Mixed nuts

The Israeli swing band The Hazelnuts hopes to launch its new album with a successful Headstart crowdfunding campaign.

June 11, 2018 20:53
4 minute read.
Mixed nuts

The Hazelnuts – Shira Z. Carmel, Yifeat Ziv and Anat Moshkovski – perform on June 23 at the Tel Aviv Museum. (photo credit: CHEN WAGSHALL)


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Music is the great equalizer, the universal language. But some music just seeps into your pores and infuses you with something you didn’t even know you needed.

The Hazelnuts’ brand of tight harmony swing does just that. It’s feel-good without being saccharine. In a word, it’s timeless.

After releasing a debut and a live album, Shira Z. Carmel, Yifeat Ziv and Anat Moshkovski have recently completed their first studio album with all original music. Their Headstart crowdfunding campaign for the new album goes until June 19.

You can also catch them live at the Tel Aviv Museum on June 23.

Carmel sat down with The Jerusalem Post to talk about focusing on original music and mysterious inspiration.

How did the Hazelnuts form?

The band started as a fun thing at the Jerusalem Music Academy, where we all went to school. This was about five years ago. We started with what most people call doo-wop, but it’s actually close harmony singing. I grew up with the Andrews Sisters, and we sang some of their songs.

We never planned on starting a band, it just kind of happened. Then we decided to do a show, which was the three of us with a double bass player. It became bigger and bigger. In the past two-and-a-half years, we’ve been touring the world with seven musicians. It grew into this huge thing, but it was all very natural. We’re really happy.

We’ve developed three different parts to our repertoire. There are the jazz standards, with songs that we either knew and loved or found by doing research on the genre.

Then there are the other covers of artists like Beyonce and Tom Waits. We wrote arrangements that were in the style of the close harmony singing, but it’s with a twist because of the song being a hit from our era.

Then we have our own songs, but there haven’t been so many of them. It’s been an amazing few years, and we have had so much fun, but the time came to focus on singing our own songs. We wanted to take it one step further. We love swing music and what we’ve been doing, but we wanted to open up a new chapter in the book of The Hazelnuts.

It’s been such a crazy ride. In order to make this happen, we needed to have time and be able to focus. So six months ago we decided to stop everything we were doing, went into the studio and started recording songs.

What was the highlight of your touring time?

It was probably opening for the Manhattan Transfer. They are legends. That was an amazing performance, to share a stage with them and meet them.

We are independent artists; we produce everything ourselves and do everything ourselves. So the tour took a lot of time and energy.

How has the Headstart campaign been going for the new album?

We’re very happy to be able to give our fans the chance to be a part of this.

It’s been a hectic time and a lot of work.

The project is currently 70% funded, and you can’t help but hit refresh all the time.

We’re very excited.

We recently released the single “Time Tale.” It’s already on the playlists of 88 FM, and in general the feedback we’ve been getting is really positive. Hopefully other stations will pick it up soon.

Does the new album have a name?

No, it is as yet unnamed. In my head, it’s called the “Birth of Hope” [translated from Hebrew]. I believe that’s what people will hear when they listen to the album.

It’s hard to say without sounding too cheesy, but the world sucks and it’s hard to be alive. We all know it; it’s painful and also wonderful. Our experience with our audience is that one thing that brings immediate joy to people is harmony. It’s not even a metaphor; harmony is actually what we need; to harmonize our world.

Wherever we go with our music, we have three voices melding in harmony. That’s what we need as people. Some of the songs talk about this issue, and others don’t deal with it literally, but it’s always there.

How does that influence your songwriting or creative process?

I don’t really know. There is a mystery to songwriting, and to some extent it’s spiritual. No one knows where songs come from. I can’t fully take credit for writing songs; it’s something that comes to me.

You also have to be in tune, be willing to hear something and write it down.

Of course, I have things that I want to say with my music and things that I don’t want to say, and that guides me in the process of editing and rewriting, and all the things that you do after the initial spark.

There is one song on the album where I didn’t write the lyrics, they were written by Egyptian - American poet Yahia Lababidi.

When I was writing the music, I felt that it was already there. So it’s a process of revealing.

For more information on The Hazelnuts: www.thehazelnuts.com

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