An exclusive feature supported by the LITHUANIAN COUNCIL FOR CULTURE.
A ‘spontaneously born musical organism from Vilnius’, Lithuania, whose main driving force is improvisation. The band's music is full of freedom, power, modern and often unexpected, awkward outbursts of sound.
This musical trio is formed of some former Students of the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre Jazz Department: Guitarist Paulius Vaškas, saxophonist Simonas Šipavičius and drummer Adas Gecevičius. Ever since the autumn of 2010, they have spent a lot of time in the studio looking for their common language, becoming a family and reaching together the limits of imagination.
LINA DAUGIRDAITE LAPINSKIENE (ZEFYR LIFE): It is really nice to welcome the three of you on ZEFYR LIFE. So let me ask you, especially for those viewers outside of Lithuania who might know have heard of you yet : what is ‘Sheep Got Waxed’?
Simonas ŠIPAVIČIUS (‘Sheep’): We call this a family [Smile]. We are really very good friends. We have experienced a lot of things together, there are not so many people with whom we have gone through so many common experiences. Sheep Got Waxed is made up of all these common experiences. This is who we are, a bunch of friends, and it is the music that we produce. What we play. We are three in the band and all the combinations are possible when it comes to making music together! [laughs]
Paulius VAŠKAS (‘Waxed’) : It is a great number, if not just for the fact that we are always able to come up with a majority regarding important decisions. It is always much easier to get to an agreement on everything.
DAUGIRDAITE LAPINSKIENE: It sounds a bit like for a Company [smile]. Do you guys have like a band's 'Mission Statement'? [Laughs]
VAŠKAS: Our mission now is to be recording an album [Laughs].
Adas GECEVIČIUS (‘Got’): Well, yes our Mission is also to keep playing music [Smile].
ŠIPAVIČIUS: A Mission ? Hmmm. We are not big fans of religions, nor do political views affect our music either. To us the most important thing is the music itself. We do not want to get involved with any politics. Of course should we need to protect Lithuania maybe we would be releasing an album with the Lithuanian flag on the cover! [Smile]. Yes, there is no question that music is the most important thing to us all.
VAŠKAS: Well the fun part is that without vocals in our music we always remain polically correct [Laughs]. We are not representing anyone or anything. That’s very cool because a great variety of people are listening to our music, from jazz to electronic to rock fans.
GECEVIČIUS: The wider we look at things, the less haters we have [Laughs] and we are reaching out to all those who are enjoying our music!
(...) SO IN FACT AN IMPORTANT MISSION OF OUR BAND IS TO SPREAD PEACE
THROUGHOUT THE UNIVERSE, SO WE CAN HAVE LESS HATERS [LAUGHS].
VAŠKAS: That is true. So in fact an important mission of our band is to spread peace throughout the universe, so we can have less haters [laughs].
DAUGIRDAITE LAPINSKIENE: Do you feel that you are spreading awareness about Lithuania when you are touring and traveling? I have also lived in London UK for a long time and I felt that being away allowed me to see Lithuania from a different perspective. You are traveling a lot, do you ever experience this feeling?
GECEVIČIUS: When we are traveling we now have many of the same people coming back to our concerts, and it is nice that the name of Lithuania is slowly spreading together with us as we are traveling. The more success we will have the better it will raise awareness for Lithuania surely [Smile].
ŠIPAVIČIUS: And of course traveling has allowed us make comparisons between Lithuania and the other countries. Sitting here we wouldn’t have realized ! [Laughs]
'IN SOME OTHER COUNTRIES THE [POLITICAL] AUTHORITIES
WILL NOT EVEN ALLOW SOME BANDS TO BE PLAYING THEIR MUSIC.'
GECEVIČIUS: It is always the same thing : one can always look at the glass half-empty, but when you actually travel to Belarus or China and come back here to Lithuania you realize that we are living very well here. And I have been speaking to a lot of people, there’s a great balance here regarding pretty much everything : The quality of life here is good, we have a quite clean environment, we have good air quality, we can afford to have a studio. Some other people in some other Nations cannot enjoy these things. In some other countries the [Political] Authorities will not even allow some bands to be playing their music [freely]. Obviously we have to keep pressing ahead to secure a stronger economy.
ŠIPAVIČIUS: Economically as well as culturally. We recently travelled throughout Germany and that made me reflect upon our driving culture back here in Lithuania. It is incomparable to Germany’s.
I would like us, Lithuanians, to be a bit better behaved [Smile]. We should not think only about ourselves but also of our surroundings. We need to think a bit more about how we can actually benefit our own environment.
GECEVIČIUS: Paulius, what are your thoughts about Lithuania, after all the travels you have had?
VAŠKAS: Vilnius [the Capital] is such a great place for me.I really appreciate it because of the circle of people I have here, my friends, my family. Somehow it is very cozy here. I cannot really imagine where else I would want to be.
DAUGIRDAITE LAPINSKIENE: Here’s one other now for Paulius [Smile]. What is your approach to playing the guitar?
'THE KEY TO IMPROVISATIONAL MUSIC IS NOT THINKING TOO MUCH'
'(...) MUSIC SHOULD COME THROUGH YOU NOT FROM YOU'.
VAŠKAS: For me, the most important are these moments of ‘accidents’. The key to playing improvisational music is not thinking too much. Playing randomly, listening and then creating further. The first impulse must not come from thinking. Rather, it must come from feeling. [PAUSE] In fact, not even from feeling. Music should come through you, not from you.
DAUGIRDAITE LAPINSKIENE: Is it all about relaxing and not thinking?
VAŠKAS: Yes, but importantly, you have to stay consious. You cannot loosen up too much.You can not be fifty percent relaxed and fifty percent focused. You have to be a hundred percent relaxed and a hundred percent focused.
DAUGIRDAITE LAPINSKIENE: How do you see your role in the band? What are you striving to bring to the party? [Smile]
VAŠKAS: I'm not trying to do anything special [Smile]. Just like on stage, when it comes to making music, what matters is our collective chemistry as band members. Maybe not trying to do anything is still trying do do something [Laughs]. I really do not think in these terms I am not trying to do anything. Someone has called me "the voice of conscience" [Smile]. I am always honest.
DAUGIRDAITE LAPINSKIENE: In what sense and in what instances are you becoming the voice of conscience? [Smile]
VAŠKAS: Well don't lie. Be honest. Basically let’s not lie to ourselves whether it was a good concert or a bad performance. If it was bad admit that it was bad. Just be straight and see and say things as they are.
DAUGIRDAITE LAPINSKIENE: What benefits can music and art bring to our society?
'(...) WE ALWAYS GET SO PUMPED AND SO EXCITED WHEN WE SEE ALL THE ROCKERS
AND THE RAPPERS AND THE JAZZMEN WHO ARE ATTENDING OUR CONCERTS'
VAŠKAS: I have been thinking about this a lot. I have always wondered why people were paying money to go and watch live concerts. Because from my side of things of course the best part is playing [Smile]. I understand that it is fun to listen to music. My answer might sound a bit banal, but music does bring people together. Different genres of music allow certain people to meet certain other people. Well, as an example, tale a look at some of the people who are attending our concerts: Some are coming from more of a jazz background, some others as said earlier from electro or other musical universes. We always get so pumped and so excited when we see all the rockers and the rappers and the jazzmen who are attending our concerts.
DAUGIRDAITE LAPINSKIENE: Can you tell us about some of your more personal passions or interests of yours?
VAŠKAS: I find Psychology to be fascinating. Human connections and communications too. I am interested in understanding causality in life. As well as how to be calm, in the here and now [Smile].
DAUGIRDAITE LAPINSKIENE: As a group, do you feel as if being branded ‘Lithuanians’ is a strong part of your identity as a band ?
VAŠKAS: No. we are not different just because we are Lithuanians and I would like people to stop thinking about it that way. I’d prefer to reject those walls between countries. We are a group of the world. Let's not close ourselves. This is what I think.
DAUGIRDAITE LAPINSKIENE: How about Adas. Here’s one for you : Is it easier for you to play your own music than someone else’s music?
GECEVIČIUS: In my opinion, it may not be worth wasting your time playing other people’s music. And work more on developing your own potential and creativity. While some are creating all their lives some others play their songs all their lives. I’d rather be a part of those ones who are creating, and play other people’s music for educational or recreational purpose only, if you enjoy some tune [Smile].
DAUGIRDAITE LAPINSKIENE: Are there any insights from the creative mindset developed trough your craft that you can actually apply in your daily lives?
'(...) MUSIC IS ONLY THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG.
MOST PEOPLE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT LIES BENEATH.'
GECEVIČIUS: I think it is possible to apply that creative thinking in life yes. When you have been rehearsing with a band for a long time, you really start to have at type of family relationship. And this is where psychology comes in. Music is only the tip of the iceberg. Most people have no idea at all what lies beneath. We all have to overcome various challenges in our personal lives, and so by the way, every time you see an artist achieving something great [in spite of these personal challenges] you should really support this person!
DAUGIRDAITE LAPINSKIENE: What is most important to you now in your life?
GECEVIČIUS: Music and love. These two things. Two really important things. And they are permanently in conflict. Be it love for music, or love for love itself.
DAUGIRDAITE LAPINSKIENE: And why do these two things have to be in conflict?
'(...)WHEN YOU ARE IN THE STUDIO, YOU ARE IN THE FLOW.
YOU ARE IN THE MUSIC.'
GECEVIČIUS: Because you really have to give yourself a hundred percent to either music or to love. That is such a struggle for me. For example, you are in your studio working on a piece and I will not be picking up my phone for anyone. Something could have happened to my loved ones, but something inside you urges you to put all things aside that are not music-related, no matter how much you love your loved ones. When you are in your studio you are the flow, you are in the music. If you interrupt this flow - you break the flow - then you break the work.
DAUGIRDAITE LAPINSKIENE: Simonas mentioned the family bond type relationship you have within the band. I am curious to understand how this affects the way you work and create?
GECEVIČIUS: This is hard to say. One the one hand it makes things harder, and on the other it makes them easier [Smile]. Because we already know each other so well, we know what we can expect from each other. Maybe funnily this could lead us to being a bit closed towards each other at times. Being such good friends, having no quarrels and no conflicts could be putting us at risk of lacking the creative spirit we need. The good thing is that knowing each other so well allows us to articulate our ideas to each other perfectly. Because of that we can often create very high quality work really fast.
DAUGIRDAITE LAPINSKIENE: What social issues do you care most about?
'(...) I CAN NO LONGER TOLERATE BEING SURROUNDED
BY PEOPLE (...) WHO ENTERTAIN NO RESPECT FOR OTHERS.'
GECEVIČIUS: I realize that I can no longer tolerate being surrounded by people with no basic education, and by that I mean who entertain no respect for others. I am really staying away from such people. And whenever this is possible I step in to correct this disrespect for one-another. These things are affecting me. It’s not that big deal if a person witout education is cursing, but if one is screaming at someone for example, these are things I cannot understand. Why would you need to raise your voice at all? I do not understand such animality. Whenever there is a fight, it affects me terribly. I try to do everything to prevent that.
DAUGIRDAITE LAPINSKIENE: And do you feel that music can have or role to play here to influence people’s uncivil behaviours?
GECEVIČIUS: Yes but for people to be touched by our music they have to be open minded. Some people truly are closed. By that I do not mean introverts. I mean people not opened to the world, not willing to learn anything new. Some people do not read, they do not travel. The problem today I think are these people who are not open-minded enough. We would like to see less such people.
DAUGIRDAITE LAPINSKIENE: How about you Simonas, do you approach your instrument – the saxophone?
'THE SAXOPHONE IS THE LOVE OF MY LIFE.
EVERYTHING STARTED WITH IT (...)'
'(...) I LIKE WHEN PEOPLE SAY 'NORMALLY I DO NOT LIKE THE SAXOPHONE
BUT WITH SHEEP GOT WAXED IT SOUNDS REALLY NICE.'
ŠIPAVIČIUS: The saxophone is the love of my life. Everything started with it, and probably everything will end with it too. Eventually I got very interested in electronic music and all kinds of electronic intruments like synthesizers, drum machines, softwares. I also played the grand piano when I was learning at the conservatory, so I know how to push the black keys [Smile]. And I have played the flute for several years. Then I wanted to play the guitar so I learned a few chords, which are enough to allow me to sing maybe about two hundred songs [Smile]. With Sheep Got Waxed I play the saxophone. I always try to expand upon it with some sound effects. I am using an Ableton Push Sampler that you play with some colourful keys (kids love it!). This an electronic instrument which you have to program. Nevertheless I play the saxophone. I think I can best express myself and communicate with the other band members through this instrument. I like when people say: “normally I do not like the saxophone, but in Sheep Got Waxed it sounds really nice. That way I like it.” So | like it that way too. I still like it in other contexts too, but somehow within Sheep Got Waxed, with all those additional effects, this instrument reveals itself in a nice new light.
[I like] that technical part in music, when I am focusing not on what I will be playing, but on how I will deliver a specific sound. It is a bit like science fiction. It is futuristic. As if I am controlling space. Recording five sounds at once and playing a chord on top. I gave a lot of thought to these arrangements, and over time I have accumulated a whole bunch of sound effects. And yeah, Sheep Got Waxed was the laboratory where all these tunes were born!
DAUGIRDAITE LAPINSKIENE: What were you always trying to avoid as an artist?
'(...) I AM AVOIDING THAT PLACE IN LIFE WHERE YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE.'
ŠIPAVIČIUS: I really like to feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations [Smile]. With Sheep Got Waxed we are creating these uncomfortable situations in order for us to feel good. Creating situations where we have to use our brains, think a bit harder how to best handle these situations. I am avoiding that place in life where you feel comfortable. Even though not always [Smile]. I am not very picky and I when people invite me to play I just go and we play together. Everything adds up in the end, and contributes to your growth as a person and as an artist. I want freedom. I want to break free. Let me out! [Laughs]
DAUGIRDAITE LAPINSKIENE: Other than music what matters most in your life?
ŠIPAVIČIUS: Life itself. Life is like a parallel unvierse to music. Sometimes I could forget that I also have to live. Holidays are a really difficult thing for me [Smile]. Paulius and I can talk politics, with Adas we are both interested in new technologies. Paulius and Adas find their own themes to talk about. I am interested in things. Maybe I don’t read as many books as I’d like too, and this is something I am not too happy about. I am mainly interested in technology and music and these things are related [more than ever]. It takes an hour to listen to one album, and there are so many great albums one can be listening to!
DAUGIRDAITE LAPINSKIENE: In one way or another how can music impact society positively in a bigger way?
'(...) MUSIC SHOULD FIRST MAKE YOU WANT
TO EXPERIENCE SOMETHING MORE OUT OF LIFE.'
ŠIPAVIČIUS: It really can and I really believe that music should first make you want to experience something more out of life. The people who come to Sheep Got Waxed are generally educated but those who are used to more straightforward music – what I call ‘Cheap music’ [Smile] - can be disturbed by our music. I would like to find a way to get these people interested in it.
DAUGIRDAITE LAPINSKIENE: What are your present goals and dreams?
ŠIPAVIČIUS: Now we would like to release our third album and my personal goal is not to get grumpy, to remain interested and never say “I already know everything and have heard everything, and I have played everything”. I would like to stay vigorous. I would like to keep playing the saxophone. I would like to create music that has not been created yet. Mr. Raudonikis or Mr. Makačiūnas said once that everything had been played already. I would like to refute this view through my work. I would like to travel, to play in Japan, in Antarctica (Metallica has already played there), I am not sure where exactly, but somewhere where penguins go and are laying their eggs [Laughs]. And I want to never be an obstacle to Sheep Got Waxed.
DAUGIRDAITE LAPINSKIENE : Thank you to all of you.
SHEEP GOT WAXED (ALL): Thank you!