What inspired you to first start making music? And how did you come to be in your current incarnation? Or if you prefer, a brief bio about you.
I fell in love with the drums as a teenager and have been lucky enough to tour and record with many acts including Rhye, Moses Sumney, Alice Russell, BANKS, Tropics, Mr Little Jeans, and more. After my experiences as a freelance musician, I felt a deep drive to create the music that was in my head and I started producing music as part of the trio mAsis. After a few years working on mAsis, I started working on a solo project in an effort to dive deeper into found sounds, sonic landscapes, and to explore some musical areas that seemed like they did not fit in with the mAsis sound. Percussion, noise, and capturing the sound of unique spaces are the defining factors that make the music of Beles unique.
Provide us with some info about your latest release…
I began this project soon after I stumbled upon an old family photo album. I only recognized a few faces and even my mom didn’t know who they all were. One of the faces that stood out was my great-grandmother, Millie Matekunis. At the time, I didn’t know her name and had never seen a picture of her, but her face felt familiar. I couldn’t shake her image from my mind and the music I began to make was heavily influenced by my ruminations about her and my unknown ancestors.
As a child, I was fascinated by my Scottish and Lithuanian heritage. My Scottish grandfather took me to the Scottish games where we ate meat pies and listened to bagpipes, but my Lithuanian grandmother constantly changed the subject when I brought up her heritage, which made me even more curious. She was born in America, but didn’t learn English until she went to kindergarten, so I gathered that she had insecurities, as a result. When I pestered her to teach me Lithuanian, she would begrudgingly teach me only a few words, but I cherished those phrases because they connect me to my heritage. When I found the pictures of Millie, a similar feeling swelled up in me and thinking about her and her life’s journey from Lithuania to the United States became an infatuation.
While writing the music for this project, I wrote letters to Millie and asked her all of the questions to which I never got answers. It was therapeutic, being one part letter and one part diary entry, where I had the freedom to ask about stories that I had only heard once or fragments of memories that floated in the shadows of my consciousness. I began to think about my family, my cultural background, and just how fleeting the memory of one’s life can be, if there isn’t an effort to preserve it. This, in many ways, is my small effort to investigate and thus preserve my history and my own identity.
Which ones would you consider your main influences both music-wise & non-music-wise?
I am deeply inspired by nature. The ocean, plants, mountains, and open spaces always inspire music in me.
My musical inspiration comes from many artists, but now I’ve been listening to a lot of Bon Iver, Kevin Garrett, Jennah Bell, Sufjan Stevens, and Salami Rose Joe Louis.
In what way does your sound differ from the rest genre-related artists/bands and why should we listen to your music? In other words, how would you describe your sound?
My sound is influenced by spaces. I love the feeling of walking into a new music venue, a church, a home, or any unique space and hearing the natural reverb of the space. The way sound travels through each space inspires different sounds. Much of my source material is sampled from found sounds captured outside or in interesting buildings. I love using noisy, dirty recordings collected on my phone because they have character and carry with them a story that you can’t get from a recording made in a sterile studio.
Please name your 3 desert islands albums, movies & books…
My three desert island albums are “Come On! Feel the Illinoise!” by Sufjan Stevens, “Smile,” by Jacky Terrason, and “O,” by Damien Rice.
My three desert island dumplings are xiao long bao, shen jian bao, and wang mandoo.
Do you prefer studio or performing live and why?
They are apples and oranges. They elicit completely different feelings. Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the studio and love the feeling of capturing and polishing something, but there’s an excitement in live performance that is unparalleled.
Is there any funny-unique story you would like to share with us, always in relation to your music ‘career’?
Which track of your own would you point out as the most unique and why?
While on a late-night walk with my dog, I stumbled on a broken piano on the sidewalk in my neighborhood. I sampled the out-of-tune strings, the sound of the pedals clicking, the movement of the hammers, and my headphone case that I had in my pocket. The combination of those sounds created the main idea of “Tall As The Ocean” and the ultimate feeling of that song reflected the slow, patient strides I took on that stroll.
Would you like to share with our readers your future plans?
There is a follow up to this project, called “Dear Millie Part 2” that I am very excited to share. It’ll be released in the summer of this year.
Free question!!! (Ask yourself a question) you wish to answer and haven’t been given the opportunity…
Curated by: Christos Doukakis
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