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They've been called the Jewish Charlie's Angels and told their electropop dance music sounds like the mysterious offspring of frenetic American sleaze and underground European finesse.
They've taken the Tel Aviv club scene by storm with their sexy stage presence, theatrical show, bass guitar beats and angelic voices. Now, this innovative Israeli quartet is hitting the rest of the world.
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"We're all nice, wholesome Jewish girls from bourgeois homes," says Louise Kahn, 27, the lead vocalist and songwriter from Norway, who started Terry Poison three years ago. Well-known for their provocative show, Kahn struts around on stage, flirting with back-up vocalist, Petite, and bass player Gili, while simultaneously projecting sass that screams: "Don't even think about touching me" and "No, I don't want your candy."
Fans love it. In fact, ever since the band put up its myspace address a few months ago, American audiences have started to take note, and the group was recently invited to sing at a fashion event in Beverly Hills. "We've played everywhere in Tel Aviv, and we've been all across Europe - from Prague to Paris and Oslo to Belgium," says Kahn.
When the band is in Norway, Kahn's parents attend every concert. "They're proud of me, but at the same time, they get depressed after every show that I haven't done something sensible with my life yet, like become an engineer," says Kahn, who made aliya alone seven years ago. "I originally came to study photography at Bezalel, but I fell in love with Tel Aviv and never wanted to leave. So I started a band."
Kahn claims that the early days of the band were disastrous, and that it took a while for things to mesh.
"Before Bruno and Petite and Gili, it was just me and my friend Noga Neyer. Those were fun times, when we were young and untamed and not wearing high heels yet," says Kahn, her laughter carrying across the sound room in South Tel Aviv, where the band has gathered to practice.
So where did the name come from?
"Terry Poison is a screwed-up, blonde shiksa with big boobs who does too many drugs and gets to do all the things we couldn't," says Kahn, pushing up a pair of 1970s large-rimmed glasses. With tiny pink flowers pinned in her hair, a sensible-looking, retro-style beige dress, cream-colored woolens and knee-high boots, Kahn's daytime wear differs significantly from the skimpy lingerie she and the other two female members of the Terry Poison quartet flaunt on stage.
But according to these daring Jewish women, the idea is not to give the world another Pussycat Dolls band or flaunt their feminine prowess. "We're not about being just another girl band," says Kahn. "Being sexy and provocative on stage just came naturally, but we do it with a lot of humor, and we try not to be too sleazy or slutty. We like to poke fun at the stereotypes."
Being on stage gives the members of Terry Poison an opportunity to let go and sing about their fantasies, but their outlandish lyrics and theatrical identities don't exist in their real lives. Far from being strung-out drug addicts or promiscuous barbies, these business-minded musicians are putting a gimmick to good use. And it is actually the diversity of the band that Kahn points to as the underlying "innovative Israeliness."
"We are like a mirror of the diversity in Tel Aviv, and the mixture of the people, styles and backgrounds tied together with cynicism and the need to escape reality is what we most resemble," says Kahn, who is joined on stage by Gili Saar, Petite Meller and Bruno Grife.
Saar, an accomplished actress and model who has starred in two movies featured at the Jerusalem Film Festival, Barbecue People and the upcoming King of Beggars, is the newest member of the group. She plays bass guitar and keyboards and is in the last year of acting school at Seminar Hakibbutzim. Meller, the youngest and smallest member of Terry Poison, who sings in French, has a high-pitched, tiny voice (hence the nickname) and studied philosophy and French at Tel Aviv University. Last but not least is Haifa native Bruno Grife, the self-appointed producer and co-songwriter behind Terry Poison, whose mission is to be heard but not seen.
"Our sound is influenced by the Eastern European Jewish music we grew up on combined with the 90s electronic, hip-hop era," says Grife, whose nickname emerged after the girls discovered his resemblance to the piano player on Fame. "I have to sedate them sometimes, but basically it's all about making people feel the music on stage and dancing like crazy."
Petite chimes in that if you listen carefully, you can hear the question/answer rhythm of the Haggada in "Comme Ci, Comme Ca," one of the band's most popular tracks.
In January,the group is releasing its first album: a 12" vinyl record from a French label, clair au Choc. It will contain three tracks and three remixes, and while Kahn says it's mostly for DJs, judging from the Internet fan-base, loyalists are looking to purchase it. "We have some offers from labels in the UK and Germany, but we want to make sure we feel it's right in the pit of our stomachs first," says Kahn.
Ultimately, Terry Poison says it believes in the uniqueness of its style and is not afraid of commercial backing or leaving Israel to keep the band alive.
"We already have our own thing, and we're not going to change that," says Kahn. "We may have to leave Israel to make bookings easier, but it won't change our identities or our sound, and at the end of the day, after the sexy show is over and the costumes are discarded, what you're left with is the music."
For more information, visit www.terrypoison.com