After their performance at the Liverpool Sound City festival in May 2015, we at Music Export Fund stuck it out there and said that Vilnius’ psychedelic rockers, Garbanotas Bosistas (EN: Curly Bassist), “could be Lithuania’s most successful rock export yet.”
It would appear we were right, too. While 2012 saw them release their first EP called Venera, 2015 has proved to be arguably their most successful year since forming in 2008. This year, they dropped their Places, Planes and Trains single, which was followed by their impressive debut album, Above Us, during the spring.
Following their music releases and successful UK tour, which also saw them play the Great Escape Music festival in Brighton, Garbanotas Bosistas’ 2015 success story continued in September when the foursome signed a deal with Australian publisher, Source Music.
During a conversation with MXF, both lead guitarist, Mantas, and drummer, Jonas, played down the importance of their 2015 feats, explaining it “dangerous to expect [anything]” and they have “learnt to be a bit skeptical” as a result of their music careers.
The pair made it clear that successfully exporting Lithuanian music is no easy task. It’s not a simple matter of just being talented, then hoping someone picks up your music and likes it…
“You know, these previous shows we played abroad, they’re not actual festivals for entertainment,” Mantas reveals outside Vasaros Terasa in late September. Backtracking slightly, 2015 has also been a tremendous year for Garbanotas Bosistas playing festivals proper – in addition to Liverpool Sound City and the Great Escape in the UK, they also played the Ment Ljubljana festival in Slovenia, Halfway festival at Bialystok in Poland, and the Intsikurmu festival in Estonia.
At the time of speaking, the foursome were preparing to play in Berlin, and the Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg.
Looking back over Garbanotas Bosistas‘ seven-year lifespan, Mantas distinguishes between previous “festivals” played outside of Lithuania and their 2015 trips abroad. “The previous festivals were more showcases, so I guess they were more about the music business,” he clarifies. “We managed to get into this type of stuff, and now we’re hoping to find some stuff to play outside of Lithuania properly – I mean festivals which are not only for bands to meet each other and to meet other people from within the music industry.”
It becomes clear that some seriously ballsy pitching has been key to Garbanotas Bosistas’ success, yet both musicians recognize there is still some way to go for Lithuanian music export due to the country’s status as an independent post-Soviet state for a mere 25-years.
“Lithuania is very young in terms of the music scene,” points out Mantas. He is, however, quick to dispel his country’s relative youth is a creative drawback. “If you can create something that would be interesting for people from countries like the United States and United Kingdom [that inspired you as a musician], that’s a risk, I guess, but you just have to try.”
Mantas is also quick to highlight that exporting Lithuanian music to foreign markets is a matter of self-belief. “It’s also a matter of believing you’re good,” he continues. “If people here in Lithuania think you’re good, that means you can be good somewhere abroad, right?”
“It’s not like “oh, I can be good in Lithuania, but the world is so big around us, so who needs us?”” I don’t think you should think like that. People are people everywhere.”
Jonas is keen to affirm his bandmate’s point, and in doing so gives some optimism to other Lithuanian musicians who are seeking opportunities abroad.
Referring back to Garbanotas Bosistas’ showcase concert performances, with a sigh, the drummer laments: “when we went to these showcases and saw other musicians coming from other countries, in my opinion, they were much worse than some Lithuanian bands who haven’t applied to go anywhere. “Why?” I thought… I don’t think it’s due to any conservatism of sorts, but maybe they just don’t know it’s possible – it’s easy!”
Remarking on the development of the Lithuanian music scene, both musicians outline their roles in Garbanotas Bosistas are now their main sources of income. However, they explain financial sacrifices need to be made in order for musicians to obtain any real achievements at home or abroad – a clear indicator, then, that to get anywhere, “showcase” concerts are a must for any artists who are keen to export their work outside of Lithuania.
Mantas recounts a short story about Spanish band who were scheduled to play at Liverpool Sound City. “For example, when we were in Liverpool, we met a girl who was an agent for two bands from Spain,” he recollects. “Those guys were asked to get to the festival off their own accord, because they didn’t have any funding or anything.”
“Two days before the festival started, they told their agent they won’t be coming due to a lack of money, so she was an agent without bands for the conferences and concerts.”
Placing the situation into the Lithuanian context, he said: “She told us they just don’t get this idea of showcasing and investing some of your own money and not being paid for it but people in Spain… it’s the same.”
“Does Spain have any big international musicians?” he askes rhetorically. “I guess no, but maybe more than Lithuania. But how people think, that’s quite similar to how Lithuanians sometimes think, too.”
As the conversation narrows down to the future of Garbanotas Bosistas, both Mantas and Jonas are keen to dispel any notion of a premature breakthrough as a result of their 2015 successes and the agreement with Source Music.
“I don’t think we can hope for anything commercially at first,” Mantas says with typical Lithuanian modesty. “I think there are some audiences in Australia who would like to listen to our music, and then there may be the possibility to play in some festivals or make an Australian tour or something.” Of course, he’s referring to the contemporary psychedelic rock trend which began with Tame Impala – a band GetIntoThis.co.uk compared Garbanotas Bosistas to following their Liverpool performance…
Regarding the link between Tame Impala and the future of Lithuanian music, Mantas believes the foundations between genres and nationality must be laid.
“That’s why I told you about Tame Impala,” he begins to wrap up. “They made all this psychedelic music scene happen. Of course, they just needed someone to break through, but when they did, everyone started looking to Australia.
“It’s a matter of association,” he concludes with a smile. “I mean, if we have six bands who are worthy of being exported to Western markets, in Rejkjavik they have three because Iceland is ten-times smaller than Lithuania.
“However, they managed to do it…”
Your move, Lithuania. One of your most successful music exports has spoken.
Photos by Tomas Lukšys, Sunčan Stone and Laif magazine.
Garbanotas Bosistas official Facebook: www.facebook.com/garbanotasbosistas
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