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This duo plays rock ‘n’ roll using only two cellos

Two musicians are using the cello to play contemporary rock music, drawing millions of YouTube views and filling concert halls. Stjepan Hauser, from Croatia, and Luka Sulić, from Slovenia, are both classically trained and form the band 2Cellos, which has sold out shows in Portland, Seattle, Denver, Boston and New York. NewsHour Weekend’s Phil Hirschkorn caught up with them.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    When you think of classically trained cellists, you probably don’t think of rock ‘n’ roll, packed concert halls and millions of views on YouTube. But, as NewsHour Weekend’s Phil Hirschkorn reports, the musical duo known as 2cellos has changed that. He caught up with them on a recent tour stop here in New York.

  • 2 CELLOS:

    “Good evening, New York!”

  • PHIL HIRSCHKORN:

    2 Cellos don’t deliver a typical cello concert. Their instruments are electric and loud. They break bows. They play more rock ‘n roll than classical music. And writhe around the stage. The two are Stjepan Hauser, 31, from Croatia, and Luka Sulić, 30, from Slovenia. They’ve been cello rivals since they were childhood prodigies but they started playing together as students at the Royal Academy of Music in London, training as classical musicians.

  • STJEPAN HAUSER:

    The problem with classical music are the performers that are not really delivering it in the right way. They don’t connect with the audience. Too many rules, too dry, too many walls between artist and the audience.

  • PHIL HIRSCHKORN:

    Playing with passion and adrenaline, their tastes turned to more contemporary compositions. The track list on their first three albums tapped a who’s who of rock ‘n roll — U2, Sting, Coldplay, Mumford and Sons, Nirvana. Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was on the set list of their recent sold out concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

  • PHIL HIRSCHKORN:

    You guys are almost young enough to be the baby on the cover of Nevermind. How did you get exposed to that music in Croatia and in Slovenia?

  • LUKA ŠULIĆ:

    When we were teenagers we started watching MTV you know, Nirvana playing unplugged. Then later on we started, we were listening to Michael Jackson a lot.

  • PHIL HIRSCHKORN:

    A Michael Jackson song became their breakout video when they posted this recording of “Smooth Criminal” to YouTube six years ago.

  • STEJPAN HAUSER:

    It has this rhythmic, and people are not aware cello can be so powerful, so rhythmical.

  • PHIL HIRSCHKORN:

    Elton John noticed and invited them to play on his tour. Soon record labels were calling and Sony signed 2 Cellos. Their following soared after they posted this rendition of the AC/DC song, “Thunderstruck.” It’s now approaching 95 million views on YouTube. AC/DC remains a staple of their concert repertoire along with classic rock anthems like the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.”

  • PHIL HIRSCHKORN:

    I’ve seen Yo-Yo Ma play and he sweats, but you guys are drenched.

  • STJEPAN HAUSER:

    You have to give all you have. Because people are there for you, you just need to give all you’ve got.

  • LUKA ŠULIĆ:

    Sometimes I feel like our show is really like a boxing match, because it’s like 12 rounds of hard, hard work. We are pushing each other to limits.

  • PHIL HIRSCHKORN:

    2 Cellos has sold or streamed one and a quarter million albums and their talent and novelty has filled concert halls worldwide. At the opera house in Sydney, Australia, last year, and throughout this tour, they’ve closed their shows with U2’s “With or Without You.”

  • PHIL HIRSCHKORN:

    When Miles Davis made albums like Bitches Brew or In a Silent Way, it was called fusion, right, a fusion of jazz and rock. Is that what you’re trying to do here, a fusion of classical and rock? Do you consider yourselves a crossover artist?

  • LUKA ŠULIĆ:

    We consider ourselves musicians primarily, and we don’t like to divide music into different genres. For us, music is emotion.

  • PHIL HIRSCHKORN:

    Their current album adopts a quieter tone focusing on film scores. From “The Godfather” to “Chariots of Fire.”

  • LUKA ŠULIĆ:

    In a way, it was going back to the roots. It’s a more classical style of playing, more melodic. I’m not sure why more symphony orchestras don’t play film music.

  • LUKA ŠULIĆ:

    It’s funny, four years ago we were still playing clubs for 200 people.

  • PHIL HIRSCHKORN:

    How are the American audiences different from the audiences you play for around Europe, all around the world?

  • STJEPAN HAUSER:

    I think they are louder. They like to scream, they like to stand up, they like to have fun. And that’s what we like too.

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