The Caravan
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The Caravan

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada | SELF

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada | SELF
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"What Up Steve?" by Halifax rap group The Caravan instantly became an iTunes single of the week with its crafty rhyme disssing Stephen Harper for disrespecting parliament, "pick-pocketing" the masses with $13-billion in tax increases, watering down medicare and allowing the FBI to make arrests in Canada. It's not a song that will win him favour in the corridors of power, but leader MC Mckenna is more at home with the common folk and you can be sure those

under or unemployed are almost certainly going to be applauding. - New Canadian Music


I’ll be honest with you, reviewing submissions for a blog-type music site such as ours is simultaneously inspiring and dispiriting as old hell. Don’t get me wrong, even with the stuff I absolutely hate, I still mostly feel honoured when someone takes the time to send us the art they’ve sweated & slaved over with a personal plea to have a listen. But I’m only human. I can only listen to so many blatant Drake/Kanye ripoffs before feeling the urge to go Hulk smash and tear one of Drake’s terrible Coogi sweaters into a thousand multi-coloured strands. But this new single & video from The Caravan is certainly not that.

I posted The Caravan’s last video a few months ago, and I’ll happily post something like this new one any day over the mountain of derivative, self-indulgent hip hop we’re sent. What Up Steve? takes aim at our dubious & doughy Prime Minister, and whether you agree with any or all of the points being made in the song, I think it’s completely healthy to question whether ol’ Steve Harper really has the interests of the majority of Canadians at heart. I mean think about it, how many people do you know whose beliefs would align with Steve’s? Not sure I know a single one. Plus, it’s great to repeatedly refer to him as Steve, I bet he hates that. “You’re taking what we need while you listen to Creed”. You cannot front on that.

On top of all that, it’s also a rather enjoyable song, Kyle McKenna’s Chali 2na-esque flow is a soothing listen and there are some top-notch horns which always gets my seal of approval. The Caravan have an album coming out in May, and it’ll be worth everyone’s time I’d say. - Hero Hill Music Blog


A Halifax rapper frustrated by what he sees as a lack of honesty from the federal government has called out the man at the top: Stephen Harper.

In "What Up Steve?," 27-year-old Kyle McKenna and his hip-hop group, The Caravan, touch on everything from the contempt of Parliament ruling that sank Harper’s minority government in 2011 to the controversial Beyond The Border pact.

He even accuses the prime minister of listening to Creed.

But it’s clear from the first verse that McKenna is particularly concerned about the plight of Canadian artists.

What up Steve?
Thanks for cuttin’ CBC
From all us people making music with our hearts on our sleeve
We squeeze rocks, and write it while we're makin’ em bleed
But then you're droppin’ the axe
And your cuttin’ the feed man
In an email exchange with HuffPost, McKenna said it was cuts to the CBC in last year’s federal budget that first motivated him to write the protest song. With less funding, he said CBC Halifax had to close down a space used by local musicians to perform and record.

“We were one of the last four local bands to play that stage,” he said. “So this affected myself as well as others and spurred the inspiration.”

McKenna admits he’s no political science major, but the “carpenter by day, sales clerk by night, performer by late night” still thinks it’s his obligation to raise a fuss... - Huffington Post Canada


It’s always an inspiring and amazing feeling when you see that all of your hard work gets recognized. I caught wind of this feeling two days ago when I got in contact with The Caravan after hearing about their new music video going viral on reddit.com. You work so hard, for the music, for your friends, family, and small group of fans. You work 9 to 5, maybe a night shift at another part time job somewhere, you get home and you absolve yourself into the exciting and infinite realm of music; a world of pure creation. You tell yourself it’s all for the music, you love making it and you don’t care either way. This is mostly true, until you find yourself sitting with your band mates over a couple of beers bitching about all the hard work you put in, and for what. This feeling doesn’t, at least for serious musicians, last very long.

The band members of The Caravan experienced the power of the internet on September 27th when their new music video for the song “Words That Make You Feel Good” went viral and sat on the front page of reddit, an online super forum, all day, peaking at spot number 6. The video hit 150,000 views in two days. By 9pm on Thursday it had hit almost 75,000 views.

“This is a pretty hilarious thing that just happened, we’re just kind of having a laugh about it right now,” said drummer Mark Bachynski.

Classless sat down with The Caravan and a few of their gleaming-with-pride friends for a couple beers and a chat about their sudden and positive online attention. “We have gotten more attention today than in the past 12 years combined,” said guitarist Mike Ritchie.

This makes sense in my mind. It has been said that coming up in the Halifax scene is a tough go, and after speaking with the band I couldn’t agree more. That being said, Halifax has a GREAT music scene, this is a non disputable fact. However, it has very established roots that go deep into Haligonian culture and trying to grow a new one, evidently, is quite an excruciating process. Emcee Kyle McKenna explains:

“Halifax caters a lot to tourists and a lot to cover bands. I mean, it’s cool to go down (to the bars) and get the ye-old maritime feel, get your drink on, you know, it’s cool, it’s a good time! The bands are tight, they’re good at what they do and they’re good at playing the tunes people want to hear. However, it’s hard for somebody coming up because you find that people don’t want to branch out from that. It’s like there is more priority to go see the guys playing fishing songs then it is to go see people breaking out the new stuff. It’s just better advertised. They got bands that they like, they promote them, it’s a weekly thing, and it works. Mellotones kill it, 10 mile house kill it, and good for them. But you know, we’re not playing covers and we’re not getting any love.”



It’s not that we don’t love a good old maritime hoe down, who doesn’t love that, it’s just that there is new music out there. New sounds, techniques, personalities, political views, moving, and inspiring art that isn’t getting the recognition it deserves. That’s why this video exploding on reddit was such a monumental success for The Caravan; they got all the love.

The Caravan explores musical techniques that pertain to mixing a slow melodic rock sound with a fast, Busta Rhymes’esque emcee, and full sounding drum beats to back him up. It works, and it works well.

“We’ve been doing this for, what, 5-6 years now. Pluggin’ away, trying to play quality more than quantity,” said Kyle.

When prompted to speak on this somewhat new style of a rapper with a live band, Kyle had this to say:

“Check it out, I went down to New York… was in town when the Rock the Bells festival was going on. I went down there and got to see Mos Def, Talib, I got to see Rakim, I got to see Pharaoh Monch. I walked on to the grounds while he was doing Simon Says, it was crazy. The whole Wu-Tang was there, except for ODB, rest in peace; everyone was up there doing their thing. All the hip-hoppers were trying to get the crowd into it. The headliner was Rage Against the Machine, they went on and strummed a guitar and that place exploded. 40,000 people blew up, you know, everybody had the W’s up for the Wu, man, but once that fuckin’ guitar came on it’s like, Pff, everybody lost it, and that’s when I started thinking: why them? Because that’s what you need. You’re feedin’ off the DJ, he provides the energy, and the emcee provides his energy. But there’s a difference when the music is being created, more so than when it’s recorded. That’s what I kind of like about doing it live.”

I couldn’t agree more with this, and after speaking to some of the King’s students who got to witness first hand on Monday the power and raw energy of The Caravan at the campus bar, the HMCS Wardroom, the popular opinion coincides with Kyle’s.

“The Wardroom was the best gig of the weekend. We did Dal Fest (on Saturday), on Friday we did Black Street. But when we jammed in the wardr - Classless Music Mag


One thing we talk about often on this site is how advances in Internet and camera technology have opened up the world of music videos to everyone. There was once a time when being a professional music video director meant you worked with large budgets and your videos got played on TV. Today, directors of all skill levels have access to high quality video equipment, and websites like YouTube and Vimeo give everyone a stage. This, unfortunately, is not as great as it sounds… and also not completely true.

With 72 hours of video content added to YouTube every minute, and Vevo music videos dominating the audience, the base might actually be too broad to really get noticed, and the stage is far from equal. Filmmakers and artists who aren’t signed to a major label, and don’t get their videos promoted by Vevo, tend to get lost in the webs. Because of this, many of them have gotten into the game of self-promotion on social media websites like Reddit as a way to get their work noticed. Gesar Mukpo, Reddit username Chewyguru, has succeeded at this game. When the music video he directed, “Words That Make You Feel Good” by The Caravan, was posted to Reddit, it had about 1,500 YouTube views. By the time he got home from work the next day, it had made it to the front page and received over 80,000 views. It has over 160,000 views to date.

The massive Reddit community is an interesting one. Lovers of free speech and rage faces, Redditors have made the news for some really great stuff, and also some really shitty stuff (the "stuff" was going to link to r/spacedicks, but I won't do that to you guys). The concept of Reddit is a relatively simple one. Users log in and post interesting content from the wab, and other users either up or down vote the content. The more up votes a link gets, the more prominently it is shown on the site. As Gesar describes it:

I knew that when things get popular on Reddit, they get a lot of exposure in a short amount of time, because it will get picked up by so many other places … You don’t have to deal with a label, or promotion, or any marketing companies, or anything like that. You just put something out there, and if people like it, it gets seen.

However, like most web communities, Redditors can often be very cynical. Therefore, it is not uncommon for an awful music video to gain popularity on Reddit. The Rebecca Blacks and Reh Doggs of the world have all benefited heavily from this phenomenon. Genuine content? Not so much. One of the downfalls of having widespread access to high quality video equipment is that there is so much content out there, it’s difficult differentiate the people with talent from the people with too much free time and a 5D. Despite that, Gesar went to Reddit and posted the link to the video along with this simple description: "The clerk at the liquor store told me he was a rapper. I made this music video for him. Enjoy!"

The video was produced on an $8,000 budget that came from MuchFACT, a music video production fund funded by MuchMusic. It was then submitted to MuchMusic for airplay, but was rejected. So, despite the video being funded by a grant, the promotion of the video was basically limited to posting it to sites like Reddit.

I have to imagine that a large amount of people clicked on the thing because they wanted to see this guy make a fool of himself ... But, I knew it had to have something interesting for people to click because just saying ‘hey, check out this great music video’ or ‘hey, check out this great rapper’ that’s what everyone says, it’s not going to get any exposure. So, since he does work at a liquor store, there was the idea that he was just an average guy who’s this amazing talent. ... There had been another video up a week before of some old guy rapping, I just figured if an old guy rapping can get to the front page of Reddit, there’s no reason why someone with some kind of talent and gift can’t as well.

Regardless of why they originally watched it, the video started to quickly spread and the feedback was positive. The video spread so fast, that it was nearing 100,000 views and Gesar had not even spoken to the band yet. Then, just as fast, the Reddit fact checkers and trolls started coming out from under the bridge (like they always do), and began questioning the authenticity of the post (like they always do). Some users brought up the MuchFACT grant as an indication of some kind of marketing scam. Some went as far as to suggest that it wasn’t even a person who posted the video to Reddit, but some kind of corporation pretending to be a person.

Kyle, the MC in The Caravan, does in fact work at a liquor store, so Gesar wasn’t being misleading in that sense. They actually met when Gesar saw them playing at a house party, it wasn’t as simple as Kyle “telling him he was a rapper.” But, no one was upset about him not being truthful about where they met, and that fact seems pretty meaningless. I think people got upset about tha - IMVDB


It’s Monday, and on this day, of all of the various days there are in a week, I think we all deserve to feel good. So then, on the off chance that you aren’t feeling good, I might have something to fix that. This video for Words That Make You Feel Good, an ode to the power found in self-expression from Halifax outfit The Caravan, should indeed lift your spirits. While not chock-a-block full of technical wizardry, whimsy or humorous concepts like the clips that normally catch the collective Internet’s fancy, there’s just something about it that brought a smile to my face.

I’m afraid I wasn’t familiar with The Caravan before they sent us their video on the weekend – and I say that with trepidation knowing there’s a chance they’ve contacted us before. I had no idea they were a live band hip hop type of setup – a scenario that always makes me nervous, but I like their sound. It sounds effortless, nothing forced about it, just positive lyrics over an undeniable groove. Kind of like an East Coast Ozomatli with less Latin influence and with MC Kyle McKenna in the Chali 2na role.

So then, if you like what you hear (and apparently many folks from Reddit did last week – what does that mean exactly? I don’t really know, but it sounds good!), you can grab the new single and their debut album off the iTunes. The band has a new EP ready for this month as well, so it sounds like The Caravan is Ready To Roll (gratuitous Rodney O Joe Cooley link right there and you are welcome). - Hero Hill Music Blog


Soaring violins, funky bass, tasty piano, tight percussion, conscious lyrics, even humorous call and responses with cellos; all these elements go into making The Caravan's *Emerald City* the winner for Best Vinyl. *Emerald City* is the type of record you end up wearing grooves in, perhaps to catch one of vocalist Kyle McKenna's quick and rhythmic turns of phrase, or maybe just get to lost in the funked-out sound scape and full-breathing jams of the tight band that backs him up. From “The Girl at the of the Back Room,” a turn-the-lights-down-low homage to the throne of late-night make-out music, to “Tone Down,” a summer-jazz, free and easy vibe, to “Make it Smooth,” a hip hop trip down memory lane, *Emerald City* is easy for its complexity. Catch The Caravan live this summer as they bring live-band hip hop to a venue near you. ---MH - The Coast


Known for outlandish acoustic hip-hop covers of “Mama Said Knock You Out,” The Caravan has been silently gaining a cult following and is now putting its debut album, Emerald City, out on wax June 12 at the Seahorse---fronted by NSLC employee/potential Playgirl cover model Kyle Mckenna, with Freddie Prinze Jr. look-alike Mark Bachynski on the drums, Bachynski’s high-school best friend Mike Ritchie on the guitar and Matt Fudge on the bass.
The Caravan’s music cleverly fuses rock ’n’ roll, jazz, soul and hip-hop into a combination that is uniquely their own. The group’s charm isn’t just about its catchy and clever songs or decades of collected musical experience, but the strange comic interplay between members. The band has a slightly Flight of the Conchords feel to its live performance, giving full rein to its eccentric personalities, and you can hear this unquantifiable chemistry in the recordings as well. Rowdy, fun and intelligent, Caravan is hell in a hand-basket. - The Coast


Local hip-hop group The Caravan is buzzing from its vinyl release last Friday. "The show was a highlight of my music career, the place was electric," writes guitar and keys player Mike Ritchie. "We sold 25 records, which is 15 more than I thought we would sell. What a great party!" And the party's not over: The band's playing the Paragon's Patchwork show tonight, a night that showcases electronic music while trying to bridge the gap between DJ nights and live music nights. The Caravan fits into the "live music, non-electronic" category, but Ritchie assures that the band is game. "I think what is great about our band is that we can pretty much fit into any show," he writes. "We have played with everything from experimental jazz to death metal so this show won't be much of a stretch." - The Coast


A night of "dirty hippies and hip-hop" is the way that Joe Landry, one of many musicians making up the second annual VirgoFest, describes this unique event. The eclectic bands featured at this year's VirgoFest, hosted by Nightowls Records, include: The Missing City Starlight, Mary Grace Koile, Heavy Meadows and The Caravan (vocally lead by Kyle McKenna), who will be releasing their debut EP.
The unique thing about VirgoFest is it's a theatrical, curtain-staged show, emceed by Patrick Burgomaster of The Nightowls. Plus, the first 25 guests get a freebie, and there's free ice cream.
"We're pushing the idea of a show," says Ryan MacGrath, of The Missing City Starlight. "A collective of musicians not only interested in music, but also in entertaining."
These musicians are like a pile of in-laws that keep popping up at each other's picnics. A few examples: Mark Bachynski drums and Mike Ritchie plays the ivories in almost all of these bands. And not only fronting her own band, Koile sings back-up vocals for MacGrath.
The goal of the musicians involved in this soiree is to take an idea of a show and make it more of a showcase. There will be artwork by Burgomaster for sale, with proceeds from the art going towards different charities, designated to each painting. In addition, there will be Superfoods provided by Chocolatada.
VirgoFest is not only a celebration of Virgos, but of all astrological signs. It falls on the sixth day of the ninth month. Koile's birthday is September 6 and Bachynski's is September 9. It's in the stars to be a good show.
"We want to align the planets," says Bachynski. "All we need now is Genghis Khan and Mozart." - The Coast


Discography

Emerald City (2010)
The Caravan (2013)

Photos

Bio

The Caravan knows how to keep you guessing. Approaching hip hop from the left field, the Halifax-based band has explored influences on all ends of the sonic spectrum. But while a single genre may be elusive for this three-piece, there's nothing vague about its presence. With rhymes pulsing through him from a young age, wise wordsmith Kyle McKenna is a dominant force on stageboth lyrically and physically. Combine his honest and unpredictable flow with the musical chops of genre-bending composer/engineer Mike Ritchie (guitar, keys) and effervescent drummer Mark Bachynski (Classified, Bend the River) and the result is nothing short of dynamic.

This spring The Caravan will follow-up its debut, ECMA-nominated record Emerald City (2010) with a self-titled release that explores new production techniques, abandoning the band's earlier acoustic vibe for a bolder, heavier-hitting album. Already generating buzz from widely-shared videos for the throwback hip hop track "Words That Make You Feel Good" and the orchestral, political powerhouse "What Up Steve?", it's no question The Caravan has plenty more tricks up its sleeves.

Mike has training in classical guitar and classical sound recording, and is a multi-instrumentalist (most recently appearing on Jenn Grant's "The Beautiful Wild" playing Sitar). This, combined with Mark's skills honed from his other gig drumming for East Coast hip hop legend Classified, have them backing Kyle's lyrical flow with unparalleled musicality. Kyle is the true presence in the band however, not just because of his stature, but through the way that he manipulates language, creating a word puzzle at once both smooth and intense.

Check out "Words That Make You Feel Good" here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGVYa3OdQqI