IF YOU GO:
What: Andreas Kapsalis and Goran Ivanovic
When: 8 p.m. Monday
Where: The Lemon Grove, 122 W. Federal St., Youngstown
Tickets: $7 ($5 students); call 330-301-0282
By John Benson
Approachable and commercial may not be what instantly comes to mind when describing the discriminating guitar sounds and worlds explored by Andreas Kapsalis and Goran Ivanovic; however, the guitar duo has spent the past five years opening the hearts and edifying the minds of accessible music fans around the globe.
“There’s a lot of great guitar music, but there’s not that much original guitar music that follows different compositional style,” said Serbia native and Chicago resident Ivanovic, calling from the Windy City. “Of course, we look up to all the great guitar players like John McLaughlin [and] Bill Frisell, but our style is a little bit more orchestral. We really bring out all the possibilities that a guitar has; the color on the instrument to percussive side to harmonic and rhythmical ideas that necessarily haven’t been done on the guitar yet.
“We try to compare our stuff with great Russian composers like Tchaikovsky and Romanoff. We really try to write in a very orchestral style, developing the harmony or developing melody, not just the usual four-bar phrase and then a couple of hooks. The main idea is to feature the duo as a duo that are mostly composers, then secondly as guitar players.”
The act features Kapsalis’ steel-string 10-finger tapping guitar style along with Ivanovic’s nylon-string classical approach. Under the guise of a jazz foundation, the twosome crosses many boundaries, which is nothing new to Ivanovic, who is the son of a Serbian father and a Bosnian Croat mother.
While he was studying at the Mozarteum in Salzburg with masters such as Elliot Fisk and Joaquin Clerch, his parents were expelled from Croatia and were granted political asylum in the United States. This opened the door for their guitar-playing son to explore his music in America unfettered by political strife.
Both he and Kapsalis have been active for the past decade, but it was roughly five years ago when they joined forces. The outfit released its self-titled debut in 2009, and is now hard at work on the follow-up, which is due out later this year.
“I was pretty satisfied with the first album; it was quite versatile,” Ivanovic said. “For this next album, we gained a lot of experience, so I think the unity of the duo will come out in terms of composition and playing. We’ll see more of a refined ideal from what we heard before. We’re expecting this album to be better than the first one. Already a new tune has been a hit on the road. It’s Andres’ called ‘Karate.’
“He likes to play with visual things, and he’s also a film composer, so he often finds his character and writes music through a certain story. It’s pretty fast. We’re trying to do some crazy things, using a bit of unusual techniques.”
Considering the duo will be making its Youngstown debut Monday at the Lemon Grove, how does Ivanovic feel the outfit’s eclectic sound will be received in a rock club?
“In our experience, everything has worked pretty much from dead-quiet concert halls to really loud rock clubs,” Ivanovic said. “I think the energy we can put out there and connect with the audience is the deciding factor why it works. Of course, there will be some bar crowds who never heard it before, but we’re pretty good at adjusting from place to place.
“That’s one thing I can say for sure; we’re trying to do something original. When you’re not really a cover band or indie rock band or jazz band, then you have to move from place to place. That’s the beauty and the curse of an ensemble that doesn’t really belong to a certain style.”
He added, “I think it’ll work. People in America are very open to new music. Audiences are generally very curious and very open-minded about strange and different things, which I don’t think we are. We’re very approachable and sort of commercial in that sense.”