This Saturday at the House of Blues, Caravan Palace will bring you a seamless blend of swing, gypsy jazz and electronic music as the band showcases its 2015 album, <|°_°|>, also known as Robot Face. Prepare to see a spectacle that’s “something dreamy, not very real, but in the same time very strong and powerful,” in the words of Violinist and Vocalist Hugues Payen.
“We wanted to name it The Icon in the beginning, but we decided to let the public choose…maybe two or three days of shows [and audiences], everybody agreed on Robot Face,” said Payen. Payen, Vocalist Zoé Colotis, Upright Bass Player Charles Delaporte, Guitarist Arnaud Vial, Trombonist and Machinist Antoine Toustou, Percussionist Paul-Marie Barbier and Clarinetist Camille Chapelière adopted the album title.
Payen calls his band a combination of “sensible and chilled out.” The Caravan Palace name originates from the caravan gypsy jazz genre and Le Palace – the name of the famous Parisian nightclub, built in 1978. The band often incorporates dance into its live performances, a “celebration despite all odds,” much like Gogol Bordello does.
“Swing music has never been very engaged. It’s not a style with political ideas, or surrounding anything particularly important,” Payen laughed, adding, “Swing is meant to entertain. We just want to play music to make you forget about your problems, and be happy for a certain amount of time.”
Caravan Palace is a success story then, as my head instantly starts dancing to “Beatophone” or “Lone Digger” at my desk.
The band learned from jazz idols Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli how to compose swing chords and tunes, prevalent throughout its discography, which also includes Caravan Palace (2008) and Panic (2013). The recording process can take a year and a half due to the complicated mix of instruments and electronic sounds that have to go through several actors, said Payen.
The violinist said his favorite song is “Aftermath” from Robot Face with its flowing combination of calmness and tension, and that it represents the band’s message. I can only imagine how this particular song will resonate through the House of Blues, perhaps resembling the sound of a happy driver in rush hour traffic.
During this U.S. run, Payen said his favorite moment shared among the band mates was riding skateboards together for hours through Washington, D.C., and scoping out the monuments. “It was like a dream,” he smiled, adding, “Going slow motion on the skateboard, passing the monuments…it’s one of the best souvenir of the last 10 years.”
That dreaminess is a common theme in the band’s work, too, as “Wonderland” depicts. The introduction to this song is a creepy, childish voice telling its listener to “Just imagine a trip to a wonderful land of candy and jam and ice cream,” which is followed by echoing choir voices, and bouncy lyrics. Payen is proud of “Wonderland,” as one of many of which he helped to compose, highlighting the brevity at which its creation took place.
Payen expressed exuberance about putting on a “full show” this year in Chicago, equipped with a light engineer who will help to bring the magic to the set. This is an element Payen says the band lacked the last time it toured the United States, and it’s happy to show off not just a masterful blend of genres and dance, but also a new quality to its stage presence.
Get your tickets to this exhibition of dreams here.