While her family was never musically driven, 26-year-old Canadian-born Israeli singer Alex Moshe always dreamed of becoming a professional musician.
“I’d cry to my mother at night, afraid that my dreams wouldn’t come true,” says Moshe.
It took nearly 10 years for that teary-eyed five-year-old to delve into what she calls “good music.”
“While all my friends listened to Arik Einstein, I idolized Britney Spears,” Folly Tree’s lead singer admits. It was only when Moshe discovered Radiohead as a teenager that she understood what sort of musician she wanted to become.
At 16 Moshe formed a band, recorded a few tracks and did some occasional touring, before joining the IDF’s music department.
“We went through the same basic training as any other soldier,” Moshe says. “We learned how to shoot... along with a long list of skills that were completely useless for musicians,” she chuckles.
When asked about her military experience, Moshe lights up. She felt blessed by her placement in a group of excellent jazz musicians, which included guitarist Maor Shvartsberg, her musical partner and co-founder of Folly Tree.
During her army service Moshe performed at bases around the country, plus touring North America to raise funds. “I was born in Montreal, so for me, flying to Canada with the army was a special experience,” she says.
Moshe extended her trip to visit her father, who stayed behind when she and her mother moved to Israel at age three.
Moshe enjoys traveling. After the army, the band had the opportunity to perform at a festival in Sweden that really opened up her mind.
“As an Israeli, everything outside of Israel looks pretty glamorous,” she says, adding though that she still has a soft spot for her homeland. “I have so much respect for the Israeli music community. It’s a small scene so there is a lot of mutual help. The collaboration is beautiful.”
Moshe proceeds to list her greatest Hebrew inspirations: Eviatar Banai and Shlomi Shaban.
Raised in Israel, admires Hebrew musicians, so why sing in English? “Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve written in English. During the army, I recorded an album in Hebrew, but I never released it. It never felt right.”
She sees something “exposed” in Hebrew music, something she could never quite relate to. “There’s something more fluent, more rounded about English, it feels natural,” she says.
The band got its footing after Moshe and Shvartsberg were released from the army.
They brought bassist Tal Tamari into the group and started rehearsing in his apartment.
“It was a very intimate and non-professional setting,” Moshe explains. “We just played music for hours and hours and ate a lot of hummus.”
Drummer Ran Jaacobovitz joined a year later and the newly formed quartet started taking their music more seriously. They decided on a name and dove into recording their first album.
While the word “folly” appears only once on the album, there is a strong spiritual power behind it, according to Moshe.
“I woke up one day with the phrase ‘folly tree’ in mind and no idea what it meant,” Moshe says. “I started thinking of its meaning and settled on a free translation. In the Bible, we have the ‘tree of knowledge,’ so ‘folly tree’ serves as an antithesis to that: the tree that celebrates a lack of knowledge in its foolishness, its flaws.”
The band’s musical process encompasses this less cerebral approach to creation.
“We are very intuitive about our work, just playing together and not thinking too much,” she says.
It’s detectable in the album, as well. The music is extremely versatile, with one track featuring a sitar, another an analog synth, and so on.
With the addition of alternate bandmate Eyal Lenzini, Folly Tree had found their sound.
Many have described it as “dreamy” – an adjective the singer-songwriter embraces in more than just her sound.
“When people listen to my music or come to see us live, I want them to feel as if they’re stepping into a distant world,” she says.
Even visually, she redesigns her venues to create an ethereal experience for the audience, one that allows them to “dive into something and just go with it.”
That was certainly the environment at the launch of their new album two weeks ago at Levontin 7, the Tel Aviv venue that has become the band’s home base.
“We play there every month, so it was only fitting to celebrate our launch there.”
Moshe felt so comfortable in her familiar surroundings that she even surprised the crowd by playing the flute.
“It was a kind of closure for me. I thought to myself, ‘Ok. I’m launching my first album, why not give the flute a shot?’” The album launch marked a series of firsts for Moshe: first album, first fully-packed concert, first flute performance, first time falling in love with the feminine energy of having two women at center stage (her opening act was local musician Flora).
Up until that point, Moshe had spent her entire musical journey exclusively with boys.
“Sometimes, it feels like a masculine world. But even that’s changing. More women are stepping in and taking the lead, whether on stage or behind the scenes in technical professions.”
“It felt amazing,” Moshe says of finally releasing the album. “The day we released Consolidate
, I was a little kid, so excited and full of energy, smiling the whole day.”
And just like that, Moshe had made a full circle to the five-year-old girl in her mother’s bedroom. Only this time, smiling rather than crying. Her dreams had come true.
Folly Tree will perform at the Ilana Goor Museum in Jaffa on April 7; Beit Hagat in Jerusalem on May 4; and Sussie’s Art Bay in Tel Aviv on May 25. For more information, follow the band on Facebook: https://www.facebook.