EXCLUSIVE: 2CELLOS' Luka Šulić & Stejepan Hauser on New Album 'Celloverse' (Sony), YouTube Covers, Touring with Elton John and Red Hot Chili Peppers...and Bananas
It’s not every day that you see two cello players opening up for Elton John. Or playing on a hit TV show like Glee.
But I guess Luka Šulić and Stejepan Hauser aren't your ordinary cellists.
Together, they make up 2CELLOS--one, singular stringed sensation bridging the gap between musics classical and pop.
You'll recall, Šulić and Hauser rose to fame at the frog of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.” Some 9 million YouTube views later, yeah, 2CELLOS (2CELLI?) is a household name.
Recently, I had the pleasure to speak with the duo about their new album Celloverse, just how they come up with their music video ideas and, most importantly, bananas.
Classicalite: OK, I just watched your video for the Avicii song “Wake Me Up.” Who comes up with the ideas for your videos?
2CELLOS: When we come up with new tracks, we think about video concepts straight away. And what we can do, you know? That’s how we make arrangements as well, thinking about videos. That’s how everything comes to life.
C-LITE: Obviously, you two guys have musical creativity. But to think of those kind of ideas, that requires being creative on a different platform. Or is it all just Creativity, capital C.
2C: We think about videos, like, visually--what we want to achieve. And we also edit our own music videos because we know how we should look: when we play the best and how to, you know, really make the strongest impact on the audience. I guess that's why, maybe, our music videos are [laughing] so intense?
C-LITE: Well, they’re certainly unique. That’s why everyone enjoys watching.
2C: Yeah, I guess so.
C-LITE: Because you put so much thought and care into them.
2C: It’s all about making a story, a cool story that people would like to watch and share with their friends. Actually, it is really important to attract the listener. Also, the attention of the listener is not so long, so you have to plan wisely in a video. Even in a track, how can you catch their attention so they listen all the way to the end? You have to keep them interested and excited. You should not be boring. Ever.
C-LITE: Celloverse, your brand new record for Sony, is an exciting listen, indeed. Congratulations.
2C: This one is the best. First one, it was not so good. The second one, also, but [laughing] this third one is finally a good album. Because we keep improving, our arrangements are more interesting now and our playing is better. We even look more handsome!
C-LITE: That's probably fair. Do you think it's more difficult to play popular music because it has already been done, people have already heard the original? Or do you think it attracts people more because they are already familiar?
2C: I mean, yeah, it is good that people know the music. What we try to achieve is a different spin on the song that we are arranging. We don’t actually like the word "cover." Because a cover is just a literal cover of the song. We prefer the word "arrangement" or "transcription." What set the tone and the concept of [Celloverse] was actually our first single, which came out a year ago. It was "Thunderstruck." The video went viral; ithas more than 32 million hits on YouTube. We’re so happy with the feedback from the video because this track is actually a great example of what this album is all about. It is about breaking the boundaries between different genres of music--showing the possibilities of cello in a totally different and unexpected way.
C-LITE: Speaking of blending different genres, have you ever explored performing music other than pop?
2C: Well, we are open for anything. That’s what we are about. We don’t divide music into genres. We just play music that is great and that touches us and touches people hearts. And that we feel that we can do the best possible job on the arrangement. In the future, we want to make more original stuff, more original compositions. We have one on this album. It, too, is called “Celloverse." We’re surprised that, for many fans, our original song is their favorite from the album. We are going to write more original music in the future.
C-LITE: That was my next question--your future plans regarding original compositions.
2C: Yes, of course. That’s the ultimate goal. Also, maybe to write music for film or TV. That would be our ultimate ambition.
C-LITE: Sure, it's the next likely stop for an internet sensation. Since that sensation, you two have played some memorable gigs, like the Queen's Diamond Jubilee at Buckingham Palace with Elton John. And you've appeared everywhere from Ellen to that Japanese cell phone commercial. What are your favorite performance moments from the journey so far?
2C: Well, there have been so many. Maybe one of my favorite memories is when we played with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. We opened for them, and during our set, Chad Smith, the drummer of RHCP, joined us on stage for a song. Which was crazy. He even broke the drum kit! Everyone went completely nuts. Then, later on, we played “Californication” with the whole band, which was just an unforgettable experience.
C-LITE: I saw RHCP recently, and the're full of boundless energy. They've been around for a while now, but they still perform with such vigor. It's kind of amazing.
2C: It is amazing, right? Most bands lose their energy and drive after playing for years and years. It’s so amazing that they still keep up that excitement.
C-LITE: Granted, you two aren't breaking drum heads, per se, but you are exporting a similar rawness. Is that kind of raucous approach natural? As both individuals and as partners? Or was it something you had to work on?
2C: We are wild by nature. We’re animals. We were born like animals, but we look like humans.
C-LITE: [Laughing] I get tired just watching! Likewise, let's talk about the rigors of touring. How exhausting could it possibly be for two cellists?
2C: For our shoulders, it’s exhausting. It’s like a sport, you have to be really disciplined. There are no breaks in the show; you have to keep playing. You can’t just stop playing and talk. You know, when a singer has a show, they could just have some instrumental parts--they can just talk. But we have to keep playing. Always. There is never a break.
C-LITE: What do you do to prepare, then? Exercise, try to eat well?
2C: We like to eat, just not before the show. And we do make sure to eat well. Luka, he likes to do sports, and he's very active. Me, not so much. I’m so lazy. I have other activities. I like to chase girls.
C-LITE: Ah, what's your favorite snack on the road?
2C: My favorite is a hamburger and a banana.
C-LITE: One banana?
[Luka and Stejepan then proceed to make fun of the way I say the word "banana."]
2C: I told you: We're animals! Monkeys in the bodies of humans.
Cl-LITE: So, you guys are going on tour soon? Right?
2C: Yes...a banana tour.
C-LITE: Is that the name of it? If not, it should be. You should change it right now!
2C: I love bananas.
[Lots of laughing and continuing to make fun of how I pronounce b-a-n-a-n-a.]
2C: Actually, we're coming back on tour in the U.S.
[Luka still saying "banana" in the background.]
With many bananas. It’s almost sold out, so people should hurry up and buy tickets. If they bring bananas, they get tickets for free.
C-LITE: Don’t say that. I’ll write that, and everyone will be bringing bananas on show night--trying to get free tickets.
2C: Yes, everyone should bring bananas!
C-LITE: You guys have toured the U.S. a few times before.
2C: Yes. Two bananas; two cellos. This our third tour. We toured with Elton John a lot. We opened for him. So, we were the three bananas.
C-LITE: Have you noticed a difference touring in the U.S. versus touring other places?
2C: Yes, in the U.S., it is much easier here. Because you are in the tour bus, and you don’t have to fly. You just, like, park in front of the venue. You could buy whatever you want--like bananas--and just have them on the tour bus. You don’t have to buy new stuff every day. When you travel country by country, you just have to buy new stuff every day. New country, different show. Buy new bananas.
C-LITE: There is a constant supply of bananas here, so that’s good.
2C: Where are the best bananas in the U.S.?
C-LITE: The best? I don’t actually know. You’re in California, right? I’m sure they have good bananas there. I’m in New York. We have pretty good bananas here, but I’m sure they have good ones out there, too.
2C: New York? They’re frozen. I don’t want my bananas to freeze. You shouldn't have frozen bananas ever. If a banana is frozen, it’s frozen yogurt.
C-LITE: They make frozen bananas! And they are delicious.
2C: Oh, I want to try that.© 2016 The Classical Art, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.