The Vintage Caravan have sure come a long way. As they released their second album, ‘Voyage’, they graduated from support slot jockeys to headliner status, their energetic stage presence attracting swathes of young, party-hungry millennials. They went on to sign with Nuclear Blast in 2013, subsequently relocating to Denmark, and started touring internationally full time.
Two years later, frontman Óskar Logi Ágústsson clearly carries the stress of having been on the road for so long. Despite the excitement of performing at big festivals like Roskilde and Wacken, playing upwards of 50 dates over a summer takes its toll. And the shows themselves are the easy part—Óskar tells me they’ve spent most of the past few months crammed into a small van with all of their gear, driving across Europe for up to eleven hours at a time, suffering each others’ smelly feet and loud snoring.
Now the trio is back home for a spell, recharging their batteries and preparing to celebrate their latest album, ‘Arrival’, with a grand release show. I chat with Óskar at Stofan café as he enjoys a much-needed cup of coffee. As always, he is personable, quick to laughter, a glint of excitement for what’s to come sparkling in his eyes.
For many young people, the idea of touring through Europe and making a living off of your music sounds like a dream come true. What’s it like, being 21 and having already reached that coveted plateau?
It’s all very surreal, and completely different than I had expected. I’m very grateful for the opportunity, as it’s not a given that people will receive your music well—we’ve been lucky in getting the right people with the right connections to take an interest in us.
You play ‘70s inspired hard rock, that doesn’t at all feel out of place coming on after Deep Purple or Zeppelin on classic rock radio. Why do you choose to play such an old-timey style of music?
Because it’s so much fun! There are a lot of people that’ve asked us “you’re from Iceland, why don’t you play pop music?” Electro and black metal are Iceland’s two main musical exports, but that’s not what we’re interested in playing. I think a big part of the beauty of living in Iceland is that nobody expects to be able to make a living playing their own original music, so there’s less emphasis on “making it.” People create their music the way they want to without compromising, and that’s what we’ve been able to do.
The video for “Expand Your Mind” from ‘Voyage’ is loaded with references to taking a trip on psychedelic substances. How much do you guys, playing psychedelic rock, drop acid or do shrooms?
Not at all. I mean, I can’t speak for the other guys in the band, but I’m not interested in any of that. I haven’t said this before in an interview, but every song on ‘Voyage’ tells the tale of some absurd story or character, and “Expand Your Mind” is about an encounter I had where these junkies were trying to get me to partake with them, saying “Dude, just try it, expand your mind!” Another song that was a bit more controversial but does the same thing is “Know Your Place” [a song that caused an uproar for its overtly misogynistic lyrics].
I really hoped that people would get it at the time, and I panicked when everyone thought we were endorsing these views. But fuck it, it’s art, and there are plenty of artists that write texts portraying troubling characters and their thought processes, like Nine Inch Nails. A large part of the metal scene also does this, such as Cannibal Corpse, and they’re not serial killers, even if their lyrics often focus on butchering people.
We’re from Iceland, one of the most feminist countries in the world, and we’re all feminists in the band, so I don’t know… It was so absurd to us that people didn’t get that we were saying these chauvinists are assholes.
So what can you tell me about the new album?
Oh, it’s good! It was released this May, and has been well received. We recorded it in January in a studio we set up in Borgarfjörður. We were isolated there for two and a half weeks, writing, recording and finessing the album. The first four songs are much darker and heavier than the stuff that’s on ‘Voyage’, the next three songs are more party-friendly, and then the final tracks are very proggy. I feel like it’s a very cohesive album.
Are there any songs that you foresee will cause as much controversy as “Know Your Place” ?
No! [laughs] That song and album, they were both experiments that we don’t need to repeat.
So what can you tell me about the album release concert?
We’re going to play the album in its entirety for the first time ever. We’ll be joined by Magnús Jóhann from Electric Elephant, who played keys on the album, so we can perform our songs differently than when it’s just the three of us. We’re working on getting the sound as tight as possible, because we want to make sure it’ll be a once-in-a-lifetime kind of show.
The Vintage Caravan’s album release concert is tonight at Gamla Bíó at 22:00. Tickets are 2,900 ISK. See the full description on our listings website.
Eistnaflug Friday: It’s All Fun And Games
Eistnaflug has long been the annual meeting place for Icelandic metalheads (and increasingly international ones as well), but it has also traditionally played host to a number of acts that don’t quite fit the genre. This includes local faves like Mammút, Agent Fresco, Grísalappalísa, and more. Each year, however, I hear metal fans complain that it’s not dark enough, or that they are out of place, but I couldn’t disagree more. Yes, they’re not metal, but if Eistnaflug only had such acts, it would tire the fans out, their ears would ache, and the festival couldn’t retain the same number of frequent visitors. Eistnaflug needs diversity, and that’s exactly what The Vintage Caravan bring into the fold.