(photo credit: Courtesy)
There's more to the Reines Girls than meets the eye. Despite its titular gender, all three members of the rock band, which is releasing its eponymous debut CD with a launch gig at Tel Aviv's Levontin 7 club Friday night, are male.
"The name comes from an old Tel Aviv expression," explains Reines Girls vocalist-guitarist-songwriter and frontman Roei Frielich. "A Reines girl is the type of female companion you would take along Reines Street rather than along Dizengoff Street, which runs parallel to it. Back in those days Dizengoff was the Champs Elysees of Tel Aviv, where you went to see and be seen. If you were with a girl who would generally be considered less than esthetically pleasing you'd take her along Reines Street. Reines Girls were not girls of ill repute, just not too attractive."
The name, it appears, predates the band by a long shot. "My dad told me that story when I was a kid and I knew that, if I ever had a band, that would be the name." Twenty or so years on, when Frielich teamed up with vocalist-bass player Guy Goldstein and drummer Nir Wetzstein, the name found its band.
The debut CD has, in fact, been in the making for the last four years. But Frielich and his cohorts were not in any hurry. "It sort of cooked and matured over the years," he says. "We wanted the whole thing to develop gradually until we felt we were good and ready. Also, don't forget we started from scratch."
Frielich isn't joking. Besides Goldstein, who had already paid his dues as a guitarist in various formats, Frielich and Wetzstein were still in the early stages of cutting their teeth on the music scene. "Guy actually switched to bass when the band started, because I was the leader. But I'd only played acoustic guitar up till that point, so I really had to learn my way around the electric version."
Rather than an impediment, Frielich feels the band members' relative inexperience gave them the freedom to do what they wanted as they developed their style and professional credo. "We were rough and ready to start with," says the frontman. "But that was an advantage. We made mistakes and learned from them and we could create our own musical language. Even if we'd wanted to, we weren't capable of copying bands that influenced us."
Had they been more proficient back then, the Reines Girls might have churned out material inspired by the music of late '70s/early '80s British punk rockers The Jam or American proto-punk outfit The Modern Lovers. Still, judging by the songs on the debut album, the Reines Girls certainly follow a similar energy trail, mixing stridently delivered lyrics punctuated by caustic guitar riffs and thundering drumming.
However, while the group's main sources of inspiration come from the UK and US this a true blue-and-white Israeli band that, unlike popular rock acts such as Assaf Avidan and the Mojos and Izabo, only sings in Hebrew. The reasons for which are entirely pragmatic.
"For a start, I have a really crap accent in English," Frielich declares, "and, anyway, I think you should sing in your own language. I am an Israeli living in Israel. I wouldn't feel comfortable singing in English."
Mother tongue or not, Frielich says there are still mines out there to be circumnavigated. "I don't agree with Hemi Rudner who once sang 'there isn't any rock and roll in Hebrew.' But it is hard to sing rock in Hebrew. It's not a very malleable language like English. You have veterans like [Rami] Fortis and [Berry] Sakharov, and even Arik Einstein sang some really good rock songs. You just have to work a bit harder at it."
The Reines Girls perform at Tel Aviv's Levontin 7 on March 13 at 9:30 p.m. For more information visit levontin7.com
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