Caravan 222 of San Francisco defines themselves as a cosmic country band with psychedelic rock and folk music in their DNA. Their latest album Sit Back & Stay Wild is a new chapter in the rowdy trail blazing sound of Caravan 222 featuring the best music they have released. Sit Back & Stay Wild moves away from the early phase of their career where they stayed true to their musical influences. Now the band finds their own inspired voice and musical innovation.
Sit Back & Stay Wild released in February 2021 on Honey House Records is a dramatic shift away from the close, heartfelt intimacy and longing heard on the previous album Patagonia. The new album is upbeat, layered in reverbs and rich instrumentation. The music is a leap forward in production quality and shows a new depth of creative sophistication. It suggests that the future of this band is bright and multi-dimensional.
‘White Dungeon’ is the first single from the latest album and it takes their folk sound and blends it with Velvet Underground rock. ‘White Dungeon’ has wild electric lead guitar, heavy tremolo and moody vocals that stand apart from their early songs. This new single is dense with dark psychedelia and is the heaviest song the band has presented. The music is dynamic with loud and dense sections that strip back and open up leaving space for the vocals to come to the forefront.
Caravan 222 is a collective of songwriters from various locations around the USA who have all settled in the San Francisco Bay Area. They met in 2017 in Valparaiso, Chile at The Parallel Inverted Universe Art Residency where they recorded the lost album Patagonia. They released their debut album Never A Prophet In Your Own Land on Honey House Records in 2017 followed by Layover and Sit Back & Stay Wild.
The core line-up has several main songwriters Kyle DeMartini on vocal and guitar, Dashiel McClary vocal, guitar and fiddle, Jacob Landry on guitar, Sam Hartman on bass with Craig Jacobs and Tyler English on drums and pedal steel and Nate Porter is one of the founding band members. Through time the bands line-up has been transient with members coming and going depending on their location and availability. Caravan 222 has seen at least ten musicians rotating in and out of the recording and live line-up over the years. This collective dynamic has allowed them to freely record and gig with a variety of voices and writers working in harmony.
The debut album Never A Prophet in Your Own Land sets the foundation for the band establishing themselves as newcomers in the cosmic country rock scene. Strummed guitars chime with a percussive quality. Ringing chords and low-end runs define the structure of the songs. The Appalachian folk fiddle plays with gusto in a style that is traditional while hinting at the future out-of-the-box trajectory. The lyrical baritone vocals are comfortable, intimate and have the tone of a smoker and drinker.
Never a Prophet In Your Own Land has a poetic writing style that is most commonly heard in Bob Dylan’s rambling lyrical style. Layers of instrumentation resonate together for an inspired album. This first album has strong lyrics, fresh energy and focused inspiration.
The follow-up EP titled, Layover released the following year, 2018, has louder electric guitars with folk rock ballads and atmospheric psychedelia. The instrumentation has sections of density that deviate from traditional alt-country folk music heard on their debut. The songs are forlorn with a sense of sadness and longing.
The opener ‘Disaster Ballad’ is effective at expressing the heartbreak and strain of life. It is an emotionally tiring song that acts as an excellent segue to the stripped down songwriting on the follow-up Patagonia. Layover inched the music closer to the eclectic music heard on Sit Back & Stay Wild while staying true to their country folk roots.
Since the start Honey House Records has played an important role supporting Caravan 222 releasing all their albums and promoting the band. The label was based in San Francisco and describe themselves as “music and art collective that works locally to promote and foster art, music, and culture, through producing live shows, recording and distributing original music…” Honey House Records promotes an “authentic analogue sound”. Caravan 222 was an ideal fit for the label’s ethos with their analogue acoustic songs and singer songwriter approach with a rock edge.
Patagonia released in 2020 is intimate, stripped down and focused on the raw experience of acoustic guitar and voice. This album was recorded in 2017 at the writers retreat in Chile but the tapes were not released until 2020. This album holds the earliest recordings from the band and set a strong intention and inspiration for the albums to follow.
The interesting story behind Patagonia’s delayed release is described below by Kyle DeMartini:
“Patagonia never would have come out if it wasn’t for some twists of fate. The place where we recorded it, “Estudio La Tostadora” burned down during some horrible fires in Chile and we thought the tapes went with it. The producer contacted us years later and said he found the tapes, we were stoked. It was such a genuine, unique time that we caught on tape, we wouldn’t have been able to reproduce that. Then the quarantine happened and we decided what better time than now to release this acoustic album Patagonia. It came out as a 2020 Christmas gift to the world.”
Patagonia is straight-up whiskey loving bluegrass folk with minimalism and traditional melodies. The songs tell narrative stories of seasons passing, challenges and centers on the retelling of other people’s lives. The album is dependent upon a live performance feel that is intimate and personal. The musicians sound like they are sitting in a small room with every finger slide and whisper coming through the mix.
The singers have laid themselves bare on these early recordings. The exposed soul of the musician in all its melancholia and guarded emotions is on display. This intimate portrait is beautiful and features acoustic versions of a few of the songs heard on other albums. The band performs with depth and clarity in their lyrics and shines a light upon the power of bare compositions and melodies.
On Sit Back & Stay Wild, Caravan 222 demonstrates eclectic versatility with tracks that are cheerful and light-hearted and others like ‘White Dungeon’ that are dark and lysergic. Every song on this latest release is well done and exemplifies why this band has endless potential to thrill psych rock lovers, folkies and indie radio. They take the best aspects of their previous albums and add ounces of attitude and style. The new sound hints at inspirations coming out of Los Angeles with an edgy gritty tone that is build on low brow singer songwriter foundations.
Sit Back & Stay Wild is a dramatic shift in tonality and production from the bands early phase. The sound is rock oriented with stronger psychedelia and experimentation. The album has several indie folk songs that would be at home on indie radio. These selections are loosely comparable to the early works of The Lumineers with cheerful light-hearted songs with clear backing vocals and captivating arrangements. The opening tracks ‘Morning Comes Alone’ and ‘Keeping My Mind Off You’ are the best examples of their indie sound. These selections are charming, catchy and refined.
‘Red Velvet’ and ‘Pink Street’ offer up rowdy folk rock with a hint of country and a heavy dose of wild-spirited drug fueled rock. ‘White Dungeon’ is the darkest song in their catalogue and has heavy psychedelic vibrations with dense instrumentation and a Velvet Underground feel.
Sit Back & Stay Wild maybe a breakout album for the band with five incredible songs that push boundaries. In the process of making the album the band makes a powerful contribution to the 60s folk revival with clean arrangements, strong songwriting and willingness to dive into new psychedelic sounds. They have taken traditional Appalachian alt-country sound influenced by Bob Dylan and traveled miles into new territory, creating music that is wholly unique and captivating. The charm, strong songwriting and lyrical wit are enhanced with innovative instrumentation and a willingness to move outside the traditional form.
Sit Back & Stay Wild is a nod toward and departure from the early phase of their career. In the beginning they stayed true to their musical influences but now the band has found their own voice and has unusually inspired and innovative songwriting. Sit Back & Stay Wild points to a new era for the band where they could easily gather fans and see a breakout song in the near future. The future is bright for this band and we still have time to join-in before the masses find out.