Lithuania might not be the first country that people in the UK think of when contemplating the rock and roll hotbeds of Europe, but as we discovered talking to Vilnius-based punk trio Timid Kooky there’s a lot more going on in the Baltic state than we’d ever have anticipated.
For starters there’s their own alt-rock melange of overdriven post-hardcore, metronomic post-punk and hypnotic fuzzed-up stoner rock, as evidenced on forthcoming EP Baby Be My Spiderman, which is due out in the UK on 20th April via The state51 Conspiracy. Constructed with a heady combination of humour and stark emotional honesty, it’s a real treat. “It’s about breaking chains, letting yourself go and being happy with yourself,” they explain. “Basically, it’s about self acceptance. But it’s also about raw power, which can either be the chains that hold you, or be a tool that can help you break them.”
And if blistering tracks like ‘Pats Sau’ and ‘Run Uphill’, sung in a mixture of English and their native tongue, aren’t enough to convince you of the rock riches to be found on the Baltic coast, the band have put together a playlist of further Lithuanian treasures waiting to be discovered.
I’ll admit to not being familiar with the Lithuanian music scene – who are some of the bands and artists of years gone by that have influenced the current wave of musicians?
Most of the bands that formed in the late 80s and early 90s were the first artists of independent Lithuania. Bands like Foje, Antis, Naktinės Personos, Poliarizuoti Stiklai, Lemon Joy, Katedra and others were the some of the most prominent bands from that period (some still active) that influenced most of the current wave musicians because these were the bands they saw live when they (we) were kids. So naturally, they were the “cool rock stars” that we would look up to and ponder about learning to play guitar. However, one should not underestimate the heavy influence of western music for both the current wave of musicians and the older generation of artists.
And who should we be looking out for in the current scene?
Are there any common threads, either stylistically, in subject matter or in spirit that link these bands?
All of them are a generation of musicians that were born in the 90s, seeking for quality beats and riffs. One thing in common among them is most definitely the raw and bold attitude towards music. Overall, the Lithuanian alternative/indie musician community is pretty much a very big family and everybody’s really supportive of each other’s works.
Are there particular cities or neighbourhoods that have a particularly strong music scene?
All in all, every city has some bands – some are bigger, some are smaller but we guess for a rather small country as Lithuania, it should be judged as a whole without discerning any “stronger” or “weaker” music scenes. Of course, the biggest cities of Lithuania have the advantage venue wise but there are very cool places in smaller cities too. For example Alytus, which is the 6th biggest city population wise, has only one such venue, but it’s famous all over Lithuania and all of the alternative musicians want to play there no matter how big or small. This is because the bar owner, Oganes Arakėlian, cherishes live music and influences the local community. He puts his blood and sweat into sustaining this venue and bringing the best acts there are to inspire a lot of young people and to show everybody that even a smaller city can host the most wild shows that rock your socks off.
Now does Lithuania as a whole have a particularly strong music scene? Most definitely. Stronger than ever.
Where are the best places to play in Lithuania?
Bar ‘Fenix’ in Alytus is one of the best places to play in Lithuania for sure, even legendary. Other places would be ‘Loftas’ in Vilnius that hosts shows of local and foreign acts. It’s always fun to play there because the owners and the staff are very friendly and interested in a wide array of genres and artists. Also, Lemmy in Kaunas and Herkus Kantas in Klaipėda are really cool.
We really hope that this pandemic won’t be the end of these awesome smaller venues, because they are all about being sweaty and intimate with the audience. Without the smaller venues emerging artists would have a much more difficult time…
Having toured across Europe, have you noticed much of a difference between crowds at home and those in other countries? Which have been some of your favourite cities to play outside of Lithuania?
Seville, Spain was really cool to play in and the people seemed to enjoy our music very much. We played three gigs in one day there, and the audience in all three of them was simply AMAZING. From what we saw, there’s a bigger variation age wise in the audiences of western Europe countries, while in Lithuania there are mostly young people in rock gigs. It’s really cool seeing older people rocking out to our music and enjoying the shows as much as we do. Also, Riga, Latvia is always really fun to play. They always give us the warmest welcome and some of our most memorable gigs happened there. St. Petersburg, Russia, was a real banger. It was our first time to play so far away from Lithuania and we didn’t know what to expect from the audience or how to approach it. But we gave our best and the audience responded with insane mosh pits. The vibe was electric.
For everyone who’s enjoyed finding out about Lithuanian bands from you, where should they go next to find out more about the scene?
Where else? Lithuania of course. There’s nothing like experiencing a local music scene first-hand. Sadly, given the current circumstances *cough* thanks covid *cough* it’s quite difficult to do so… But while we’re all waiting for everything to come back to normal, you can check out “related artists” and “fans also like” sections on our Spotify page and delve into the wonderful and exciting world of modern Lithuanian music.
We asked Timid Kooky to share their ‘beginners guide to Lithuanian music’ playlist:
Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis – The Sea
is a symphonic poem by Lithuania’s most famous composer M. K. Čiurlionis. It is a majestic piece which depicts the sea so clearly that you can almost see the waves breaking and ebbing away as you listen to it.
Gintarėliai – Stebis Tėtis ir Mama
Gintarėliai is one of the first and, at that time, one of the most prominent Lithuanian rock’n’roll bands that had an unbelievably raw west-inspired sound. It’s even cooler when you realise it’s 1965 Lithuania and listening (let alone playing) music like this in the Soviet Union could’ve gotten you in a WHOLE LOT of trouble.
Hiperbolė – Aš Dar Dainuosiu
Hiperbolė is one of the biggest lithuanian rock bands ever and their song ‘Aš Dar Dainuosiu (I Will Sing Again)’ is one of their greatest hits. It’s sincerity and a powerful chorus gets us every time.
Ir Visa Tai Kas Yra Gražu Yra Gražu is an avant-garde rock band formed in late 80s, which is a strong influence to those who like more obscure music and DIY feel. Their stage presence and subtle humour are an example of how you can do anything you want on stage.
This track is one of their more structurally based and laid back songs, released in 1994. The funky drum beat, bass line and female vocals at times seem reminiscent of Velvet Underground and Lou Reed, but at the same time it remains its own free jam to have a nice walk to in the summer sun.
Radioshow – Audi 100
It is just a song about an Audi 100 and how good you feel when you drive it on a highway. It has amazing energy, smooth beats and makes you really want to drive an Audi 100.
ba. – Trenk
ba. is currently the biggest Lithuanian rock band that always delivers the most raw and emotion packed shows and records. Their newest song ‘Trenk (Hit me)’ is a powerful and straightforward punch to the face (pun intended) that gives you a taste of a modern Lithuanian punk knuckle sandwich.
Daujotas – Tides
Daujotas is a Lithuanian painter/songwriter. This composition, driven by distant melancholic guitar weeps, surrounded with pulsating pads, will run down your spine like a cold water stream, straight into the great river of Boards of Canada.
Abudu – Gaisras
Abudu is a Lithuanian band active from around 2015. ‘Gaisras’ is an Elliot Smith blessed acoustic guitar driven piece, swaying by almost traditional Lithuanian harmony spiced vocals, leading up to a synth outbreak build up.
Ruta Mur – Change Your Mind
Ruta Mur is this wonderful gem that instantly takes you on a nostalgic tour through your happy place… Her music feels like a warm hug you never knew you needed.
Timid Kooky’s new EP Baby Be My Spiderman is out on 20th April via The state51 Conspiracy.
Interview by Paul Maps
Photo by Shukowski