It has been seven years since the separate bands that Andreas Kapsalis and Goran Ivanovic once led played the same bar on the same night. "We'd heard from other people that we could both play very well," says Ivanovic. "We talked a lot about music that night, and over time we got to be friends."
In 2008, the Chicago-based guitar virtuosos began performing as a duo, with a cinematic, orchestral sound that blends classical, folk, jazz and rock. The pair's performances meld Ivanovic's melodic approach with Kapsalis' percussive style.
The Andreas Kapsalis and Goran Ivanovic Guitar Duo plays two Madison shows on Sunday, Jan. 2. They'll appear at the Olbrich Botanical Gardens at 2 p.m. and reappear at the High Noon Saloon with a 7 p.m. show.
Ivanovic was born in Serbia, and has lived in Chicago for the past 15 years. When I spoke with him by phone last week, he talked about the origins of the duo.
"Both of us spent a lot of time writing and arranging for our groups," he says. "We tried all the possible ideas we had with our bands. It felt like a good time to play with another guitarist. It can get very tiring performing with a full drum kit and a bass. You have to play very loud to be heard. In a duo, something comes out that doesn't come out in a band."
Ivanovic says the pair's compositions are inspired by watching movies, especially Alfred Hitchcock films. The rising tension heard on "Vertigo," from their 2009 self-titled album, is fueled by racing melody and heart-thumping beats. Kapsalis creates these rhythms by tapping the body of his guitar with his fingers and thumb.
The guitarists have distinct styles, Ivanovic notes. Kapsalis plays steel strings, and Ivanovic plays nylon strings. "He does the percussion thing. I think I'm a very solid melody player. I followed the traditional way. I studied music and am a trained classical guitar player. He spent years discovering his instrument on his own and deciding for himself what was possible."