LLL: What’s the name of your project?
B: It’s Basys ir Ilčiukas – simply our last names. We weren’t too creative when creating it and had some regrets later but it was too late to change it. We thought about creating some nicknames a little bit later but then we realised that Basys ir Ilčiukas is going to work if the music is good enough.
LLL: So you didn’t select it from a few different options, it was just the only thing on the table and you went with it?
B: Yeah, we came up with the first song before we came up with the nicknames and then we just thought – let’s use our last names and that’s it. We thought it’s going to be very Lithuanian.
LLL: So you thought about the way that name would be perceived in other countries but you thought your main market would be Lithuania, so you didn’t worry about it?
I: Yeah, of course. 100 percent.
LLL: So were you even planning at the time that you’re going to have a big international career or were you thinking this would be more of a local thing?
I: Well, of course we would like to be popular everywhere but we’ve come to a realisation that we’ll stick to Lithuania. One of the reasons is that our English isn’t that good although Andrius is getting better every month because he’s living in the US.
B: Yeah, my grammar is better but I still sound like somebody with a potato in his mouth.
I: On some songs you can use that accent to make a playable track but still – overall it’s Lithuanian.
B: We actually had one song in English but we never released it. It was called Pink Room, as you can see Carl’s room is pink, and this is where we started our career. It was a sort of a R&B song.
I: Because you wanted to be an R&B singer. But I was making only trap or hiphop beats and he was playing on the guitar, going ‘I want to make my own songs and you’re making this trap b–s!’. But at some point he threw the guitar away.
B: I tried singing but the reality quickly set in – you’re better off rapping.
LLL: So when you hit that reality you decided to start performing as a duo?
B: When you have so many good singers in Lithuania, starting with Donatas Montvydas and ending with Justinas Jarutis, you know that you won’t be able to compete with such beasts in the singing category. Rap, on the other hand, is not that well-developed in Lithuania I would say. It all sounds plain and I think there isn’t a lot of high quality rap in Lithuania. I think it was one of my motivations, I felt we can compete in this category.
LLL: Nice. And when you say “we”, is it just you two performing or do you use other band members when performing or recording?
B: In the very beginning, I didn’t have any equipment, so I was forced to go to studios. I would get a few hours in the studio but then I realised I don’t have any mood for that and I’m not comfortable with other people being in the studio as well. Eventually, I bought a microphone, sound card and other equipment to record at home. But, to be honest, now I record even less than when I had to go somewhere to record. This freedom somehow doesn’t obligate you to set a time for recording every day. Now you just think ‘I can do it whenever’. But then you end up not doing it often. That’s a personal observation that I have.
LLL: And that recording, is that your own voice and instruments or is that other people?
I: We do have some features but basically we do everything ourselves.
LLL: Okay. Do you think you’re a male band or is this something that’s not really important to you?
I: Absolutely not important.
B: We should add that mixing and mastering is not done by us, usually by Innomine.
LLL: Okay, cool. But you said that it doesn’t matter to you if you’re perceived as male or not, so another question – if there’s a list of male hip-hop in Lithuania, do you think you should be on it?
I: I believe so. Not in the top places but maybe somewhere in the top 10? (laughs) You should think good about yourself.
LLL: So you wouldn’t mind being labelled as male but it’s not something you would use in your marketing?
I: No, definitely wouldn’t mind.
LLL: Okay. I don’t need to ask the next question because the next question is – do you use lyrics in your music? We’re talking about hip-hop and rap, so I guess you use lyrics in your rap. So the question is – what’s the main language?
LLL: Is that the only language?
B: We might use a word or two in Russian if it rhymes with some Lithuanian word. Right now I’m writing a song that used the word ‘chata’ because it rhymed well with other lyrics.
LLL: Actually, it’s yiddish (laughs).
B: Probably, I don’t even know. I always thought it was Russian.
LLL: Or it could be Polish!
I: It can be both.
LLL: I guess it’s Polish but okay – sometimes there would be some local slang words that are not Lithuanian.
I: We use English words rarely.
LLL: Okay but your mother tongue is Lithuanian. Is that why you use it?
B: 100 percent.
I: Of course, it’s easy.
LLL: Is there some patriotic reason for using it or is it simply because it’s the easiest?
B: I don’t even know any other language that well that I could perform in that language.
I: Lithuanian just comes naturally.
LLL: Okay, so you were talking about when you started the project in this pink room. Where is that, what’s the location?
I: In Vilnius, Baltupiai to be exact.
LLL: Okay but you’re not based in the same place right now, so where are you currently based?
B: Karl is still based in Baltupiai. I met my wife, who is American, and eventually moved to the US.
LLL: Okay. So now you’re not even in the same location?
LLL: But you’re still producing music from separate locations or do you meet up to do it?
I: We still do it in different places.
B: The way it works is Karl creates independently and he’s creating way more beats than I can write lyrics to. Almost every month I get a package of 20-30 beats and I listen to all of them carefully. If I feel like this is something I would have what to say on, then I tell him not to give that beat to someone else (laughs). And then he helps me with lyrics, I send him my versions and he can be like ‘This sounds weak’ or ‘This doesn’t tie with that and I think we need to change this’. And if I need to change some arrangement, I need 16 more bars, then I go to Karl and ask him if he can do that for me. So we kind of work independently but support each other.
I: We just make demos and send them to each other, that’s it.
LLL: Okay, you’re working together but the way you’re collaborating only really needs Messenger or email..
I: Sometimes we have video calls with each other but more or less we just send it to each other back and forth.
B: Those jams are just to boost morale you know? I wouldn’t say that we get the most work done during these sessions. We work independently and see if our vision is similar.
LLL: You work independently but together.
B&I: Yeah. (laughs)
LLL: Okay. If you were both in Lithuania, you still might work the same way.
B: I would say the most work would still be done separately. We both have full-time jobs, so we don’t have the luxury to sit together in the studio all the time. But yeah, we would hang out all the time. Every day we would meet in his studio, listen to beats, freestyle a little bit. We would get some ideas, then I would go home to marinate on them a bit, he would come up with some ideas as well. We’d meet the next day to discuss them, I would show him what I came up with..
LLL: So when you were living in the same place, you were meeting up physically and working together but now that you’re living in different cities, obviously you cannot do that. But you’re still managing to produce.
B: Yeah, we call each other, we speak every day. We have these jam sessions, so not much has changed. At first, when I had to move out, I had a thought that our project will stop or at least we’re going to lose our tempo. I don’t think that was the case though. The first year I went to India because my wife was a diplomat back then, so we were sent there – that was her assignment. I wasn’t able to work because that would have been a security breach, so I had all the time to do whatever I wanted. That was the most productive year of our project, we released 9 tracks that year.
LLL: Wow. So you started working together in Vilnius and then one of you has to go to India..
B: Yeah. Actually we went to the US for 6 months first as my wife had to go through training. Only then I flew to India. And yeah, that year was the most productive year.
LLL: And now you’re back in the US?
LLL: Was there anything in India that influenced the music apart from the free time?
B: I believe there was. For 9 months I wasn’t working.. The first couple of months were really fun but then I started feeling like a parasite. Too much freedom brings the pressure if you don’t have anything to do with your time. So this was the main circumstance that contributed to me wanting to write more. If I could write lyrics on every beat that Karl makes, we would have 120 albums by now.
LLL: Okay. We know where you are and where you’ve been, how about your fans? Where are the countries or maybe cities that you have fans at?
B: Google shows that 87% of our fans are male. They’re mostly in the 18-27 age group. These are our youtube stats. So I believe that our fan base is in Vilnius, if we even have one.
LLL: Is there anything crazy that pops up in the statistics from some other countries, have you got some hits somewhere exotic?
I: I don’t think so, no. Maybe the main track that was remixed, the PX one it was listened to somewhere..
B: I know it was played in India in at least one Dojo. I showed it to my trainer and then we had to listen to it in every training that I had (laughs).
LLL: In a dojo, okay. That’s good information. Where exactly is this dojo?
B: In Chennai, the fifth-biggest city in India.
LLL: Nice. So you know that you have a fanbase there. But for more of a serious question – what kind of plans do you have for concerts, tours or travelling?
I: Basically, the answer is simple – we’re not invited anywhere (laughs). That’s the easy answer. It’s because we don’t put any work into it, you know? We just make music and that’s it. Andrew can come back to Lithuania once or twice a year max if it’s a big event but we’re not being booked for big events.
B: Look at the bright side of this though, we can keep our services exclusive. Let’s do it like the infamous SEL – you do it once a year but you do it big. 30-meter robots behind you on the stage and so on. That’s the goal – let’s get big and do it less frequently but with a bigger show.
LLL: So if you had plans for gigs it would be in Lithuania?
B: 100 percent, yeah. I think that’s also one of the things that keeps me attached to my country besides my friends and family. Knowing that you can create and produce something for your country. Being an immigrant yourself, I think you can understand what price you pay.
B: So our dream is to create as much good music as we possibly can and to have an opportunity to perform in an arena one day. Let’s put it this way. Let’s dream big.
I: Let’s wish for the best.
LLL: We just have a couple more questions about the scene that you’re representing. This should be easier than most people because the rap and hip hop scene is pretty well understood. But do you maybe have a subgenre or a city scene that you particularly aspire to? Like a techno producer might aspire to Detroit or Berlin, have you got the same kind of thing?
I: My idols are based in Atlanta but no other genre, just trap and rap. But everyone on my top 5 is from Atlanta. That’s where the trap genre came from.
LLL: So do you think your music is part of that scene?
I: Yeah, I draw inspiration straight from it. I listen to the tracks and go like ‘Hmm, what if I put it this way?’
LLL: Right. Perfect answer. What about the places that you live in? You’ve got two places that you live now, do you draw inspiration from the scene in your town?
I: Basically, I do not go outside at all. I feel like I haven’t been outside for 5 years, so I didn’t draw any inspiration from Lithuania. I don’t know why but I just go to my job, come back home, do some music, maybe watch something, go to bed and repeat that again and again until I’m godlike in production.
B: There is gossip that he’s a vampire because he never goes anywhere.
LLL: So then your inspiration is coming from what you see on the Internet about one particular city in another country.
I: You could say it like that, I guess. But then again, I do music the way I like and I’m not trying to replicate anyone. I use the same sounds sometimes to make different things.
LLL: Okay, so then you take inspiration from another city and then the music that you make is from your city.
B: Yeah. Now that you said it in this way, it sounds weird, but that’s what we do covers of this shit and call it ours.
LLL: That’s what Atlanta did to make their shit, so it’s kind of legit. You’ve been allowed to do that for quite a few thousand years. As long as you add something from your local scene to it, then you can call it local but it’s not compulsary – you could sit in Vilnius inspired by Atlanta and only make Atlanta music and have no influences from your town. But I think it’s hard not to be influenced by the city you’re in.
I: Of course. We grew up with guys like G&G and it’s still in our blood.
LLL: Okay, that’s a really nice way to end it. Thank you for a really interesting interview, the stories about India were a surprise, so we’re going to put that info in the database and see what it means (laughs).
I: It was a pleasure.
B: Thank you.