Keymono are a neo-soul/electronica/funk band who split their time between Vilnius and London. They are made up of Daiva Starinskaitė (vocals), Aurimas Rimeikis (trumpet/keyboards/vocals), Alvydas Mačiulskas (keyboards/drum machines) and Marijus Aleksa (drums).
However, Marijus was unable to play the gig at Tamsta, meaning he was replaced for the night by temporary drummer, Jonas Gliaudelis.
Since Alvydas and Aurimas formed the band 15 years ago, Keymono have released handful of singles, a few full length albums and also signed a contract with the Sony-owned EMC music group.
Music Export Fund: How has the Keymono sound changed since the band’s early days?
Alvydas: We started out as an acid-jazz band. We founded the band with Aurimas while we were studying at the Vilnius Juozas Tallat-Kelpša conservatory, and when we started, we were called BrassBastardz. The name was changed to Keymono in 2011. Back then, we were an instrumental band – we only had a saxophone and a trumpet, and we wanted the band to be brass-based. After a year or so, Daiva joined us.
Daiva: Later there were about 10 people playing in the band.
Aurimas: We were just enjoying the miracle that is music. We weren’t advanced in music technology at all, and we didn’t even think about what genre we would play.
Alvydas: Yeah, we basically played what our favourite musicians played. When Daiva joined us, we became more of an ‘vocal-based’ band.
MXF: How did you build your fan base?
Alvydas: When the band was starting out, the Internet was much different to what it is now. Not everyone had it at home so it didn’t help us much.
We recorded a song called Jiemah and we made a video clip which used very interesting technology at the time – 3D modelling. Back then, only the big studios made 3D videos. It took about a year to make and we won the Tango TV music video awards, which gave us some publicity.
We also used to play in music festivals, so many people found out about us that way. There wasn’t a lot of planning how to make the band popular involved. It all came naturally.
MXF: What kind of music you were into when you were younger? Does it have any influence on the music you are making?
Alvydas: Yeah, it has influenced me 100 percent. I’ll tell you a funny thing I did – I always wanted to know why certain music has such a big effect on people, so I opened a Billboard 100 list from the year I was born and started going through the whole list, which was full of names I hadn’t heard before but all of the songs were really familiar. I realised I liked them all, so maybe that means that the songs you are ‘born into’ are something special for a person.
I think all the music we listen to to has some sort of an influence on us. We have a mix of various styles of music in our band, and they are so mixed up that we can’t discern one from the other. The style and genre of the music has become more of a vehicle of expression than a set of rules about how it should be done.
Daiva: when I was seven to 13-years old, I was mostly into pop music like the Backstreet Boys and the Spice girls. Then I had a hip-hop phase where I listened to Wu-Tang Clan and Cypress Hill, then I followed that up with a metal phase – Korn, Deftones, all that stuff. After that, I discovered neo-soul, which lead me to jazz.
Aurimas: I used to listen to a lot of various music. When I was a child, I loved Joe Dassin and I remember crying a lot when he died. Later I got into Pink Floyd and Queen.
In my teen years it was kind of difficult for me because everyone had their little groups based on what music they liked – we had metal heads on one side and the ones who listened to Modern Talking on the other. I realised that I liked music regardless of its genre.
I know what really else had a great influence on me; a record called ‘Lithuanian Fairy Tales’. Everyone had this on vinyl. In the Soviet Union, every family didn’t just have the same carpets and furniture, they had the same music too! We sampled a fragment from this vinyl and used it on the song Jiemah.
Jonas: I am still going through the teenage years on my musical journey…
Aurimas: When we were starting out with BrassBastardz, how old was Jonas?
Alvydas: He was five!
Aurimas: So he basically grew up with our music!
Jonas: Yeah, BrassBastardz were one of the bands I used to listen to, actually! One of the first bands that really had a big influence on me was The White Stripes. When I was 13 I started to play rock music because of them. I always loved experimenting – it didn’t matter whether it is rock music or something heavier. I loved other Jack White (the White Stripes’ frontman) projects too; The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather. Then I discovered The Roots; my mum used to listen to them, so I got into hip-hop music. I then found out about Robert Glasper, who had this drummer, Chris Dave, in his band and his choppy beats influenced me a lot. Then other hip-hop guys followed – J Dilla, Mos Def, and the likes.
MXF: What are your thoughts about how music is accessed these days; buying,streaming, and pirating, for example
Alvydas: I think everyone should be able to access music easily. Why try to contain it?
The industry has changed a lot – in the early days, musicians used to make a living by selling records and now their main source of income is from live shows. So, I don’t see any reason why recorded music shouldn’t be open to everyone.
MXF: What is your opinion about listening to individual songs and singles as opposed to full albums?
Daiva: I’m in favour of listening to the full albums.
Aurimas: An album is like a book in some way. It has its magic. However, because of the huge amount of information people are getting these days there’s not really much time to go through a full album; full LP’s are for real music lovers. Time moves so quickly now, so EPs and singles are taking over.
MXF: In 2013 you signed with the Sony-owned EMC music group. Tell us about that experience.
Daiva: It didn’t have any impact on our music. We have our own producer, and we record, mix, and master our records independently so EMC has no control over our creative process.
Alvydas: Yeah, there wasn’t any radical changes in the band because of the contract. They basically sign a lot of bands and wait for them to develop themselves, then they can get make a profit. They can help you out and they have connections which might be useful, but besides that, you’re on your own!
Istvan Tomas (Keymono’s manager): These days labels are looking for ways to make the maximum amount of profit without having to put a lot of effort into the bands themselves. Because of that, we have more and more bands who are fully developed before signing anything.
EMC is based in Finland and they distribute a lot of their stuff in South America. They were testing out new markets and chose us. We signed a contract which covers digital releases. They chose the best songs from the two albums we had and in 2013, we released a self-titled compilation album called Keymono. If the digital releases do well, then there’s a chance that we will release a physical album through them.
MXF: Do you consider yourselves more recording artists or a live band?
Aurimas: We are trying really hard to transfer the energy from our live performances to the records.
Alvydas: Well, I must say that our records are really, really well produced..[Everyone’s laughs]
Daiva: Alvydas is the one producing them..
Alvydas: I put a lot of work into making them sound good. Regardless, I think our live shows are far more energetic.
MXF: What are your ambitions as a band?
Alvydas: To become an interplanetary band!
Aurimas: To continue to enjoy what we do. The feeling you get when playing for an audience is something big. Sometimes you are really exhausted after a show but can’t sleep because you are charged by the energy and the adrenaline the crowd gave you. We want to reach more people not because we want to earn more money, but to get more energy from the people.
It’s really nice when you are playing in some foreign country where no one has heard of you before and doesn’t have any expectations whatsoever. Then you start playing and you see the crowd dancing and going wild because of your music. It’s really something.
I really hope our band will continue to prosper. We’ve been together for 15 years now, and Keymono really feels like a family.
Pictures by Neringa Rekašiūtė and Aušrinė Kielaitė.
Keymono official Facebook: www.facebook.com/keymonosound
Keymono YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/user/KeymonoVEVO