Solar-powered music has been released! An interview with Joachim Garraud.
Have you ever heard of a mobile solar recording studio? French DJ Joachim Garraud converted a bus into a dream studio that can be set up just about anywhere, and it’s powered by the sun! It’s called LaGoodVibe for obvious reasons, and it’s fully set up for recording and living in on the road.
Joachim released a new album in August called California Road 101, which was written and recorded in the Californian desert with collaborator Gaël Benyamin. It features pop-rock and electro-instrumental sounds that are inspired by travel, the desert, and the ends of a journey.
It was my pleasure to interview Joachim about the album and LaGoodVibe:
EMMA: Hello Joachim, thanks for chatting with me and congratulations on California Road 101! I love that your music is solar-powered. How long did it take you to convert your tour bus into LaGoodVibe?
JOACHIM: Hi, it took about eight months to convert an old RV into a modern solar studio bus. But if you include the time I spent dreaming about this project and looking for the perfect RV bus, it is way more! For the realization, I needed help because I am not really gifted with a drill in my hands, but I was lucky enough to convince a few handy friends to help me and make my dream come true.
I don’t live in it full time even if this is a goal for me, but I still have a family with teenagers. They totally think that my RV bus is awesome, but this is not their life, they go to school and have other commitments for now. So in the meantime, while I wait until they are totally grown up and independent, I travel a lot to live the full experience, and when I am in LA, my RV is still parked on my driveway and I enjoy spending as much time as possible in it, relying on the energy given by the solar panels on the roof.
I like living and making music in the same space, it gives me the freedom to create when I feel inspired, never bothered by the fact that I work until late, because I know that I won’t have to close the studio and drive back home when I am tired, I am actually just seconds away from my bed! When I am not in the mood for music, I cook.
EMMA: Your bus is hugely inspiring to my family, as we have discussed emissions-free travel many times. We travelled with a small caravan for 6 weeks in 2018 but couldn’t justify burning more fuel to go further. Do you think solar-powered vehicles will be more popular and accessible in the future?
JOACHIM: I am quite sure that solar powered vehicles are the future of road trips. When I am not in my bus, I drive a Tesla, and I am now waiting for the 100% sun powered truck to be released. I will convert my fuel motor into solar battery as soon as the process is efficient (and Joachim offsets all travel emissions through Clear Sky Climate Solutions). In the meantime, I use the solar energy for the living and working part of my trip, when my bus is parked in the middle of breathtaking landscapes.
I don’t need a stinky and noisy generator, I rely on the sun to give me all the energy I need to make music with all the comfort needed: AC when it is hot, heater when it is freezing, light and energy for all the appliances I have in the bus. I don’t feel bad for the animals or the nature lovers, I leave no trace.
EMMA: I’d love to know about how/if your music has changed since you started recording and living in LaGoodVibe? I’ve read that your travels influence your songs too: which places have inspired you the most?
JOACHIM: I am getting closer to the nature, I spend more time than before looking around, admiring what I see. I used to have my home studio in a basement in France, and I never knew what time it was because I couldn’t see the exterior world. I enjoyed it at the time, I was like being in a bubble out of time, but now I realized what I missed.
First, I sleep better because I live in harmony with the sun, it elevates my mood and gives me the energy to begin a lot of new projects. I like to open the door of the RV and go for a quick walk, to listen to the noise of the place.
If you listen carefully, there are actually layers of different sounds in nature, and my musical ear likes to track them. Sometimes, I record this sounds and use them in my electronic creation, or I just keep them in my personal sound library, as a souvenir. I am also inspired by the smells.
Then I seat at my desk, facing my computer flat screen and glancing to the nature through the windows, and I create. I especially like Trona Pinnacle, because it looks like another planet, and the time I spent there, I was not in contact with any human. It gave me the inspiration for my album OVP2.
EMMA: The tracks from California Road combine your talents with Gaël Benyamin, who sings in French for the first time with you. What was your process working together in the mobile studio?
JOACHIM: I knew Gaël from Paris. We already worked together in the past and he was very eager to try this new studio on the road. I didn’t drive the bus this time. I was a passenger and so was Gaël. We both enjoyed the view and talked about the songs.
We sat around the table and wrote the lyrics together. We then sat at the desk and composed the music on the computer. It was just a first version, a draft. We went back and forth, implementing the lyrics or the melody.
When we arrived at destination, we set up the instruments and mic outside to record Gaël’s voice. Being outside was not required to record, but it was a bonus to be able to play, sing and look at the magnificent place.
Thanks to the solar energy, I was able to plug a multitude of electronic instruments and electronic devices outside on the bus electric panel. Then we came back inside to work on the sound track in the studio. Later in the evening, I set up lights outside to create an inspirational and magical atmosphere.
EMMA: I have read that you like to use your platform to feature new artists. Why do you think that is important?
JOACHIM: I have different labels to shine a light on new artists. I always made a point to transmit the things I learned throughout the years to the new generation. I had a website as early as in 2006 with a communication forum where passionate young people exchanged about their musical discoveries and productions -it was not common at this time.
It was a very active platform, and I am very proud to now see some of these young passionate people working in the music industry, DJs and professional producers themselves.
They are very thankful and enhance the fact that a direct access to professional advice gave them the strength to persevere and make music their living. This kind of testimony pushed me to create labels and sponsor young artists – with my UndgrdMusic label for example.
I also try to invite some of these new young artists to writing sessions in my bus, and I am in the process of creating a special platform in French called FNAM were passionate young people learn skills to blossom in the music business — it goes from basic music knowledge to new technologies to promote their work.
I hope you all enjoyed that as much as I did! I love that a whole album can be recorded anywhere with solar power, and I look forward to more artists and businesses embracing green energy.