In the middle of a huge American headlining tour and getting ready to open for Elton John’s Las Vegas residency, 2 Cellos chats about how viral video success introduced them to LGBT fans.
By now, after appearing on Glee and touring with Elton John, 2 Cellos has performed for a lot of gay audiences.
“We wish we were gay,” jokes Luka Sulic, “because if we were we would have the time of our life.”
“I tried,” laughs Stjepan Hauser. “I did everything I could!”
Croatian cellists Sulic and Hauser make up 2 Cellos, born of Internet fame and now one of Sir Elton’s favorite opening acts. “Can you imagine being on the road with Elton John for three years and being straight?” says Sulic. “Really, it sucks man. We would be the happiest guys in the world if we were gay!”
They are an instrumental powerhouse whose specialty is (you guessed it) playing elaborate renditions of songs with just two cellos. They say they’ve always had a huge appreciation for one of the biggest LGBT voices in the music industry.
“He’s one of the most hardest-working musicians ever,” says Sulic of John. “He’s 67 and it’s just incredible to watch him every night give 120 percent.”
Though he’s been one of their earliest endorsers, John isn’t the only big-name LGBT icon who helped influence the way 2 Cellos arrived on the world’s stage. They first garnered international acclaim back in 2011 when a video of the two performing a rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” went viral on YouTube, garnering more than 20 million views. And, as with a lot of Internet sensations before them, big-time opportunities suddenly started to make themselves available —including a guest spot on one of television’s most LGBT-centric series ever, Glee.
After the “Smooth Criminal” video’s online success, 2 Cellos were offered walk-on roles on the very popular Fox show, re-creating their MJ cover alongside Santana (Naya Rivera) and Sebastian (Grant Gustin), two of the show’s most prominent lesbian and gay characters.
“We don’t really think about that [sexuality] when we perform,” Sulic explains about his and Hauser’s Glee appearance. “We just try to give the best possible performance for anyone no matter where or what. These characters that we are associated with, they are great role models for kids that look up to people like these, so we are very happy.”
In the episode (which was coincidentally a tribute dedicated to the king of pop), Rivera and Gustin’s characters are embroiled in the middle of a musical face-off complete with plenty of sass and lot of attitude — not exactly unfamiliar territory for 2 Cellos.
Before forming their group, the two were considered by many to be rivals, often competing against each other in different musical contests all over their native Europe.
“There is always a competitive spirit in us which creates some great tension on stage,” Hauser says. “We push each other to play better and inspire each other.”
That competitive spark was ignited long before the two even considered joining musical forces. Both first picked up the cello during early childhood and became fast prodigies on the classical instrument. They met in their teens after attending the same master class, and eventually, Sulic and Hauser completed their training at London’s Royal Academy of Music and Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music, respectively. After finally putting their friendly competitiveness aside, the history-making “Smooth Criminal” video was made under the band name 2 Cellos.
“We’ve never experienced this madness before in our lives,” Sulic says of the recent success. He and Hauser already have over 900,000 (and growing) YouTube subscribers and have worked with artists such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Andrea Bocelli, and George Michael.
“It’s completely new to us. We were sort of thrown into this totally different world. With all these offers, you never know what’s the real deal and what’s not the real deal. It was a big threshold, but it’s exciting,” says Sulic.
Fast-forward to the present, with three albums and a few tours already under their belts, 2 Cellos is embarking on a solo headlining tour with spring dates all over the U.S. (many of which are sold out) and are joining Elton John again for his residency at Las Vegas’s Caesars Palace.
Despite all the good things that have been happening to 2 Cellos, the two want to become known for more than covers of popular songs; they want to be recognized as pioneers who’ve taken something old and made it completely new again.
“It’s easy to do a literal cover of the song. We don’t even actually like the word cover,” says Sulic. “We like the word arrangement or transcription, because what we try to do is really to flip it around and put our own spin on the song and create something different. It’s all about creating something new and different. ”
Creating something new and different shouldn’t be too much of a problem for Sulic and Hauser, though; they’ve been doing it since the start of their careers, when they took an old-fashioned instrument and used it to create content that captured the attention of the Internet generation.
With their latest album, Celloverse, still developing a following (especially among the LGBT crowd), the two cello players from Croatia have a palpable excitement about joining Elton John’s live Vegas show.
“The Colosseum at Caesars Palace is a really unique place to play. The stage is so huge and the way the seats are aligned, it really gives you a special atmosphere every night,” says Sulic. “I just love Vegas so much. It’s like a second home to us.”