Latvian musicians Jānis Šipkēvics (Shipsi) and Reinis Sējāns (Reynsi) are the best of friends. Ever since meeting over a decade ago the music collaborators have been inseparable while carving out an impressive Electro career. In 2009 the duo formed Instrumenti, which is now a popular presence in European nightclubs and one of the top contributors to the Encyclopedia of Music. FDRMX was able to distract Instrumenti from their musical conquest just long enough to answer a few questions.
FDRMX: What was it you two noticed about each other that made you realize you needed to collaborate?
Instrumenti: We met more than 10 years ago, we were in a vocal group called “Cosmos” together; there were six of us and mostly it was covers that we sang. Mind you, we were very good. Both of us had been working on our own material each in our own dark corner, and at one point, around 2009, the two of us got together and sort of shared what we got and immediately clicked. Also, we bonded over music that we both liked, discussing and analyzing it.
FDRMX: You’ve travelled all over. Any funny concert stories?
I: We’ve been lucky to travel and see places we wouldn’t have the chance to see if it wasn’t for Instrumenti. Can’t really think of one specific story – usually wherever we go, we go prepared, however there’s been times when suddenly the show organizers lose a drum set and we’re asked if we can do a show without it. Yeah, I bet Reynsi would love that – he could just sit at the bar and enjoy watching Shipsi molesting the ish out of his keyboard.
FDRMX: You’ve mentioned how both of you have been instrumentally educated in music. What specific advantage does that give you in the music world?
I: I guess everything is just so much easier to do when you know what it is you’re doing, when you know your tools and know all the ins and outs. I guess we go deeper and can experiment a lot more freely, as we have academic background, we can easily make a tune that starts out as an 18th century opera aria and turn it into a hard beat electro and making it sound “right”.
FDRMX: Heartcore is a video that loves to use the slow zoom. Was the concept yours?
I: We were approached by a young artist named Indriķis Ģelzis about a year before Heartcore was even written. He was so passionate about it, but at that time it seemed a bit silly to make a video for one of the debut album songs as it had already been out for a while. But once we had finished the Procrastination demos we realized that Indriķis’ idea would be perfect for Heartcore.
FDRMX: How hard was it to remain perfectly still as the cameras slowly moved out?
I: Can’t recall having cramps or falling asleep. We can concentrate and do things that are boring as hell as long as we know where it’s taking us.
FDRMX: The song has a bit of optimism and pessimism in it. Do you see it as a song of despair or hope?
I: It is a bit of both. But we tend to think there’s always hope, even though we love to throw in a bit of sadness now and then.
FDRMX: “Don’t Hold Onto Me” is a wonderfully trippy music video that feels and sounds like a throwback to older films. What was it like to shoot it?
I: This came out as the first single/video from Procrastination. The video shoot was one heck of an adventure. It seems to me no one had any real idea how what the video was gonna be like but the director, our good friend, Uģis Olte. We’re quite sure the video is not what he originally intended to do – we did not have a shot by shot plan, ideas generated as we were shooting, but everyone’s really happy with the result. This video went viral after its release and it got us a Latvian Music Award for Best Video 2013.
FDRMX: It’s said have worked with many musicians from all over Europe. What do you look for when welcoming musicians into Instrumenti?
I: This piece of information comes from Wikipedia, correct? We created all these myths and legends about Instrumenti when we first started, we hid under panda masks as we did not want Instrumenti to be associated or compared with Cosmos, so information about the origin and members of the band changed with every press release, but somehow the twelve-member-from-all-over-the-Europe has not left Wikipedia. There’s always been two of us and Gatis Zaķis, our sound God, who is also our co-producer & he co-writes the songs. But now and then we collaborate with other musicians, for our shows back in November we had seven additional musicians. And just recently we worked with a choir of 50 people and performed at the World Choir Games 2014, held in Riga, Latvia, which is the European Capital of Culture this year.
FDRMX: If you weren’t musicians what other jobs would you have and why?
I: Reynsi could easily be a craftsman, he’s got, as we Latvians say, gold hands – he can build and make things with such precision it makes one sick. He also draws nicely. Shipsi used to work as a sports photographer ages ago, and that’s something he still enjoys – photography.
FDRMX: Other than writing and performing music, what do you two love to do together?
I: We are still the best of friends, all of us in the Instrumenti team – we spend a lot of time together outside our office/rehearsal space – just recently all of us got together at Reynsi’s to clean out his pond that had gone all green, and we’ve signed up for a 10k run later this year or go for a run in the woods just for the fun of it. We’re far from becoming that rock band that sees each other only on the stage and records the album at different studios. We’re friends and enjoy each other’s company.
FDRMX: What are your top three favorite cities in the world for performing?
I: Riga is number 1, of course. There’s no place like home. I think we’d put Moscow as number 2. We’ve performed there quite a number of times, but I can’t really say we’re a very well known act there, but the crowds we gather are huge. The 3rd time we went to Moscow, we performed in front of about 4000 people, and everyone is super supportive and we have the most loyal fan base in Moscow, there’s always gifts, letters and paintings. And number 3 would have to be New York. We played the CMJ last year and we love to see the reaction of people who see/hear us for the very first time. We played a small club in the Lower East Site (Fat Baby) and the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. It was brilliant – being outside our comfort zone and seeing everyone enjoying it. Exciting.
FDRMX: What makes the two of you such an efficient duo? What quality does one member bring that the other doesn’t have, and vice versa?
I: Yes, that actually might be it. One can do what other one can’t – musically and in our day to day lives – being Instrumenti LLC board members – when it comes to putting ideas together and doing projects, both of us sometimes see things from different perspectives and by putting our ideas together we’ve done some big things.
FDRMX: What is the best piece of musical advice you have ever received?
I: “Don’t talk to strangers”
Special thanks to the always awesome Instrumenti. Keep up to date with the latest via their Website and Facebook pages.