The next big thing

Local rock band Electra gets ready to light up the world.

By
August 15, 2010 21:58
TEL AVIV-based band Electra feels its songs are meant to be sung in English.

Electra band 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Writing a perfect summer pop song is not as easy as Nitzan Horesh makes it look. “Coming To Get You,” the insanely catchy ska-driven rocker by his band Electra that has permeated local airwaves in recent months, would sound great with the car top down, cruising down the highway to the beach or, since after all we are in Israel, in a fourth-floor walk-up with only a lemon Arctic with which to cool down.

A great song is undeniable, but was “Coming To Get You” a fluke aligning of the stars or is there a band of substance behind it? A quick listen to Electra’s debut English-language full-length album, Heartbreaks for Fools, immediately confirms that the single was only the tip of a huge iceberg of musical talent that the 33- year-old Horesh and his bandmates possess and are ready to unleash on an unsuspecting public.

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Imagine taking the innocent, spunky British Invasion rock of the fiction One-ders from the Tom Hanks film That Thing You Do and spiking it with Buzzcocks/Jam-era punk, the new wave pop stylings of The Cars, healthy slices of sped-up reggae, rockabilly and an allegiance to the power of concise songs and arrangements as exemplified by the masters at Motown, and you begin to enter the netherworld of Electra.

The band’s ability to mine the past while still sounding utterly contemporary, combined with the fact that they sound like virtually nobody else on the local horizon, has prompted some to proclaim the band as the next big thing. Yediot Aharonot pretty much called Heartbreaks for Fools the best album of the year in a recent sterling review and urged readers to run out and buy the album. Not bad for a band that until two years ago was, for all intents and purposes, defunct.

According to Horesh, following a two-year period of activity that saw the band release an EP called Come Inside in 2004, tour the UK and Germany and sign a deal with EMI Publishing, he decided to put Electra on hold and move to England. Horesh was reluctant to talk about the two years he spent abroad, aside from saying, “I decided it was good to be there as a musician. It was very comfortable to be there, and there was great music.”

What prompted him to return to Israel in 2008 was a phone call from the band’s bass player, Doron Farhi.

“He said to me, ‘I found the ultimate drummer for Electra; you have to come back.’ So I did,” said Horesh. Farhi was referring to Boaz Wolf, who recalled his introduction to the band.

“I met up with Doron, and one night we jammed together. He said, ‘I have this band, and we’re not doing anything right now. I’m going to call Nitzan and tell him to come back to Israel.’”

THE RECHARGED trio discovered a powerful chemistry, fueled by Horesh’s love of 1950s and ’60s singles, Wolf’s penchant for the 1970s punk staples and Farhi’s 1980s fixation, and their ability to synthesize those influences into a vibrant, charisma-filled sound they could call their own.

After spending a year wood-shedding and slowly building a following for their adrenaline-filled live shows, Electra signed on to alternative music label Anova Records and went into the studio with producer Baruch Ben-Yitzhak of the similarly Anglo-rock influenced Rockfour.

“We’re really a live band, but at some point we said, ‘Hey, maybe we should make a record like it’s supposed to be made,’” said Horesh.

According to Wolf, the studio experience contributed to an expansion of the band’s tight three-piece sound.

“We have a distinct live sound, and originally we tried to capture that on the album. Although we ended up using instruments that we don’t use in our live shows – brass, keyboards – it pretty much preserved that live feel. It’s funny, now that we have the album, we’re trying to recreate that sound in our lives shows,” said Wolf, adding, “We’re very happy with the final results. It sounds great – beyond all our expectations.”

That’s the result for the listener as well, with each track brimming with guitar hooks, vocal harmonies, bright melodies and energy to spare. When pressed to explain how an Israeli kid could grow up to write such decidedly Anglo-oriented material, Horesh chalked it up to countless hours listening to everything from American garage rock and Motown to classic British rockers like The Rolling Stones. He admitted to appropriating what he liked from everything he heard – the American songwriting style and the tougher British attitude.

“I don’t hear a specific British influence in our music; I think it’s more American. But English artists tend to be more ironic and punchy, which I liked. So it’s not so much a musical influence as an attitude that we’ve borrowed,” he said.

According to Horesh, the decision to write and perform in English wasn’t something the band decided – it was decided for them.

“The music we make demands that we sing in English,” he said, ironically asking that the interview be held in Hebrew. “It wouldn’t sound right in Hebrew. It was clear to us, like it’s clear to anyone listening to The Buzzcocks or The Kinks. It was meant to be in English.”

Horesh added that since returning from England, he’s seen a giant shift in the local musical environment, in which English is now a much more accepted part of the landscape.

“English is much more legitimate now. I think there’s a recognition that it’s okay to sing in English and it’s not some kind of betrayal,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we don’t have roots here, it’s just a different era. In places like Finland or Norway, there’s never been a problem with their big artists singing in English. Look, every commercial on TV is in English, people use the Internet in English every day – why not rock songs? It’s such an old-fashioned way of thinking.”

Another avenue open to the band by singing in English is the potential export of their music abroad, something that Horesh and Wolf are keenly aware of. But for Horesh, who’s already been down that road once, patience is the main virtue.

“We’ll see what happens. Right now we’re concentrating on what’s happening here, playing as much as possible and enjoying the feedback. Maybe in another few months we can take a look at what opportunities exist outside the country,” he said.

While drummer Wolf agreed with Horesh, he couldn’t help exuding a little more enthusiasm about the prospects raised by the review in Yediot, which stated that if Heartbreaks for Fools had been released in the US or the UK, Electra would now be filling arenas.

“It would be wonderful to try and tour – it’s something I haven’t done yet with Electra. I would love to do that,” said Wolf.

Based on the strength of Electra’s music, he may just get that chance.


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