FeelAbouT rock 224 88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Becoming a rock and roll star isn't easy. There are so many "wannabes" jamming in their studio apartments, parents' garages or their own bedrooms that it's tough to know which ones are really going to make it. But one Israeli band seems to have what it takes, and audiences as far away as Los Angeles recognize it. FeelAbouT, an alternative, underground grunge rock group that has been quietly plugging away in Tel Aviv, recently won the "Best Rock Group" Award at the prestigious Los Angeles Music Awards.
The group, consisting of Roni Weinstock (vocals and guitar), Guy Fisher (guitars), Aviran Rotem (bass) and Dror Rostami (drums), has been doing its thing since 2000, making a conscious decision early on to play mainly in English. They've spent years touring Israel in pubs and clubs, and slowly but steadily built up a following. They released their first 20-minute EP album, Release in 2005, but their careers really kicked into high gear when they decided to submit their music for the LAMA awards in early 2007.
The awards were established in 1991 and accept submissions from independent artists around the world. Previous winners who have had their careers kick-started as a result of winning LAMA awards include No Doubt, the Black-Eyed Peas, System of a Down and Korn. After hearing FeelAbouT's demo, the group received two nominations: Best Rock Group and Best Female Vocalist.
Several days prior to their win, the group sat down with The Jerusalem Post> in the courtyard of their Los Angeles hostel to discuss what the future may have in store. The group, all in their early to mid-20s, appeared excited, if not a little tired - a struggling band who have yet to give up their day jobs; hence their cheap accommodations.
Founding member, lead vocalist and group spokesperson Weinstock reveals she works as a sales assistant in a sex shop in Tel Aviv, Fisher works in hi-tech, Rotem says he works in "low tech" and Rostami is the only one who works in the industry, teaching drumming in various schools.
This is their second self-funded trip to Los Angeles, having come here in July to do some touring in local clubs. They're doing so again this time, but their performances are scheduled in some of the lesser known areas - two outside of Los Angeles, one in Long Beach and another in Orange County, although they are also scheduled to perform at the awards themselves in Hollywood.
"We're just really excited to be here," says Weinstock, who appears to be the antithesis of a head-banging rock performer. She's small, slight, with long curly hair and a cute beanie on her head. Soft spoken and calm, she looks about 14. Listening to her perform, it's hard to imagine how such an enormous voice can come out of someone so tiny.
"Yeah, I hear that a lot," Weinstock laughs. "But I grew up being influenced by Led Zeppelin and Pearl Jam and groups like that, because my sister listened to them."
That influence is not only evidenced in their original work but the group also takes pride in doing covers of these bands. And they appear to have no problem performing (and speaking) in English.
Weinstock's English is near perfect, despite having no familial background with the language. The other members speak fairly decent English too, although they chose to conduct our interview in Hebrew. Self-funding their trips is simply the dues they feel they need to pay for the experience of performing here, garnering more fans and meeting other artists.
"We met so many great performers here last time," says Rotem, "and it's great to see them again and our fans, too."
He also confesses to hoping to find time to buy some clothes in Los Angeles, and Fisher apologizes for not focusing entirely on the interview because he's engrossed in his newly purchased laptop.
"They're just so much cheaper here," he says.
Overall, the group appear to be a fun, tight-knit ensemble, which is clearly reflected in their work. That may have something to do with the fact that with the exception of Rostami, who auditioned for the band in 2002, they are all childhood friends. It was also back in 2002 that the group decided to change their name from Abstract to FeelAbouT. "I chose it because I was writing songs about how I felt about certain things," explains Weinstock.
A WEEK later they get to answer the ultimate question: How do they feel about winning the Best Rock Group Award? "Excited, happy," Weinstock says. "But I'm sick and getting a cold" - a result of the toll the traveling and performing have taken on the group. However, she adds, winning will not change the work they're doing. "Having our work recognized like this is great and we're just excited to bring our music to our fans, and hopefully this will lead to more work for us."
For now, they are back in Israel playing more gigs, still maintaining their day jobs and working on putting together their first full-length album. "We're also hoping to do a European tour soon," Fisher says.
With any luck, their award will help the band gain some footing in the US market, and they hope to return to Los Angeles, where perhaps they'll be able to afford to stay in a real hotel. After all, every self-respecting hard-core rock band has to be able to say they trashed a real hotel room.
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