[INTERVIEW] Ant Beard of Caravãna Sun

Have we seen you play at the UOW UniBar before?

Yeah, you would’ve.  We’ve played a couple of gigs there over the years, both Luke (Carra; guitars, vox) and I went to uni down there, so it holds quite a sentimental place in our hearts.

I’ve had a listen to your new single (‘Come Back’, from the Silver Linings EP), I know that comparisons can be pretty reductive but I’m getting a Boy and Bear, Beautiful Girls kind of vibe from it; are you happy with that comparison, would you consider it a compliment?

Yeah, 100%!  The song wasn’t written or even intended to be produced in the sound that it ended up, but I think that leading with the acoustic guitar really kind of puts it in a different world.  It was exciting to have a song and an idea and then take it into the studio and then kind of let it take on a life of its own.  It’s a great comparison, for sure.

I really like the beat, it doesn’t seem to suit the style of the song at the outset, but then after a while it makes total sense and it’s very danceable!

Yeah, that’s exactly right.  We had that beat from another demo, and with the acoustic intro I suggested, “Hey, why don’t we just try and fade in those drums the way they are?”, so we did and we ended up super happy with how it sounds.  Like you said, not intended to fit; but totally does.

So you’ve just come back from Europe.  How recent is just?

Oh, yesterday.

Oh you poor duck, how are you feeling?

Ah, pretty jetlagged.  I mean, we’ve done it seven times now, we usually go over every summer; but it never gets any easier, it’s always the same.  I been waking up at 4am since we got back, but always have such a great time over there that it doesn’t really matter.  It’s kind of the price you pay for being able to travel the world and play music for different audiences.

Well, so long as you’re prepared to take that hit, I guess?

Yeah, usually it takes a few days to readjust, but I think it gets to me more mentally and emotionally, than physically.  You come back and everything’s familiar, you want to get straight back into work, but you know it doesn’t really work like that – your mind and your body aren’t really going to let you.  But it’s all good, I’ve just learnt to take it easier over the years.

I feel like it’s almost a symbolic kind of ‘exhale’, like you get home and you can kind of just deflate?

Oh, 100%.  I mean, it’s so funny – we were on the road for about seven weeks, and I got sick over there; but a lot of the time your body really kind of ‘holds’ the sickness until it knows it can deflate; and I think we get home and that’s when we really start to feel it.  It’s definitely a well-deserved exhale, for sure.

Perfect, you can finally afford to get sick just in time for your Australian tour!

[Laughs] Exactly right, a couple of weeks’ grace to hopefully get strong again!

So what was your favourite fixture that you played over in Europe?

We got to tour around to a lot of different countries, but this year we spent a lot more time in Germany and they’re known for putting on a lot of big festivals and open-air concerts; so we played about four or five shows to around 6000 people and that was a really cool experience – not so much for the amount of people, but more for that culture behind listening to music and connecting in the live sense.  In Germany it seems to just be such an open, accepting vibe at these events and I think that when it comes to summertime in Europe everyone’s going out to experience something, whether it be community or culture or music or whatever; and I think with a lot of these concerts we had some incredible experiences – particularly in those quieter moments, when we had the entire crowd with us in the palms of our hands, it felt very special.  Those shows were highlights, for sure.

Do you feel like there’s any kind of fundamental difference between European summer festival-goers and their Australian equivalent?  I believe that Australians tend to take it for granted that summer’s just gonna be great, whereas Europeans don’t seem to let the occasional day or two of bad weather get in the way of a good time.  Do you tend to see a bit more mindfulness in European summer crowds, a bit more living-in-the-moment?

There are so many factors to people and festivals and music and culture, like over in Europe I think – especially in places like Germany – they do experience some version of what you or I would consider ‘winter’ for most of the year, so when the summer comes there is this sense of ‘richness’; and I think more broadly, such places have endured collectively hundreds of years of adversity in which they’ve had to turn to art and community and culture in order to feel connected; and so I think when it came to a lot of these concerts, I certainly felt that music and the enjoyment of music was held very highly in their ideology.  Not to say that we don’t feel similarly in Australia, of course we do; but we also have such an incredible country, the climate’s amazing, and I think that can sometimes up the ante in terms of what such crowds expect.

It’s really cool to hear such a measured, thoughtful approach; rather than just a get onstage, play the set, get paid mentality.  I really enjoy the fact that you can appreciate a humanitarian element.

I think it’s just human, man.  When you do anything for a long enough time, the bullshit gets put aside.  All the smoke and mirrors fizzle out, because they have to; and when times are tough you really do rely on things like human connection as a pretty basic form of happiness and satisfaction.  I think that when we travel abroad that connection can get even deeper precisely because we’re from elsewhere, and you’re welcomed as a guest and a friend, as well as a working professional.

Any dates that you’re particularly looking forward to on your Australian tour?

Well a lot of the places we’re playing we’ve played before; but we spend a lot of time up in the Kimberley, we’re usually there two or three times a year, and this time we’re going to be spending another week up there hanging with a bunch of friends and some of the local mob.  It’s a really good opportunity for us to kind of wind down and take some time out on country up there; it’s a real grounding experience and puts things back into perspective for us.  I’m also looking forward to going to Broome and Melbourne too, we’ve learned to make good friends wherever we go because we spend so much time away from home; so I think we’re very fortunate to have members of our chosen family all around the country.  It’ll be nice to have a few days off and some potluck dinners!

Excellent!  It’s cool when work doesn’t feel like work.

It’s a funny one, touring in a band.  Especially for us, we’re known as a party band, and I think when people talk about ‘work’ and ‘music’ in the same breath – we don’t see it as getting paid for the shows, we see it more as getting reimbursed for all of the orbital expenses outside of the shows!  When we’re onstage playing a show, that’s not work.

I used to maintain this ‘measured’ nihilistic attitude that “Every silver lining has a cloud”.  If the EP is Silver Linings, presumably there was the aforementioned attached cloud at some point – would that be a sore point for you to talk about?  Are we witnessing the re-emergence of the band after some trials and tribulations?

That’s such an interest take on that concept.  I think that’s the great thing about art in general, it takes on its own life within the audience.  We’ve been going as a band for close to nine years now, and we’ve grown from friends into business partners, in a way; so I guess that within any organisation or relationship you’re bound to experience hard times with no option but to face them.  I think this EP was really easy to write, actually; the concept of the title track revolves around my having gotten a flat tyre right next to a pineapple farm up in Byron Bay.  It’s interesting how it plays into the deeper aspect of the band though, and we’re stoked with these songs as a body of work to be coming out under that name, it’s just so poetic.

I like that story.  Whenever the public sees entertainers they’re ‘always on’, there’s this mystique that you live your life in a cupboard or a box and only ever come out to perform; but that’s not true at all.  You’re just like the rest of us.  You get flat tyres.  You like pineapples.  Very humanising.

[Laughs] The amount of times these tedious moments happen in life…You can either endure them and see them pass, or you can think to yourself, “Hang on, I think this might be something bigger!” and just follow them and see where they lead.

That comes back to mindfulness too, I guess.

Yeah, exactly.  It’s so interesting, as an artist I think I have a deeper appreciation for those moments than I otherwise would?

I’d say.  Who are you playing with on your Australian tour?  Did you want to give them a bit of a gratuitous plug?

We’re playing with a band called Gold Member [stylised ‘GLD MBR’] mostly, I met the singer/guitarist Az about two years ago when we were touring Europe, he was tour-managing Boo Seeka at the time, and I remember we were staying at the same accommodation and we ended up hanging out.  He said I should check out his personal project, I said, “Yeah no worries, we should do a tour sometime”, and here we are, two years later.


Yeah so Gold Member, very awesome, based out of Sydney, and they’re playing most of our east coast dates, which will be great.

Fantastic, I love that you always seem to run into Australians overseas.  No matter where you are or what you’re doing, and here you are making a profit on that coincidental meeting.

We pop up everywhere, there’s no doubt about that.

A bit of an esoteric, music nerd question, but what sort of gear are you guys running at the moment?  Is there any awesome new hardware that you’ve picked up that you just love playing live?

On the bass, I keep it pretty minimal when it comes to my rig.  I might use an [over]drive pedal from time to time, but I think when you talk about gear you’d have to go more towards the keys, synth, trumpet.  Ken [Allard] is the gear man.  He runs his own mixer from his set-up of two different synthesizers, and a Nord keyboard with a bunch of different delays.  We’re always on Instagram trying to find some new bit of gear, but the hard thing about gear is that it generally doesn’t survive touring!  They do not go hand-in-hand, and I think at the end of the day you just have to be accepting and conscious of that.

I often find that touring bands will have refined a song down to its very essence, and I’ll usually end up preferring the live version because they’ve kind of been able to let the arrangement ‘breathe’?

100%.  You want to be able to hear and feel a live version existing as its own beast, I definitely agree with you.  And you’re right – I can very easily get stuck in ‘gear holes’; but I think as long as it’s adding to what you’re producing, by either inspiring or informing your output, then I can justify having it.  But if it doesn’t speak to the process, then it’s just an exercise in ego; and a lot of the time on the road you just flat-out don’t have that luxury.

In relation to Caravãna Sun’s image and aesthetic – I’ve always wondered this about bands that seem to hitch their wagons to one of the four seasons – does it get tiring, projecting that image of the endless summer?  Or do you guys relish it?

To be honest, our aesthetic kinda goes hand-in-hand with the name of the band and the style of music which we play.  But I think as we’ve grown, we’ve definitely try to reinvent what it means.  When we were younger, we were projecting more of the Latino American ‘party’ kind of thing, and nowadays we’re incorporating a lot of West Coast Americana; but I think no matter what, the simple concept of ‘summer’ will always be prevalent in what we’re doing.  It just depends on what kind of shade.

Oh, definitely.  I mean, you certainly have your niche.  But I was just wondering, you’ve just come from touring Europe in their summer, about to tour Australia in our summer; after awhile do you just think, “You know what?  I really just want to do a press shoot in a cable-knit beanie and a chunky jumper.”?

Oh man, do I ever.  I love winter, but this life and this path is flowing towards the endless summer; which certainly isn’t a bad thing!

Interview – Nick Heath