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Featured Artist: Caravan Palace

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Does anyone remember "Hooked on Classics," a schmaltzy record put out in 1981 by K-Tel that featured a cross section of classical masterpieces set to a driving disco beat? French band Caravan Palace takes a somewhat similar house beat and screws it onto the end of classic swing music. The difference here is that it works splendidly

The swing component is more relatable to the beat than the aforementioned unholy matrimony of classical and disco. The premise is the same, but Caravan Palace comes on with a certain synergy, and it isn't nearly as cheesy. The beat is sweet and so is the swing. An irresistible endeavor.

CITY fired off some questions to violinist Hugues Payen over in France. He fired back. An edited transcript follows.

CITY: What goes into making this electro-swing band swing?

Hugues Payen: We were first a traditional jazz swing band, with me playing violin, Arnaud Vial on the guitar, and Charles Delaport on the double bass. We played together in bars in Paris. One day, we were contacted by a French TV production company who wanted to release an old, silent, erotic movie from the 30's with modern music. We tried to mix these two genres, swing music and electronic music. We felt a lot of enthusiasm while people heard it. Caravan Palace was born.

Do you think this brings more fans to swing music?

I'm not sure, but I guess. People who didn't know much of swing but who liked our music got into it; mostly young people.

Do the purists turn up their noses?

At the beginning. We were a bit afraid about it. The second concert we did was in a famous festival in France called Django Reinhardt Festival where every jazz purist goes. It was a true baptism of fire for us, but everything went fine. Purist or not, everybody danced like crazy.

In creating your music, what comes first: the electro beat or the swing?

There's no recipe for making tracks. Everything can start with a melody, a bass line, a sample, a beat ... no rules.

Which of your songs best represents what the band is about, and why?

I think "Brotherswing" really describes the mood of Caravan Palace, especially the live version. There's a lot of swing in it with every instrument playing quite fast, a synth bassline on a powerful House beat, and a lovely voice melody.

How did you discover this style of music?

We've always been huge fans of guitar player Django Reinhardt. He was our door to the whole swing scene. This adventure started with our deep love for Django, that's why you can feel that Gypsy flavor a lot on our first record. Then we fell in love with great swing composers, like Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Fletcher Henderson, and other great big band leaders from the 30's and 40's.

Was anyone doing this mix of genres before you?

When we started this band, it was not a genre yet, but there were previous successful attempts at mixing swing and electronic music, like Mr. Scruff with the track "Get a Move On," and a project called G-Swing, which released an album one year before our first record.

Who have you influenced?

It seems like quite a lot of bands followed us in this genre, and the electro-swing scene is growing almost everywhere in the world. We are quite proud of it actually.

What makes a show great for you?

This is probably common to every band, but I'd say seeing people smile, dance, scream, and ask for more after the final track.

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