Psychedelic/progressive rock act The Vintage Caravan is about to release a brand-new album titled “Monuments,” via Naplam Records. The Icelandic rock trio will be making their fifth release tomorrow, April 16, 2021. The band has numerous major festivals such as Roadburn, Wacken and Hellfest,and touring with legendary Opeth. The group provides a truly unique listening experience in the sense that they’re bringing you something old, and turning it into something completely new. The band continues to expand their fan base of both young and old due to their unique retro sound, and I caught up with Alexander Örn Númason to talk more about their music, their new album, and how the pandemic has personally affected him.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with me; how are you and the rest of the guys doing?
We’re doing pretty good, we’re experiencing the fourth wave of covid in Iceland, and they’ve decided to close all the school for three weeks, so it’s back to vacation.
How exactly has Iceland been handling the pandemic situation? Because I know in parts of Europe and here in the states, it’s been a bit of a mess.
Definitely, I’m sorry to hear about the situation in the state. I don’t envy you guys. But I guess that’s to be expected when you’re in a big country. The biggest thing here in terms of Covid is that as an island, you can control who comes in and comes out. But we’ve had some pretty good periods. Last summer was good, and up until now, everything has been great. Other than having to wear a mask at the supermarket. They closed everything down now for three weeks, which is a little bit of a shame as we were supposed to play a festival next week. It is what it is.
Hopefully, things get back to normal sooner rather than later. But I do want to say congratulations on the upcoming album release, which is fantastic. And the singles have been getting positive feedback. How have you felt hearing such a positive response from fans?
Thank you very much. We’ve been really high on the feedback that we’ve been getting. And this is maybe the first time we put so much promotional work into a release. We’ve been doing this since we were very young, and it’s hard sometimes to apply yourself and get everything done. But we’ve been working with a new label now, and everything is just coming together. We’ve been looking forward to sharing this album with the world, and from the feedback, people seem to like what we’re doing.
You mentioned the new label, which is Napalm records. What’s it like being a part of the Napalm family, and how did that come about?
It’s been really great. We wanted a label that could take our stuff to the next level, and we’ve known the Napalm people for years. And they always said if we ever needed a home, to come over. And when our deal with our previous label ended, going there was our first choice, and we couldn’t be happier.
That’s awesome. I wanted to ask about your first single, Crystallized. Iceland is known as the land of Fire and Ice, and it seems that many tourists don’t seem to understand the unpredictability and the extreme harsh contrast of the weather there. The song seems to tackle that issue a bit; could you tell us a little more about that?
You pretty much nailed it. The weather is very unpredictable. I was out running once, and when I started, it was really cold, there was a lot of snow, and it was brutal. And by the time I got home, it was sunny and clear with no wind and was just a total 180. But people would just start walking without looking at the weather, and they end up never being found. That’s been happening a lot since the tourist boom; it got so massive. Especially with the beaches, people don’t realize that they’re standing on a beach, and every 10th wave is just bigger than the rest of them. So it’s super scary and you don’t want to get caught up in a snowstorm.
But the song is talking about that, and the lyrics were inspired by a Chinese couple and their story. As for the track itself, in the last year, we wanted something a little more complicated and maybe a little more proggy. Though sometimes we went away from that a little bit because it doesn’t always serve the song. In this case, we wanted to go a little all out, and it felt like it serves this song, and in this case, for it to be a little bit wilder with the lyrics especially.
It also looks like you guys had a blast filming the video for that track as well. Did the pandemic cause any issues with scheduling the shooting of videos?
It did, but luckily at the time we filmed the video, it was alright. We’re actually shooting another video this weekend, and one of the things about it is we can’t use a lot of extras. There are maybe ten people in production, and it’s a bit complicated. But we went with the theme where we didn’t need many extras, and it was just these few guy’s going through all these amazing spots along the countryside. It was an awesome experience. The video turned out to be a lot weirder than I expected though. But we were all into that kind of stuff, so it was fine.
I know that you were in the studio for like 20 plus days recording the album. Were you able to finish the recording before the pandemic struck, or is this something that impacted that as well?
We started in February 2020, and we finished it at the beginning of March. It was a bit of a funny feeling because we were like, what’s this Crona virus? We had just managed to get our producer back to England, and I went on a vacation in Austria, where I got stuck in central Europe. They announced that they were going to close the German border in the morning with one days notice.
So I kinda had to escape Austria in the middle of the night, which was super weird. It’s a crazy story; when I got to Germany my flight got canceled. So I was stuck there with no flight, and they just kept rebooking and rebooking. So I had a contact with the airline and if I had not done that I would’ve been stuck there for three months.
Luckily, I got home. But in the studio, it was a nice time to do it, and with the pandemic, it would’ve been so crazy during that time. We worked really hard in the studio, and we don’t like for things to distract us. So we went 22 days with no break, working from nine till sometimes up until midnight. When we make an album, we make an album. I’m happy that this is what it represents, and we put a lot of work into it.
The band seems to be able to effortlessly blend retro and classic rock with your own unique sound. As a listener, I feel like it gives me something nostalgic, but at the same time, it delivers something unique and fresh. How difficult is it to balance those influences while still offering something completely different?
Thank you. Honestly, it comes quite naturally, but I think we all have different influences. Like Óskar embodies the whole 60s/70s stuff, where I come from, I grew up on 90s rock and was a little bit more into Metallica than say Led Zeppelin. Then our drummer is sort of into these funky things.
There is this whole 60s 70s vibe and a lot of funk coming through, but we like doing something that we think is a little more fresh and new. And it’s partly a conscious decision. When we first signed to a national label, and we started touring with all these retro bands, it was like a huge scene in Europe and in America. I love these bands, but I didn’t want to feel defined by one particular scene or just a fad. So it is a conscious decision. We think we are just a rock band and we’re not trying to write music that’s too 70s.
Earlier this month, I believe you played what was your first live show since the pandemic. What was that experience like to get back up in front of a crowd even if it was a few people?
We were filming this live show with a new platform in Iceland. We did this production in which we were allowed to have 30 people. We were allowed 50 total people in-house with technicians and staff. It was super cool to be on stage again after such a long time. It was weird, but a natural feeling. We actually even managed to play a few shows last summer, and that was weird to be in with a group of people and the lights. When you’ve been home for so long, and you come to a place like that, it feels so insanely weird.
You also have some dates scheduled with Opeth, which is now for 2022. I’m sure your eager to get out there to promote this release.
Totally. It’s a weird lifestyle change but in some ways, it’s been very good. It’s funny; we have been a full-time touring band now for like six or seven years. Life has revolved completely around being on tour. It’s like if we don’t tour, we don’t eat. We’ve been doing like 100 shows a year abroad, and honestly, when this whole thing hit, it’s like, when you’re touring full time, you don’t have time for “normal people” life stuff.
I’ve spoken with many musicians, and a lot of them have said the same thing, that they are enjoying this break.
Absolutely. And I’m very much a goal-oriented person and when this thing happened, and I was in Austria, I had to quarantine for two weeks. I just felt like I would have time now to do everything that I didn’t previously have any time for, Because when we started touring, I was a kid. So I sat down and worked on an album for another project, and I am in school studying electronics and it’s nice to get everything done before we have to be on tour again.
So does the band have anything then plan for early and late summer this year?
We originally had the tour plan for spring, but it’s a shame that we can’t do anything else. So we are going to be doing as many shows as we can here in Iceland. We have kind of neglected Iceland because we’ve been touring abroad so much. And it’s also a shame we haven’t toured in the U.S. yet. So many problems with the visas, but I would love to tour the U.S.
Many fans are hoping to see you guys live here. Do you think that a U.S. .tour is in the cards for you at some point?
Totally. We have been making those plans for a long time. It’s tough as a European band because you have to wait for the right moment and the right tour, and it’s challenging to get over there. But we are deftly going to be coming to the U.S. at some point. I hope that the U.S. comes out of the pandemic soon and things get back to normal.
We’re looking forward to seeing you guys over here. Thanks again for taking the time to speak with me, is there anything else you’d like to say to the fans?
Check out our music and check us out on social media, as were all about interacting with our fans. Especially our U.S. fans since we haven’t been over there.Were looking forward to getting back out there playing some shows!