14 Jun 2018

Rock star cellists 2CELLOS return

From Upbeat, 4:19 pm on 14 June 2018

The cello wielding rock stars of cross-over 2CELLO are returning to New Zealand.

2CELLOS

2CELLOS Photo: 2CELLOS

Classically trained cellists Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, the players behind the highly successful 2CELLOS, visit Auckland in December as part of their Australasian tour to promote their fourth studio album Score.

The Croatians, aged in their early 30s, rose to fame via youtube in 2011 after posting their cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’.

The duo told RNZ’s Trevor Reekie in 2011 that they were surprised by the attention they received because they just play cello in an interesting way.

“It’s unreal. We are classically trained. We … discovered there was this rock animal inside of us … that wanted to explode,” Stjepan said.

It was ‘Smooth Criminal’ which caught the attention of big record labels and big names in the industry, including Sir Elton John, who invited them to open for him on his world tour. They played  Dunedin with the legendary performer.

Luka told Trever Reekie about the call he received from Sir Elton while busy practicing at the Royal Academy. “He got my number through Royal Academy, he was a student there as well,” Luka says. “He said he loved the video. He was impressed by how many clicks, he didn’t see that so often in classical music.”

Michael Jackson’s choreographer for the original ‘Smooth Criminal’ also contracted the duo. “He said Michael would have loved the video,” Luka said. “Guns n Roses, they shared our ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ video on the official Facebook page.”

“It’s nice to see even the original artists like what we do. We feel very honoured by this.”

Smooth Criminal has had nearly 30 million views on youtube. One of 2CELLOS most popular arrangements is of AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’, which has had more than 120 million views.

2CELLOS are clear they are not a covers band. They rearrange the music, adding their own creative flair. And that flair comes from improvisation during rehearsal sessions.

“We’d get drunk and play some jam sessions,” Luka told Trevor Reekie. “We play everything in our head, we don’t write anything down. We grew up with improvisation even though we’re not jazz musicians.”

And it’s not just rock music that gets the 2CELLOS energetic injection. The duo perform traditional repertoire, pop and dance music, and tunes from films and television, including Lord of the Rings, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Schindler’s List and Game of Thrones.

Some of 2CELLOS newer arrangements include music by Muse, Coldplay, Nancy Sinatra, Rihanna and a rock version of Rossini’s ‘William Tell Overture’. They even make the Titanic theme song ‘My Heart Will Go On’ tolerable.

Luka and Stjepan have also collaborated with Red Hot Chili Peppers, George Michael, renowned classical pianist Lang Lang and Queens of the Stone Age, and have performed with some of the most prestigious orchestras in the world.

Their instruments take quite a battering, so instead of investing in expensive Italian cellos, the musicians go for practicality.

“The more famous we get the cheaper the cellos,” laughed Luka. “[we use] carbon fibre cellos which are good for outdoor venues because they are not sensitive to weather and for travelling. We are using electric because we play big venues and it’s easy to amplify them.”

2CELLOS are bringing their pedals, electric cellos and new arrangements to The Civic in Auckland on December 3 2018.

Get the new RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes

Subscribe to Upbeat

Podcast (MP3) Oggcast (Vorbis)