PRAGAII - a Latvian Duo Defying Musical Convention

PRAGAII - a Latvian Duo Defying Musical Convention

PRAGAII are the latest intriguing band to come out of the Baltics - Latvia, to be precise - and do something that builds on what has come before, but still comes across as trying something different. Aleksis Luriņš and Kaspars Kubeckis, or 'Kashuks', the two musicians who form the group, united over a shared interest in sound engineering and the technology of music, and their EP is now streaming and for sale.

"We've known each other for, like, five years," said Aleksis. "We almost made two EPs before this one, but we put it away - we wanted to start again with new material. We were working too slowly, and it wasn't interesting for us." When asked if the music could be characterised as electronic, Kashuks replied, "It's something between indie and electronic. For example, we don't sample drums - we do our own." 

Though it might be common for members of a band to share a love of similar music, that's not the case here - Aleksis brings to PRAGAII a love of classic and modern rock, while he explained that for Kashuks, things are a little different. "I grew up listening to Pink Floyd," said Aleksis, "because of my dad. Then, the first band that got me to really find out about music, and why I connected with it, was Red Hot Chili Peppers and their album Californication. Nowadays, any indie band - Fleet Foxes, Real Estate, you name it. Kapsars doesn't listen to music at all, and that's quite unique."

This was astonishing. A member of a band who doesn't listen to any other music, even for fun? "When I was going to school, I used to listen, but after that, I don't know why, I just stopped," Kashuks said. In a way, it's a refreshing admission - it would be a more honest, and possibly happier, world, if we all just admitted to ourselves that we didn't enjoy something that much. What makes it particularly novel is that Kashuks is a craftsman of a sound that may be distinct, but comes across as being aware of the past  three decades of musical history, taking many cues from the likes of Massive Attack and Portishead.

There is the follow-up question of how two people with such divergent personal tastes could form a group. "We made this remix of a song," Aleksis said, "and I thought, wow, he's really good. I thought, we have to make something, the two of us. After that, the friendship grew, and from time to time I show him some bands, but whether it's Radiohead or anything, he doesn't know [the artist]." "I don't think it's bad," Kashuks offered. "When I record, I never know what the sound is going to be before I start."

With that, it was time to talk about the band's EP, released earlier in 2018. Micro, featuring vocals by Marija Broca, was the track they seemed most eager to open up about, with Kashuks beginning. "With Micro, we went to the countryside for a weekend, and that was a really good time for us. We went to the forest, to the lake, and we were just writing and writing, the weather was great, and that was one of our best times."

It sounds idyllic, and for Aleksis it was. "I fell asleep for an hour, then woke up and there was Kashuks, and he said come listen to this, and then I came up with a guitar part, and it came together in that way." The track sounds like it came together through an organic process of discovery, and it is somehow comforting to hear that its origin story reflects this.

The most interesting track to work on for Aleksis was 004, the final song on the EP. As Kashuks added, "There was a lot of experimentation with microphones and vocals in the mix." Aleksis also held Lidojums in high regard. "It was probably the most professional song, made in the studio - most of the other songs were made in the countryside, or at home. This, on the other hand, started when he sent me an idea of the beat, and I thought, this is something different."

"With Visions, he sent me this beat, and a couple of days before, I'd been working on a song. I just thought they were meant to be married together."

The next frontier for PRAGAII is to take their estimable skills and use them in production and collaborations with high-profile artists. Though the festival circuit is becoming the true goldmine for electronic and dance artists, Aleksis was noncommittal on the idea that songs played with mostly live instruments sound naturally better than processing those sounds through software. "People who know music, who listen to music, it's good for them to know we're doing it live, but most people don't care that much, they just want to have a good time."

When it comes to what PRAGAII want their audience to experience, the answer is very simple. "We'd like the people listening to our EP to hear the same things we are, and to feel the same things we were feeling when we were writing them."

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