Be still my 70’s rock loving heart, The Vintage Caravan has done it again and absolutely slayed with their fifth studio album, Monuments which will be released this month via Napalm Records. To say this album is packed with talent might be the understatement of the century. Every instrument has a voice of its’ own and every progression is perfectly placed, even with the dynamic musical shifts. The lyrics take on multiple tones with a few friendly warnings planted within. It is an incredible journey and one you will want to crack a beer to and take all in one sitting.
Iceland might not be known for this style of music, but The Vintage Caravan are making a name for themselves as they have hit number one of the Icelandic charts with “Whispers”. While Oskar Logi Agustsson started this adventure in 2006 at the young age of 12, he has added two stellar musicians, Alexander Orn Numason (bass in 2012), and Stefan Ari Stefansson (drums in 2015), and the trio of mastery was solidified. Call them psychedelic rock, call them stoner rock, call them progressive rock, whatever genre you rope them into, they nail every damn one.
Recently Oskar kindly sat down with Metal Nation and spoke about the upcoming album.
Did you start working on Monuments before or during Covid?
“Actually right before and during. We recorded the album in February and March of 2020. We also flew in a good friend of ours, the producer, his name is Ian Davenport, who also made Gateways, which was the album before this one. We had a great working relationship with him. We did three weeks in the studio basically working around the clock, 15 and 16 hour days, it was quite extreme, but we managed to fly him back home and everything just worked out. We had been discussing going to the UK and mixing it there with him, but we ended up doing it via email, so it was a pretty slow process. I would ask for a little more bass drum, then five days later I would hear it and think, oh no, that was a mistake *laughs*, go back.”
Well even with it being a slow process, it sounds amazing. I have listened to it numerous times.
“Oh wow, that’s great! That’s really nice to hear, thank you. We really are happy with the end product. On the upside as well, with that process, we were listening to the album on three different devices, all the band members, so when it sounded really good on all devices, we were very happy. Sometimes you can be in the studio with really expensive speakers and the best recording amps and it sounds amazing there, then you listen to it in your car or on your phone and it sounds like shit, and you think, ‘Oh no, oh no!’ *laughs* so that was where it was good. So at least covid gave us the space to really get the album where we wanted it to be. So there was definitely good stuff about this as well as the obvious bad, but we stay optimistic. We are very happy with the album and everybody seems to be enjoying it so that is a really big plus.”
“Whispers” hit number one in Iceland and Iceland is not really big on this style of music. That’s amazing!
“It is our first single to hit the charts anywhere, and in Iceland we have always been a national secret. Maybe you have heard of the name, but not a lot of mainstream people maybe don’t know it, but I really feel like that is changing now. We have been getting quite a bit of coverage like full page interview in the national newspaper here, so that’s nice. Especially since I started the band when I was 11 or something, so it’s been a long time.”
It is very well deserved. It is the music I grew up on with a progressive edge to it, so it is the best of all my favorite worlds. I was really excited when I initially heard you guys to hear there was someone bringing back that sound that is such a full and incredible sound, especially with only three musicians. One thing I really enjoy about The Vintage Caravan, is you can hear and decipher all three instruments, which is not always the case with music. Usually the bass is hidden in the background, but you can hear all three of you and you are all incredible musicians.
“Thank you, that is pretty good to hear. I am definitely the biggest 70’s nerd in the band, but the guys are really all over the place, well so am I, I listen to a lot of different kind of stuff, jazz and I am a really big blues fanatic, which is basically the root of everything that I love. The other guys used to be in technical death metal bands and black metal and all that kind of stuff, but I have always been the same guy since I was 9 years old, well I am a bit more mature maybe *laughs* and harrier *laughs*. When it comes to the foundation, long hair and rock and roll, that is just always where I have kind of been. I am extremely lucky with the guys in the band. They are extremely accomplished musicians and absolutely world class. I am very happy with Stefan the drummer and Alexander the bass player. Alexander has been in the band since 2012, or something like that.”
Did you grow up listening to this 70’s class rock style music?
“There was a lot of different styles of music playing in the house. My dad used to sing in choirs, and that kind of stuff, so there was a fair bit of that kind of music, which probably just pushed me more into rock *laughs*. I was thinking earlier, the first tour I went on was with my dad, my dad was in a philharmonic choir or something like that, we went to Italy for five shows or so. So I had a little bit of experience sitting on a bus and eating sandwiches and at gas stations and that sort of stuff. It was good to know what I was heading into. There was a lot of different things played around the house though. A lot of 80’s and Eric Clapton, the Shadows with Hank Marvin on guitar and that kind of stuff. Actually I saw the movie School of Rock when I was 9 and I thought, ‘Oh what? These kids can play? I’m a kid, I can play and do that.’ I watched that movie everyday for like a year. I watched it the other day and it ages pretty well, it’s a great movie. I think that gave me a little bit of a push into playing and I got really into it and it just became my whole thing. My brother gave me a box of vinyl records, he was not really a rock fan, he was more into 70’s and 80’s synth type music like Human League and stuff like that, so he gave me a box of twenty or thirty albums that had Led Zeppelin, the first four Black Sabbath albums, Guns and Roses, just stuff he thought I would like. So I would play video games and listen to those albums on repeat. That had a huge impact on me, so yeah, it was a very musical home that I come from.”
That’s cool, I also grew up on vinyls. It is interesting how relevant they have stayed over the years. How has it been releasing your music on vinyl?
“I really felt like I was releasing my first album, like ‘Now I did it, now it is a proper release’. We got Voyage in our hands after we signed with Nuclear Blast and I was so happy. When I was in school, there were no other kids listening to vinyl, I was the only one that was collecting this kind of stuff and I am still quite a vinyl fanatic. I think it is the most romantic way to experience music. I never really connected with the cd’s or that kind of stuff, to be honest. I mean, it was comfortable, you could listen to it in the car, but when it comes to really experiencing an album, I think vinyl is for sure the way to go.”
I 100% agree. It is just better sound quality and absolutely more of an intimate experience because you listen to the whole album. You don’t just choose one song on a vinyl and switch to another vinyl *laughs*.
“*laughs* Yeah, you just have to listen to it all.”
With that being said, how important was the placement of the songs in this album?
“I always want to make an album flow as well as possible and have these movements that go up and then go down to make it feel like a journey. It was quite important for us for sure. There are some songs that right off the bat we knew had to be a certain place, like the more personal stuff starts on track number 3 and then kind of keeps on going. The first two songs are more stand alone when it comes to lyric content, first one being more of a part tune, ‘Whispers’, and then song number two, ‘Crystalized’, being more about the harsh weather here in Iceland and how it claims so many lives. In the beginning of 2020, it was horrible. Every week there was a tourist dying because they would get lost and that kind of stuff. It was really really bad, so that was kind of like a warning song about a man who is traveling through a weather warning and get’s stuck in the snow. We also kind of experimented on that track. We did kind of a Pink Floyd-esque tip of the hat, if you will, to them with an audio movie kind of feel. I slammed two doors, I recorded one door and then recorded another one so it sounded bigger and that was supposed to represent the character leaving the car, slamming the door. Then you can hear the wind and the acoustic theme appears there. It was all very artsy fartsy.”
That video is so good and so much fun to watch. I kept thinking, “How can I sit here and watch cannibals and be entertained and not sick to my stomach?” It was executed so well. I thought, “Well that was really fun, what a fun adventure that was!” *laughs*
“*laughs* That is so fun to hear. It definitely takes a turn there. *laughs* There was a point where the video was ready and we looked at each other and said, ‘How is this going to go?’ *laughs* But we have never been one to shy away from making weird videos. We always take the music very serious, but when it comes to the videos, we really want to have fun with it and take the viewer for a bit of a ride. *laughs*”
I love the reactions at the end where you are all freaking out about what you just did and then you guys are trying to warn the other guys like, “Don’t do it!” *laughs*
“Those guys are in a band called Volcanova, they are good friends of ours. We actually met up a few weeks ago and had a blues jam at their rehearsal space. It was really fun. They are amazing and I am always encouraging them to make a music video that is part two *laughs*”
*laughs* That would be awesome! The song, “Said & Done” also has a shift in lyrical content than the rest of the album. I feel it is also a warning of telling people to take better care of our planet as well as each other.
“Yes exactly it definitely is. We have always shied away from these more, I don’t know if it would be considered political or controversial content, but there was a point at the beginning of 2020 where, I won’t go into what it was, but I got some news and it just pissed me off so much and I wrote this just rant on my phone, lyrics, and it ended up being about five pages of me just ranting and then I sent it over to Alexander and he said, ‘Ok, I can make something out of this’. That song was actually written just a few weeks before we went into the studio. We work really well under pressure. When there was about five months until we went to the studio, I had about 2000 songs ideas in my phone, but really finished songs with lyrics we had about two *laughs*, but we had about seven ideas for a skeleton of a song and had to add everything on top of it, but we rehearsed a month straight and long writing sessions and we really pushed ourselves. I am so happy, I think we work best like that, like this has to happen, and then we make the best stuff. That’s how I feel with the creative process with the band.”
Musically, I enjoy everything. I enjoyed all songs for all different reasons, yes you can hear 70’s rock influences, but not so much that you can compare it to someone specifically, and I think that that is great you are able to pull that off. Especially with such a strong musical genre.
“Yeah we never wanted to be a band that was frozen in the 70’s, and then put in the microwave in 2020, warmed up, ‘Here you go.’ *laughs* We really wanted to be our own band that had our own sound, but of course, we are influenced by: 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s music, the influence is all over. For example, the song ‘Said & Done’, there is a Billie Eilish reference in there. There is a sound of like a warning alarm going off in the end, then it slows down, and that slowing down effect I got the idea from, ‘Xanny’ where it has the crowd cheering and then it slows down. The influences come from all over the place for sure.”
I heard in one interview you mention The Mars Volta, and I can definitely hear that influence with the progressive style guitar.
“I think the identity of the band, or whole concept is, complex musical stuff with different kinds of chapters and a lot of time signature changes, but you have to balance it with pop sensibility with the hooks and everything to make the journey pleasant. You can’t go too far in either direction. For example, I have said this in a few interviews, but I love Gentle Giant, but I also love ABBA. You have to find the middle ground there. We like to keep it interesting for ourselves and for others. Other musicians will hear it and say, ‘Oh that’s hard to pull off’, especially singing and playing the stuff. Doing it separately is hard enough, but doing it at the same time is…I didn’t really make this very easy for myself. I can tell you that for sure.”
I play guitar too and can’t hardly form a sentence when I am playing, so I have no idea how you guys all do it.
“There are songs that I think I can never sing and play at the same time, but then I play them every night when I am touring so it just happens. There is one song in particular that I don’t know how I am going to pull it off.”
Is it “Sharp Teeth”?
“Actually, strangely enough, no, but that one is super difficult as well. I am getting closer to that one. It is actually, ‘Can’t Get You Off of my Mind’, there is one chapter in that song, which is after the second chorus, there is a guitar break, I have a guitar here I can just play it, *plays it on guitar*, but I am singing a different melody over it completely. I have to be so zen to try to nail that *laughs*. That is going to be interesting. Josh Homme actually influenced me a lot with that in Them Crooked Vultures, playing that stuff and singing that is very very impressive.”
We ended to interview with talking about his dog Hendrix who shares the same name as my son. What a fun human to talk to.
Monuments is one of those albums that you don’t want to ever end. There is so much ridiculous talent with these three musicians and they execute their compositions to an otherworld level. Every song takes you on a new adventure, yet the entirety of the album takes you on a whole new degree. I will be shocked if this album does not end up on my top ten for the year. Make sure you support The Vintage Caravan and buy their album and merch. Musicians are hurting during this pandemic and we need to support them like they have always supported us through all our struggles, heartache, and pain.