) (2016) – however, all three albums explore a continuously changing sound and style, with Caravan Palace being a exploration of what a group of people could do with just a bunch of equipment and their minds, Panic being a refinement of the band’s idea of electro swing and jazz, and Robot Face being the mature product of what sort of music this band creates. By bridging together swing and electronic music, the band creates a mixture of nostalgia and modernism – refining old tradition through folk music (gypsy jazz) with new technology (using synthesizers, percussion and instruments such as violins and vibraphones) and ultimately creating music that takes the listener away to someplace new and familiar, giving a bit of bounce to your step the minute the beat kicks in. Part of the band’s charm is the sound, while the other comes from their music videos which are for the most part 2D animated however some, like Dramophone feature actual people. The video itself is about a altercation that escalates in a local diner yet the band rushes to save the day by playing a disc that is so catchy, the altercation is settled by a dance off. If only the world’s troubles could be solved through swing jazz and dance offs.
A love for music and creating something that connects with the listener despite everything seeming to fall apart makes up the charm that is Caravan Palace – as the band held a concert a week after terrorist attacks in Paris earlier this year to a large turn out of people, with the band remarking that :
“We discovered that people went to our concert like therapy, more than as a concert. It wasn’t a political or social message, but we were proud to make the people able to come back out to a concert without being afraid.”
Maybe it’s in the name, maybe it’s the blend of two different genres that technically seem like an odd combination of old and new, but Caravan Palace whisks the listener away on a adventure to see the world through glittering rose tinted glasses, even if for a few moments. Even their song Wonderland starts with the words –
“Just imagine a trip to a wonderful land, of candy, and jam and ice cream.”
and suddenly the electro swing sweeps you off your feet.