"With Calypso, we’re trying to create a story for each artist"
Thriving as an independent publication is something to be celebrated, and today I’m here to find out more about the story behind Calypso, Ilona’s electronic music magazine, which has been championing underground electronic music and the art acts since 2018.
How did Calypso start? What motivated you to create this magazine?
Calypso was started in March, 2018. Its beginning wasn’t that straight-forward, as I’ve been having this whole magazine idea for some time before showing it to public.
I think, the biggest motivation was the people surrounding me, who were more or less somehow involved in music world - either the ones playing in places, others, who owned labels, or a third group of people, that showed a deeper interest in niche music field than a regular listener.
Also, as my main occupation is in design field, it made it easier for me to not worry for having a lack of knowledge for the technical side of the project - I made the visuals of the magazine as you see it online, and one of my friends programmed it. Looking at it now I definitely see space for improvement and I hope that in near future I will be able to push some of the novelties into daylight.
What is your concept? What philosophy are you trying to convey? I am interested to hear about your vision, the history and the concept behind it.
The concept was to put the artists of underground electronic music scene into daylight by focusing on an honest storytelling and presenting it in reasonable style. Obviously, that’s not everything that shapes Calypso - it’s also about a general nightlife and lifestyle, which would fortunately expand more than just until the walls of a venue or a club, and that’s something similar to what we did with Die Wilde Jagd by creating a video conversation with them.
Our biggest mission is to be a reflector of relevant music and art acts, and even though we’re still experimenting by which means to present it the most efficiently and attractively, we know that it is and always be comprehensive and well thought out.
How many people are involved in the production of Calypso?
The structure of Calypso is ever changing. At the beginning, there was only me, who was planning, writing and scheduling articles. After some longer period of time my friend Justas showed interest in joining, and since that time he’s still keeping a position in the magazine helping me out with maintaining several parts of it. There’s also Gabriele, who has recently been contributing a lot with the series of articles in krautrock, as well as with other pieces. You could also call it a rotation happening inside the mag, as we might sometimes have an author, who had contributed with just one but a great piece of article.
Overall, over the past there had been dozens of great people putting their interest and effort into Calypso, whom I’m absolutely grateful for, let it be other journalists, photographers, videographers or other.
What was the main aim behind Calypso and how did you work on differentiating Calypso from other online publications?
The main aim of starting Calypso, as mentioned previously, was tightly connected to the environment that I was among, as well as a huge interest in the field. Also, after following many other platforms of such content, it felt as if they’re too far from the actual artists they’d take interviews from, and having too little of an intimate connection. In other words - it very clearly shows when a platform is aiming more towards mass media and a bigger exposure. Nothing wrong with that, but with this price you’ve got to be very careful not to lose quality in content you produce. With Calypso, we’re trying to create a story for each artist, therefore, paying a lot of attention to communicating with them, handling the questions, and double checking the article together prior the actual publishing, so that both sides are okay with everything.
Can you tell us what are the most challenging parts of sustaining an online content publication?
The hardest part of it is, as in any kind of other business or activity, if you want to be successful, you’ve got to put your entire self in it. And I’m not speaking only full-time. This field is ever-changing, so you’ve got to keep an eye on everything that’s going around, and on different social platforms, as well.
Calypso magazine was never my full-time job, since I’m all over other places with another occupation; yet it is a full-time side activity, which you still gotta maintain if you want to have a word spread about it. So overall, I would say the hardest part is the lack of time, if you’ve got other work behind your back, as well as looking over everything.
If you had to lay down 5 key rules for running a successful online publication, what would they be and why?
If it’s online, then, obviously, maintaining the technical side of the platform. Good readability and support on various devices, responsiveness, etc. To me, there’s nothing worse when you come to a website on your mobile phone and it’s completely broken or works slowly.
There’s also a lot going on with editing a piece of article on admin side - meaning that eventually, what and how you put in there, will be presented on a website as the final outcome to the readers.
Third important thing is the consistency - a constant pace with publishing news. In ideal life, you plan your media at least one month ahead, however, with this type of field, it’s almost impossible.
Speaking for the team, it’s very important for each person to have certain tasks and positions, so that they don’t overlap, otherwise, it gets rather confusing after a while. Starting everything on my own, I am now happy that other team members took over some of the parts off my shoulders, so that I can now have more time for planning ahead and do more of a side/technical stuff.
And the last one I would mention would probably be an endless desire for knowledge in such industry, constant catching up with the updates, cause without it, you’re a million steps behind.
Could you describe your musical journey with us in a few lines? What life lessons have you learnt along the way to continue on this path which perhaps is a rather difficult industry to survive in?
Gonna sound a little cliche, but perhaps not to lose faith? Time management is important as well as patience, since everyone of us is different and you’ve got to find a way how to approach a person without wracking your own nerves, haha.
For some, it might look as the most fun activity in the world, talking to your favourite artists, going to events, festivals, so on. It definitely is, but it’s also hard if you don’t want to lose yourself on the way, and want to keep balance in such things and your daily lifestyle.
What is interesting about Holland electronic scene?
I would say, Holland is as interesting as any other city regarding electronic scene. There are a bunch of names of artists that we’ve covered in Calypso magazine, as well as the ones that have come for the festivals and events over here in Lithuania.
Obviously, from a radio standpoint I would mostly highlight Red Light Radio and Operator, however, since the start of Covid-19 both of them weren’t as active as some other ones in Europe. As for the venues, the most important for us would be De School, which tends to attract the most of the artists from our spectrum of interest, as well as festivals like Lente Kabinet, Dekmantel and Strange Sounds From Beyond, which, unfortunately, had its last gathering happening last year. Overall, there’s tons going on in Amsterdam and Holland in general, that I might even sometimes catch myself wishing to move back there once again. At least for the much better bike lanes than over here, haha.
And I am not trying to be a hipster here. How do you manage to get people’s attention? What is your direction?
The key to attention is stability and consistent communication. Not gonna lie, it’s a tough thing to maintain, and we’ve still got a long way for making it perfect, or at least to have a faster expansion of great minds within a team.
Since the whole beginning, with some experiments on the way, Calypso’s direction hasn’t changed that much, to be honest. We’re trying to be clear & precise and show a lot of interest and honesty within our texts or any other type of media that followed along our way. I guess, there’s been quite a coincidence when I started the magazine, as it felt like a narrow electronic music scene had taken up its golden year, as well. Yet, now it seems as if it has started shifting some other way, or at least that’s something I’d like to see from my standpoint.
I haven’t spotted music media changing much in terms of content production and its presentation to the audience, but with Calypso, I would be hoping to let myself experiment more drastically and provide something novice from what we currently have been showing.
Do you think that we are already choking from that digital sound which we hear today?
Haha, I guess we can all have different opinions about it, right? Honestly, I’m a big fan of analog, however, digital sounds don’t make me choke either.
Obviously, if you asked me if I’d rather go to someone’s show that he/she’d prepared on Ableton or the one’s that has a full setup of synths and modulars packed in a suitcase for a live performance, I hope, you get the answer.
Would you like to organize Calypso festival/club/party in future?
As Calypso, we already had a chance to participate in last year’s Sūpynės Festival, curating a programme on Playground stage. It was an invaluable experience and, I believe, we would not turn down a similar offer, if there was any in a nearby future.
As for another type of event, there’s tons of similar club parties happening already, so I’d rather invest more time and planning into bringing something more valuable to a one evening/night event. A perfect setting for me would be a decent headliner that has not been invited to play live in Lithuania, something more experimental and unexpected. Obviously, there should be a strong visual concept complementing the event, too.
Last year, when I was visiting my friends in Prague, we went to one event series called Dietl Archive, organised by the people of Ankali and POLYGON, and it was magical.
How do you monetize the magazine?
Calypso Magazine has been a free media platform up till these days. Some may say it’s a weird move to start a project without thinking ahead of means by monetising it, but I believe everything comes at its right time and on right circumstances.
For me, it is firstly important to build a stable audience and a valuable and reliable content, to be able to later plan the ways of making profit out of it. If everyone thought this way, perhaps we all would have better projects and products in the long run.
How do you deal with C19 confinement with your work?
To be honest, what happens in real life during Covid-19, doesn’t affect that much the media world, as well as the music media platforms. Not all of the artists during lockdown are closing themselves in the studios to work on production, but one might take it as a good filter whom its is actually worth to spread a word about.
Has this situation influenced your creative perspective? What social and musical implications do you think this situation can lead to?
The situation hasn’t really changed anything from the magazine’s standpoint, but what is interesting to watch is how different parts of music world are adapting to the current events.
First of all, let’s take a minute to observe the amounts of DJ streamings. Some stations had taken a pause, yet others have risen significantly, not mentioning clubs that open their spaces for rotating live streams. Overall, might be my Facebook algorithm had been attacking me, but for now it’s been too much of them at least on my feed, making it hard not to get too inattentive.
Speaking of social implications, lots of music spaces are facing a serious trouble to get back on feet after it all goes to “normal”, yet for some it may even mean a permanent closure even before the quarantine is over. Some of the venues keep it socially active by creating public groups on Facebook and maintaining communication there, as well as spreading awareness by joining social activists’ platforms. Others, on the other hand, organise a “local artists only” weekender for future, which party goers can support now by purchasing tickets for an unset date of party.
What tracks would you recommend us to liven up the confinement?
Couple of guys from Lithuania’s electronic music scene, Laurynas Rėčkus and Vytis Gruzdys, had been delivering a nice project called Quarantimes on Spotity. It contains playlists from various people who had previously somehow participated in the cities’ nightlife. So whenever comfy pillows hit you hard, you could go check and skim through its content.
From my personal standpoint, just very recently I kept myself only on an ambient side, very often found within Sanpo Disco playlists on Soundcloud. However, here’s a small list from me, not so ambient: China Crisis - African and White ‘82 (album title is outer-worldly and obviously, it is all worth listening to)
Notchnoy Prospekt - Sea Walk ‘19 (perfect underwater notes and Russian oriental sweets)
Giedrius Kuprevičius - And The Sea Again ‘96 (not your regular ballet music)
Magazine - Vigilance ’81 (from one my most favourite albums and perfect for filming a skate video)
Gabi Delgado - History of a Kiss ’83 (for the best dancer out there, who has unfortunately very recently left the music world)
And of course, my guilty pleasure, Blood Orange - Saint ‘18 (seriously, this track seems to shine up whatever or whoever you look at while listening. Also, just watch the video clip for it, only the best feels projected in there)
What projects are you working on at the moment?
As most of the times, I’m working on various design projects, the ones I am hired for as well as several personal ones. I’m very lucky I’m one of those people who haven’t been affected by the quarantine that much, however, reducing this whole social distancing thing would indeed help in maintaining a more sane mind.
And of course, keeping it stable with Calypso magazine - not doing any drastic moves, yet not staying too silent, either.
What plans does Calypso have for the future?
We’ve been experimenting with various forms of media throughout the entire Calypso’s existence, therefore, I would say, it would definitely be appreciated if we could follow this path and provide even more of it.
Also, having mentioned previously that many other media channels stick to the traditional content production, even though Calypso is on the same path, I would see us trying to experiment a little bit and go towards a slightly different direction. Which direction it’s going to be, I hope we will be able to show later this year.