amir drummer 88 298.
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Up the winding staircase of a decrepit building in south Tel Aviv, behind a door with "Pluto" written in large, blue letters, Beat 69 is rehearsing. As I make my way up the stairs, carefully avoiding contact with any of the walls or railings, the faint sound of an electric guitar gets louder and louder. Muffled laughter emanates from behind the closed door as the deep vibration of a drum begins to pick up speed. I buzz the doorbell. An Israeli in his early twenties opens the door with a theatrical wave of his hand and ushers me through the small, smoke-filled sitting room to the rehearsal studio.
Beat 69, the latest Israeli teen sensation in punk rock, is just finishing up a song as I enter. No one looks up from their instruments. Laural Amir beats the drums with hard rock enthusiasm as Ra'anan Foger and Ori "Beri" Scheflan strum guitars and passionately fill the microphones with their song. On the carpeted wall behind the singers, a large Beatles poster enlivens the studio. From their perch, Ringo, John, Paul and George oversee the young talent. According to Amir, the first covers the band ever played were Beatles songs.
As the last notes vibrate through the air and my hearing starts to register quiet sounds again, Nimrod Dweck, the group's business manager, announces my presence. Between a few tasteless jokes and a heated debate about which song to play next for the myspace video, the band members nod in my direction before they begin their last song of the day.
"Another interview. I hate interviews," says "Bery" Scheflan to Dweck.
"You'll get used to it," Dweck tells him with a light pat on the back.
Since the young band opened for the Israeli music awards in Tel Aviv this spring, they've created a major stir in the local media.
Perhaps one reason for the flurry of attention is the band members' age. Beyond the ambition and raw talent, their youth makes them even more unusual. All of them are 15 or under, and they are all still attending junior high school.
Channel 10 television came to visit them at school, numerous radio stations have requested live interviews and various newspapers have written articles about them - all of which have to be scheduled around classes and tests.
Yet although their age is an impressive factor for onlookers, for the members of Beat 69, it's no big deal.
"There are a lot of bands our age," says Amir, the band's drummer who speaks perfect English. Still a bit dazed from his jam session, with all the head banging and jumping around that requires, he looks exhausted. He finds a seat on the couch in the Pluto studio's sitting room next to Foger and Scheflan.
"I first saw them when they were only 12," says Dweck, who immediately asked to be their business manager because he recognized their talent.
Amir got his first drum set when he was six and played in a band with friends when he was just eight. "My Dad plays the piano and my uncle is a musician in the UK. I was in a band with 16-year-olds when I was eight, and I've always loved to play," he explains casually.
Foger and Scheflan also have musical talent in their families. Foger's father is a guitar teacher, and Scheflan has four siblings who play the guitar, piano and sing. "All of my brothers are musicians and my sisters sing and play the piano," says Scheflan.
Amir came up with the name Beat 69 for the group when he was only 11. "I liked the way the 2 numbers sounded together. I had no idea what it meant when I named the band," he says.
The trio started practicing together at school when they were all in first grade. "At first, we just did covers of the Beatles and other stuff, but in 2005, after a little over a year together, we started doing our own songs."
Foger says the songs, which are written and sung only in Hebrew, are inspired by real life and what the band members experience. The band's newest song is about a character from school. "It tells the story of a strange old woman at school with a big chest who's very ugly and has big teeth. She's always flirting with the security guard," he says.
Foger adds that a lot of the songs from the group's first album, Wet Materials, which came out this year, are about things from everyday life. One is about a kid addicted to Bamba snack food.
Since they started writing their own material, Beat 69 has played in a number of shows and music festivals all over Israel, but its biggest gig so far was opening the Israeli Music Awards. "It was so cool to be there. All the stars and celebrities were there, and when we finished playing, Ninette Tayeb stood up and clapped. That was exciting," Amir says.
As far as juggling school and a band, the trio all agree that it's not a problem. "I don't study," says Scheflan, putting out a cigarette as Dweck says something about quitting from the other side of the room.
"I keep telling him to quit," he says again for emphasis.
So now that they've gotten some major media attention and released their first album, the band is working on becoming major stars in the United States. "Music is in my soul, and the goal is to get bigger and bigger in Israel and then go to the US and go on the "work tour" - a punk rock tour with our own bus," Amir says.
Until then, the three teens are working hard on the next album and making up the tests they missed at school. "I hope a lot of people buy our album so we can keep playing," Amir says. "And it would be cool to make enough money to buy new drums."
For more information, visit www.myspace.com/beat69