Full Trunk is overflowing with unusual pairings: East meets West, rock meets blues, charisma meets creativity. Lead singer- songwriter Gal Nisman only met his career path in his early twenties.
“My parents bought me a guitar at 13, but after two years of classical lessons I dropped it entirely. It was only after the army that I came back to the guitar, and have been playing ever since,” says Nisman.
Nisman’s musical taste is a revolving door – from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and classic Israeli rock bands of the ‘90s to Eric Clapton, Freddie King and the blues, to his latest interest: pop.
“It all came from The Black Keys,” Nisman explains. “Their writing style is very unique; they basically play blues-rock, but also throw in these elements of pop that make their music very catchy. We picked that up and took it from there, adding catchy choruses to our Middle Eastern sounds and bluesy Western riffs.”
Full Trunk’s diverse color palette is a reflection of their mixed cultural backgrounds. Nisman, for instance, grew up in a half-Moroccan, half-Russian Jewish family, where he was exposed to North African instruments such as the darbuka, a goblet drum that finds its way into many of the band’s songs, and the buzuk, which Nisman sometimes substitutes in during what would otherwise be a guitar solo.
With pop in the picture, and the boys off the road – a familiar setting for the band that used to travel cross-country with a “full trunk” of equipment playing two to four gigs a week – there were no detours keeping these musicians from their destination: a brand new album, titled Show Us What You Got
“You’re not from the IRS are you?” Nisman jokes before revealing his motives behind the album.
“You know, living here is so damn hard. You work so hard, yet pay so much for taxes. There are so many things that bother me here, so I finally decided to talk about them. Show Us What You Got
is a combination of my personal experiences and those daily struggles that people can relate to – issues larger than myself.”
So is it fair to call this a political album?
“I wouldn’t call it a political album, no. While it does contain political songs like ‘Let’s Go,’ and everyone asks me if the man on the [album cover’s] podium is Bibi [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu], Show Us What You Got
is about approaching our frustrations toward the way things work here and realizing that we don’t have much choice – we can either protest or dance it out.”
The title track’s music video features three straight minutes of Nisman doing just that, dancing it out. In fact, while Full Trunk’s performances are always packed with energy, this six-track album’s pure danceable grooves really break the mold, holding promise for an even rowdier Tel Aviv party this week at the Barby (where they will play their album release show).
“70 percent of what makes this band work is that we all love to perform and share that energy with the crowd,” Nisman smiles. “There’s a certain amount of magic in the room when so many people from so many places, ages and cultures come together to share in an experience. When that happens, it’s the best feeling ever.”
The band recently took part in the highly esteemed Sziget Festival. Nisman recounts how cool it was to hang out with a band from Lebanon on the bus while there: “Music really can take you to amazing places, free from boundaries and borders.”
Now, with bandmates Ofer Vayner [Bass], Yotam Elazari [Drums] and Ariel Keshet on keys, Nisman is bringing the party home, but this time he’s holding true to the material produced.
Nisman shares, “During performances, we tend to step outside our calmer, more melody-based songs for a full-on one-hour party.”
That is, until now. The Barby release show is giving more dedication to a wide spectrum of Full Trunk’s songs, including all six new album tracks and a special appearance by Sivan Talmor, who is featured on the album’s final track “As A Stone.”
Talmor and Nisman are good friends and musical partners in their bi-monthly Leonard Cohen tribute show. While he knew she was “good,” Nisman was surprised by just how good the final song turned out.
“[Talmor] brought something to that song that I could never feel or do alone. She expressed exactly what I was trying to express when I wrote it, and thanks to her, it has become one of my favorite songs.”
Talmor was not the album’s only collaboration though. After picking Nisman’s brain about the video- game-esque bass line of “If You Please” and its striking resemblance to Lucille Crew’s “What The Hell,” he spills that the main riff was actually written by Lucille Crew’s brass players. In addition, Isgav Dotan (LC’s producer) co-wrote the song’s second verse.
Their final, more “out there” collaboration: a blue elephant mascot in a multi-colored dress – the protagonist in Full Trunk’s “Look Who’s Back” music video.
“That one I’m not so proud of,” Nisman admits. “One of the things about the Black Keys that we can relate to is that even though they take their music making very seriously, they don’t take themselves too seriously. With the blue elephant, we may not have taken ourselves seriously enough.”
“You can plan and plan and plan until you’re blue in the face” – just not elephant blue – “and things will either work themselves out or they won’t. I believe that the best approach is to work hard, but remember that at the end of the day it’s only music and it’s all right.”Full Trunk performs at the Barby in Tel Aviv on November 16. For tickets visit www.barby.co.il