High-energy punk rock is alive and well in Tel Aviv - and being performed in English. Rockin' in Ramallah, a no-frills rock-and-roll album, is The Genders' first. Together for just over a year, the trio is a combination of Hebrew-speaking Israelis writing and performing in English (without the accent) and offering a unique take on life in conflict, all with an international appeal. For these reasons, guitarist Amir Neubach, bassist Ofer Korichener and drummer Orr Kahlon will be touring the US in a van for two-and-a-half months.
Having spent his formative years in England, where his parents were emissaries for Israel, Neubach's first language was English. Korichener lived in Nigeria, where his parents worked, until the age of 12, and he attended an American school there. Later on, the pair, described by Neubach as musical soul mates, lived in Brooklyn together for two years. So when it came time to make music together, English seemed the more natural choice of languages. "I never was interested in singing in Hebrew," says Neubach, a 31-year-old veteran musician who has had previous success in Europe as a member of the Israeli death metal band Salem. "I'm not a singer/songwriter," he continues. "If I wrote love songs I'd write them in Hebrew. They say you should write love songs in the language in which you say I love you. I tell my wife I love you in Hebrew. I say f*** you in English. I write f*** you songs."
For Neubach, music is all about attitude, a point that was more than apparent at the band's final performance in Israel this past Tuesday before setting off for their US tour. The audience was replete with fans ranging in age from 16 to fortysomething, with many appropriately dressed, pierced and tattooed for a rock-and-roll concert. The Genders performed their complete album set, including some covers, all the while taking on the signature performance of their genre, with bright lights shining on the faces in the crowd, guitar riffs on bent knees, a fog-machine, and, for a couple of numbers, accompaniment by "the Gender-ettes," two female dancers, tightly clad in leather, who thrashed their hair on either side of the stage.
And while all three musicians provide the rock-and-roll ambience on stage, it is Kahlon who lives the rock-and-roll lifestyle and Neubach who serves as the band's spokesman. Kahlon was set up with The Genders by his brother-in-law Asaf Bar-Lev, a journalist who used to write for the magazine Metal Hammer and knew Neubach from his days in Salem. "The first time I met him, he was in full rock-and-roll gear - platform boots, leather pants and jacket, with a bandana on his head," says Neubach, adding that he told Kahlon he was in the band just for looking the part. "I felt bad, I was in cargo pants and a T-shirt," Neubach remembers.
The album itself has been well received locally and on the underground rock-and-roll scene in the US. Punk and glam rock have become pretty big over the past 10 years, says Neubach, who is also the band's manager. The band's music is released in Israel by Tav Hashmini but is distributed in North America on AMP Records, with both labels are very much hands-off, leaving it up to the band to coordinate their shows and travel dates. Much of the tour planning has been done online and with the aid of a "huge, big a** map," Neubach says with a wide smile. " I like the lifestyle of living on the road. It's the biggest adventure of having to be in a different town every night," he says, pointing out that, "in rock and roll, if you don't tour, you don't exist."