Main influences on making music?
Björk, Bon Iver, James Blake, Radiohead, Sylvan Esso
For how long have you been operating as an independent artist and what are your main challenges?
This musical journey started for me back in Boston 2012, when I met my producer and co-writer, Asher Kurtz. My amazing bassist, Aaron Liao, has been with us from the very beginning but it took a while to find the perfect drummer. The final quartet only came together a few years later when Angelo Spampinato joined the team. So I’d say the first challenge was to find the perfect crew. Other than that I think the hardest part as an independent musician these days is to balance everything you need to do.
We all just want to do the creative work but unfortunately there’s so much more technical work to be done and it can become exhausting. Also, the industry is constantly evolving and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all the changes.
What were the most significant actions you took that helped you build your fanbase?
Finding the right team has been instrumental. Aside from the band, I’ve been working with an incredible illustrator on our album cover arts and merch. He always has incredible ideas and manages to create a cohesive visual brand that evolves organically.
Touring and making connections with other artists in the scene is inspiring and mind opening. Also, Facebook and Instagram advertisements have helped reach more people and gain a better understanding who my fanbase is. I know this might not sound as sexy, but it’s been one of the best things we’ve done to grow our fanbase and reach real people out of our comfort zone.
Do you have an external team to help you with management, booking, pr?
We’re working with Rachel Rossen from Tell All Your Friends PR for this album’s cycle. Other than that it’s all done in house. It’s definitely been challenging and I’d really love to work with a booking agent and manager, but as of now it’s mostly me and my bassist Aaron who helps me out immensely with the business side of things.
Tell us about your new album, in what ways does this album stand out from your previous albums, and what were your main challenges of the creation process?
lovelosslove is my first full length album. So far I’ve released three EPs, but this one is different in its essence and length. I co-wrote it with Asher about eight months after my mother passed away in the winter of 2018. I was trying to make sense of this new reality and to figure out how to keep living in a world that was empty of her physical existence, a world that was painful and didn’t make sense at all.
Working with Asher on this was a healing experience, we pushed each other’s boundaries and both brought out a lot of vulnerability. We met three times a week for four months, improvised a lot, sampled sounds from our homes (me – Israel, him – Dallas, TX) and wove them into our music. Unlike the first three EPs, this album was different from the very beginning because we had the concept before we wrote a single note.
We created a safe space, a non-judgmental space for us to create and explore. It was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever been a part of. I think the challenge was to keep pushing ourselves and not be afraid of diving into the deepest and darkest parts of our minds.
What is your personal favorite song from this album and why?
Ahhhh, I can’t choose! They’re all so dear to my heart. I think that Note to Self and Summer Blue feel the most vulnerable and cathartic to me. Note to Self is a letter to myself after losing my mother and trying to figure out how to hold on to who I was before her death and find room for that person in this new reality. The first half of the second verse is a literal translation of one of the love letters my mom wrote to my dad in their early twenties.
Summer Blue is about my mom and how much I miss her. I wrote it during the summer after her passing when everything felt like it was painted in shades of blue. The chorus is a desperate plea to find a way to do the impossible – breathe underwater, swim above the sea. Both seemed just as impossible as living without my mother in the world.
Your new album was created under the shadow of very emotional, contradictory circumstances: grief and new life. How did that affect your writing, did it reposition your artistic standpoint?
Absolutely. That was the whole point actually – to write while being in the midst of my grief journey. Writing these songs helped me process my emotions and made me understand myself better. When I wrote the album with Asher, about eight months after my mother’s death, my wife and I were planning to start a family. Having that in the back of my mind while writing about my mother’s passing helped me confront a lot of emotions and inner contradictions I had.
There’s a fine line between birth and death, and you’d be surprised to find that there are a lot of similarities, not only juxtapositions, between the two.
Did music help you go through this period, serving as a place to contain all of those strong feelings, or was it it a challenge to even sit down and write?
Writing music has been a healing process for me, it’s the best way I know how to process my emotions (besides therapy!). It wasn’t always easy and there were times where I had to really dig deep and be honest about my choice of words.
I wanted to be 100% true to my grief process and to make sure I wasn’t judging myself along the way. It’s tough being so vulnerable but it’s also rewarding.
As one of my heroes, Brene Brown, says – you’ve got to put yourself in the arena. Otherwise, what’s the point?
In light of the new COVID-19 reality, have the last months proven to be in anyway inspirational for you as an artist?
It’s been a journey. I got stuck in my home country for months without my studio and all I had to write on was a fairly untuned piano. It’s been a while since I wrote songs on a piano (especially my childhood piano) and so it took me a few weeks to get to a point where I felt comfortable and inspired.
Played a lot of Bach and looked for new music to inspire me. Eventually I started writing and finished a bunch of songs. It really helped me process everything that was going on.
What is your next music project? What excites you most about it?
Writing new music and exploring new sonic directions. Since a lot of my new songs were written on a piano and not a computer, it’ll be interesting to see how they develop in different ways and whether the starting point has an impact on their eventual production.
Which venue are you waiting to perform at? Why?
I’d love to perform again at National Sawdust in Brooklyn NYC. The crew there is super nice and professional and the venue itself is gorgeous. There’s always a really nice intimate connection with the audience. I’d also love to return to Rough Trade NYC, where we’ve played several times. The room sounds amazing and I just love the place, not only as a performer but as an audience member as well.
Recommendations for up and coming artists to take and treat their art as a business?
This is a tough question because you don’t always know what’s happening behind the scenes. However, up and coming artists that I love and seem to be doing well developing both the business and creative sides of their development are altopalo, Sammy Rae and Tali Rubinstein.
Who are your favorite collaborators & people you just love to work with?
Well, obviously Asher Kurtz (aka Old Feels). Also my wife Mikhal Weiner who is an amazing lyricist and has become my editor and co-lyricist over the years.
I loved collaborating with J. Viewz on a very fun project during quarantine. He posted a loop played on kalimba on Instagram stories and asked people to add their own musical ideas to it. Eventually, he had a bunch of musicians from all over the world record their parts and it ended up being a gorgeous and powerful track
Ella Joy Meir (Iris Lune) with her mother. <3