Vor einer Woche spielte die Israelische Band TheAngelcy als Teil ihrer Tour zum Release ihres Debüts Exit Inside im Pferdestall in Bremerhaven. Wir haben die Gelegenheit genutzt und vor der Show mit Sänger Rotem und Schlagzeuger Udi über Popmusik, die Schlechtigkeit der Welt und darüber, warum man einfach kein Arschloch sein sollte, gesprochen.
You seem to be kind of exhausted!
Rotem: Actually it’s a good word to describe me. Maybe I will fall asleep or say something horrible.
We could talk about this afterwards, when I’m transcribing (laughing)! So how is the tour? You already played a few shows.
Rotem: Horrible. No, I’m kidding! Actually it’s really good! First of all, it’s really full, which always makes us happy. So the people come and there is a very enthusiastic feedback from the audience here in Germany. It feels like there is something very strong between us and the audience. But I don’t know, maybe the german audience is like that all the time and they just like everybody?! But anyway we’re having a very great time!
Even a better time than before? Because it’s already your fifth time in Germany, but this time you have an actual record out there in the stores. Do you feel some changes?
Rotem: I think it’s becoming bigger and bigger every round, you know? It’s becoming bigger and bigger and deeper and deeper. There are already people who have seen a few concerts, so we have some seed in the audience everywhere. Also it’s the most expensive tour and we’re playing in more places then the last times in Germany. We are reaching a lot of places. Like the first time we came to Berlin, we performed for 100 people, maybe 120, and the year after that we performed two concerts for 200 people each which was very good already, but it was still like tickets for 5€ or something. And then, last summer we performed in Lido – it’s like 450 people and we had a ticket price that is kind of normal for a band and now we’re playing in Astra and it’s even bigger. This is what happened to us in Israel and it’s happening a bit more slowly here in Germany, because we’re not here all the time.
Actually in Israel you’re quite big! You’re in the radio. So does it feel nice for you to get back to the roots somehow, when you’re playing in Europe, because everything is smaller and more intimate again?
Rotem: Actually it’s not more intimate! Outside of Tel Aviv we still perform for 200 or 300 people sometimes. It’s just a little bit smaller here. Because in Israel, anyway, the venues are smaller and the whole scene is smaller. But what we like about it – in Israel we became a little bit tired of making the tour, because the audience already knows the songs and they shout all the lyrics and it becomes less about the music and more like a sing-along. And it’s nice, but after one or two years of this sing-along it got a little bit like: “Ok, we’re going to stop touring in Israel now until we have new songs.” And here in Europe there is this kind of silence in the room of people listening. And the people are very focused and concentrated and laugh at certain points. They really react to the songs, for being exposed to the music for the first time and to the spirit of the thing and to the lyrics, you know? And that’s exciting! It makes the songs new for us again after, I don’t know, 270 concerts with the same songs. It makes something fresh happening.
That was another topic I wanted to talk about: You released this album 1 ½ year ago in Israel and you’re touring a lot and keep playing and playing them. Do you get tired of them? And are there already plans about a new album in Israel, after the release of your debut here in Europe?
Rotem: We are already working on new material. But every time we get tired of the old songs it seems like they find a new life, because they find new audiences. And the new audience really gives them a new life. And it’s not about the nostalgia about the old songs, people liked them and still everybody just wants to hear them, which is kind of a settlement and a bit less thrilling, you know? But to expose this world, which is a very unique world we created, to new people has always very strong emotions to us. Now we’re rediscovering them. And also we have a new bass player, Gal. And because it’s the first concerts with her it also makes it kind of new. Because she experienced everything new and we experienced it with her. So nothing is save, we don’t take it for granted. You know, it’s difficult touring every day. Sometimes you’re tired, but actually I think, until now, maybe it’s the best tour we ever had. Good concerts, really good concerts and a lot of good energy. Also tonight I hope!
Udi: Sometimes I’m really waiting for a disaster to come, because everything is going so well.
Waiting for murphy’s law?
Udi: Yes, when is it gonna happen? When is the titanic sinking.
Rotem: No, you shouldn’t say “maybe”! You should say: “No it’s not going to happen. Things only get better and better.”
Udi: Actually, I like that you said “maybe”!
You were talking about the energy. Tonight, the venue is seated, but on all videos of your concerts I saw people dancing. Is this a strange situation for you?
Rotem: It’s the first seated concert that we’re doing on this tour, but in Israel we sometimes do seated concerts. And it’s the same setlist, the same songs, but it feels completely different! Of course the energy is more sustained and mellow, but it also creates a very big focus and it’s very musical. I like both. We had a few concerts in front of sitting people which were pretty amazing. We had at least three, I can remember, that were like top-notch for us, but I would never give up the concerts with people standing up. Whenever we can, we do that, because it’s just more rock ’n‘ roll. It makes the audience more active. When people are standing, they expect themselves to be more active, to shout things, to be a part. When people sit down, they expect to be passive and let you do all the work. Which in a way is also comfortable sometimes, because they give you the space to do whatever you want. All of us found a way to like and enjoy both. But we are very flexible in that way because we use acoustic instruments. We can play without amplification in a room for 20 people, like a living room, and have a ball. We did it in Paris, the first time we have been there, for like 40 people and it was amazing! And then, we can play on a festival on a big stage with thousand of people in front and we also love that. You know, it’s very different circumstances.
Actually, you sound live the same as on the record. I was amazed. Most of the bands are not able to do so. That’s great!
Rotem: Thank you! I hope we sound even better live! Please tell us, if we do so!
Back to the chairs and no chairs somehow. You kind of combine two worlds in your music. You have these sad lyrics, but the people are dancing and you are dancing on the stage. Did you plan on playing with this contrast?
Rotem: Is this world happy or sad, is it good or bad? Well, it’s a very sad world. People are dying, there is inequality and there are lot of people that are just born into the dark. There are babies being born dying. You don’t need to go as far as Afrika, you can walk the streets of any big city, you walk past the bagger and you cannot open your heart, because when you open your heart all the time, you gonna get all the misery inside. But the misery is there, all the time, in front of your eyes.
But life is also beautiful, full of laughters and music, good food and nice people. I think that all the root music like blues, or gipsy or new orleans jazz, african music or Flamenco is really close to the source and you will find that it’s not only happy or only sad. It is indeed very painful, but at the same time it is very vivid, very joyful. So that’s the kind of thing we where in. Not to make something that is just depressing with no hope, but also not to be just happy in the „in don’t want to know“ – way.
Here in Europe, most of the pop music is just about love and sex and partying. Your music is all different. Do you think it is important, to comment on happenings in the world through music?
Rotem: I think music can do a lot of things. On that level, I can say that music can help to escape the pains of life but it also can confront with the pains of life and it can even help healing them. Hopefully. I don’t know. We try to do a little bit of both, I would say. I admire people that are just confronting, but I am not like them. I’m not that brave and I don’t want to be a martyr of something. I cannot open my heart to all the beggars. I cannot open my heart to all the refugees. I cannot do that and give up what I have. I’m not that generous. That’s the truth.
But I also don’t want to be a motherfucker. I don’t want to be like „I don’t care about anyone, let’s party, have sex and bang whoever is in the way“. So we in the band are trying to find our mixture, our balance. Because maybe we only live once – maybe, I don’t even know – so we try to be „good enough people“ – whatever that is. I won’t eat meat, but I eat some eggs, I like some cheese, so I already hurt the living being. Also, I don’t want to be a complete escapist, because I also need to deal with the pain and music helps me doing that.
So you think that music can actually chance things? There was a time when in Europe and in the USA, musicians like Jimi Hendriks commented on the war in Vietnam. Nowadays nobody in the popuniverse is commenting anymore. Do you think they should, to bring the wars like in Israel or elsewhere back in younger people’s heads or in the minds of people, who are not watching the news everyday?
Rotem: I grew up feeling that something is wrong with the world and I know a lot of people around the world who are feeling this way. Maybe it is just a basic human feeling, I’m not sure. But there are these people in the world having that drive for change. I already had that feeling at a very young age. When I turned older, I became a little more mellow about it. I wanted to be comfortable, wanted to have sex and be okay, you know. But I still have it in me and I still admire other people for that. I told you, I am don’t think I’m that brave. I don’t feel like doing something big like Hendriks, Leonard Cohen or John Lennon – the people who really went heads on issues. But from that notion, that there is something in the world that is broken, I think you always look for cure, for something helping you to fix it. And when you look at the world today, you see the economic system, which has its roots in the United States, being very very harsh on people. Communism lost completely, the hippie movement lost completely, eventually, just got absorbed as a fashion thing.
Udi: But a few things changed, regarding women’s social status for example.
Rotem: Yes, but what they do is, they liberate sex. But they don’t keep it liberate as a spiritual thing, they turned it into a currency and now they use it as a weapon against us. The sex that is attacking you from every website – it is very abusive, it’s not free. And the same they did with Capitalism. It’s a good idea, it’s all about freedom, but there is no real freedom. There is no real free market. People having the power make the rules, that help them. So the system is in a dead end in a way. There are people that don’t even despise this anymore. You feel it. Young people don’t trust the system and „politician“ is a very bad word. No one respects politicians. That people do not respect their leaders has never happened before. There is less and less respect, less and less people going voting, less and less people that trust TV, newspapers etc.. We are just trying to see where they are trying to screw us. We just look for that. And you can see these kinds of emotions everywhere you go in the Western world. It is sure that we are nearing the dead end. You can see it in people not trusting. And when you don’t trust, something is going to happen. But right now, there is no alternative. They didn’t build anything. You just have occupy wall street and these kind of things. There is a void that needs to be filled with something. And the people who can talk about it are the people who are working with texts. So people who text are the people who come in to this void and create a dialog. Whether they are songwriters, poets, book writers, journalists or philosophers like Žižek or Noam Chomsky or Louis C.K., a comedian in stand up comedy, which actually has a big tradition in confronting things. These are the people who create a dialog.
In election it is about decisions now, because politicians need to make the decision now, it’s very concrete. They cannot zoom out and look and say like „oh, we are reaching a place where there is no trust between people and this needs to be fixed“ or „the ecological system is going to collapse, because we created a lake of waste, by not caring about our smartphones harming our planet“. These kind of things. Why are there so many refugees from Syria? Why is there a civil war in Syria? Because of climate change – I don’t know if you know that. A lot of farmers there couldn’t grow their crops anymore because there have been huge sandstorms due to climate change and the soils are not good enough anymore. So they migrated to the cities which caused a huge unrest in the cities and they startet to revolt. And now they are coming to Europe, so it’s all connected.
Udi: To make a little clearer what Rotem is trying to say. I am kind of joining the band’s journey. I don’t think one can tell another person to write about this or that in pop music. I think it’s about personality. There are different kinds of people and people dealing with life how they think they can. You know, like if you ask Rotem when sitting in front of the TV and writing My Baby Boy, if it is something conscious, something he needed to write a song about?
Rotem: But it is not that moment. You know, your whole life leads to that. Because when I was 14 or 15, I already tried to write songs against war or against the system or these kind of things. It really is this insidious feeling that there is something wrong with the world.
Udi: This is what I meant. It is something that is bubbling inside of someone!