'They came, they saw, they conquered' is probably the best way to sum up last year's Malta visit by Australian band Caravana Sun. Their performances at Earth Garden were not only energized but also truly captivating. Proof of this is the incredible vibe the band whipped up with its spirited performances and infectious songs. It is an effective combination that they've practically perfected thanks to their constantly busy schedule of live performances back home in Australia as well as all over Europe, where they've also attracted a widespread fanbase through their regular tours of the continent. The band's frontman Luke Carra, who is of Maltese descent, speaks to Michael Bugeja ahead of the band's live performance on Thursday, July 30 as part of the Farsons Great Beer Festival in Ta' Qali.
First of all, your comments about Caravana Sun’s first Malta experience last year at Earth Garden. Was it all you expected it to be, how did it compare to your several solo visits in previous years?
It was truly amazing to share those times together. Our two performances at Earth Garden Festival under the stars were magical, as was our stay in Malta. We still talk about jumping off the rock in Comino or diving into the underwater paradise near the Azure Window in Gozo, and for me personally, it's good to maintain a strong bond with my motherland.
You went back home to a busy Australian summer schedule, including opening for Michael Franti, which must have been quite a kick…
We were indeed very busy. As soon as we got home we had a hectic summer festival circuit waiting for us and, having taken on a new member, we needed to work even harder and speed up the process. We went straight into rehearsals and writing while coping with a good run of summer festivals. Opening for Michael Franti was amazing; he is such a gentleman and very friendly. They were really fun shows too!
You mentioned taking on a new member, Ken Allars. How has his arrival contributed to the band and its live dynamic?
Honestly, I think it’s been the best thing that could have happened to Caravana Sun. Ken's arrival forced Alex, Ant and myself to question why we are in the band and what we want to achieve Caravana Sun? We took time to assess what we love, who we are, what we want to change, how to change it, what's working and what's not. I still remember Ken's audition like it was yesterday. He walked in bright-eyed, pulled out the sheet music to our songs and played every song from the AYA album to perfection, then after that we just jammed. Before he left he told us he's keen to join the band but would like to bring in keyboards and perhaps sing a bit too. I wasn’t keen at first but we gave it a shot and now I love it, as it has improved the groove and encouraged me to do expand my guitarwork.
Your latest single Ashes retains some familiar elements of the band's sound but has a poignant undercurrent inspired by an unusual event...
During last summer's Australian tour we met an indigenous man in Western Australia. He approached us after our gig to thank us for reigniting the fire he’d lost inside himself, adding that our music 'called up all his ancestors from the ashes to that moment'. His character captivated us and we invited him to play with us the next time we visited, to which he replied that he would love to but only had a couple of months to live as he was terminally ill. The way he was completely at peace with his fate left its mark on us. He said he would play with us in spirit and urged us to keep overcoming life's obstacles. His words, particularly when he mentioned overcoming obstacles, really resonated with us and were the source of inspiration behind both the song Ashes and its one-take video. It's probably one of the most heavy songs we've done but it feels good to play it.
When did you start writing the songs for the new album, and how did the change in line-up, if at all, impact the flow, direction and overall sound that the new album will offer?
The whole process of Eamon leaving felt quite strange. In the space of the two years he was in the band, we wrote just a handful of songs because our main focus was on performing live, which we were super stoked to do. Since Ken joined the band, we've penned around 20 songs in one year and we've shifted our priorities to focus more on writing songs. I feel the sound of the band is definitely more versatile, edgier and with a lot more groove. It seems we are treating our instruments as tools to create rather than just being a guitarist or trumpeter. We're all artists who will do whatever it takes to make the song breathe. The new album will definitely be different to AYA but will project as much energy, with the difference that the majority of the songs have been written as a band on the road, during soundcheck jams, in a friend's backyard or dodgy garage. The songs have a strong connection with the spirit of the land.
AYA captured a good audience down under and all over Europe too. How has the new material you’ve been playing on your current European tour been received so far?
The feedback for the new material has been good. Audiences seem to be digging the stronger blend of progressive surf-ska we're developing. This has easily been the best tour we've done so far, in that every show has been so epic and fun. It seems like last year people were still discovering the band and the album and now, one year on, it's beautiful to watch the audience sing an entire song like Give Me Grace or chanting to GAIA. We just love Europe so much. The culture is invigorating and the community always welcoming. We're stoked its working so well over here.
I’m sure you're looking forward to performing in Malta again...
We can’t wait. Malta was a real highlight last year. The shows were epic but we also love the overall vibe of the island. We'll only be on the rock for three days this time though, as we have to head back to Holland - the only place in the world where people mosh to our music - and the UK for the last week of the tour. After that, it's back to Australia for a couple of weeks off and on to Western Australia to connect with the top end and feel the earth vibration. We're really inspired by Aboriginal culture and the bond with the country. There's so much to learn and adapt into our lives and music. See you soon and Grazzi!
Click here to stream the video for Ashes.
An edited version of this article was first published on The Sunday Times of Malta (26 July 2015)