Gal De-Paz once suggested that she was born in the wrong place at the wrong time. Judging by her stage and studio performances over the past decade or so, the “right time” for the 31-year-old rock singer would be around the late ’60s, and the “right place” would be somewhere in the US, probably toward the southern end of the country.
De-Paz fronts The Paz Band rock outfit, one of the star attractions at this year’s IndieCity event, which takes place in downtown Jerusalem on October 17.
Now in its eighth year, IndieCity, which is supported by the Jerusalem Municipality’s Young People’s Authority, has become one of the linchpins of the Israeli indie scene, with a wide range of acts performing annually on large outdoor stages, as well as a bunch of decidedly left-field locations, including store display windows, backstreet bars and even on balconies.
This year’s diversified lineup includes the likes of veteran rocker Rami Fortis – marking the 30th anniversary of his lauded Sipurim Mehakufsa (Tales from the Box) album – ethnic-leaning retro pop singer Tomer Yeshayahu, singer-songwriter Maya Isacowitz, electronic band Alaska Snack Time, Moroccan-rooted singer Netta Elkayam, and incendiary rock violinist Michael Greilsammer.
That is quite a roster, in terms of stylistic spread, quality and star value, and it is a measure of IndieCity’s standing on the domestic music scene.
De-Paz has also been making strides over the years. If you watch the video clip for “Shemesh Shakranit” (Deceptive Sun), from nine years ago, you might be forgiven for thinking the then-23-year-old was just another run-of-the-mill, up-and-coming Israeli pop star producing melodically and lyrically pleasing, yet pretty predictable, numbers. Fast-forward four or five years, and you’d find her letting her hair down, belting out the decibels and pouring out the emotion, in English. She has come a long way.
It was clear from the outset that music was going to be De-Paz’s chosen line of earning a crust.
“I always knew I was going to do this for a living – since I began singing, which is, basically, since I started talking,” she laughs. And she was ready to put her mouth where her pen or pencil was. “I also started writing songs from a very young age. I remember the first one. It was called ‘Eretz Ha’agadot Vehahalomot’ [Land of Fairy Tales and Dreams]. It was cute,” she chuckles.
The musical tiny tot has blossomed into a full-grown bona fide artist who is not afraid to go for broke. “I feel I am developing all the time,” she says. “I don’t want to get stuck in the same place.”
Although Israel-born and bred, De-Paz says she was always drawn to the native language of rock & roll, even though she initially exercised her tender vocal chords in a very different area of musical endeavor.
“I used to watch Disney movies and sing along with the songs,” she recalls. “Anyway, most of the singers I like sing in English.” That said, she did try her hand, and mouth, in her mother tongue for a while. “When I went to Rimon [School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, in Ramat Hasharon], to study, I wrote an album in Hebrew. After that I returned to writing in English. It felt more comfortable for me.”
De-Paz fed off an eclectic diet of musical flavors. “My favorite singer was Whitney Houston. I also liked Madonna, Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin, but I also liked [Israel heavy rock band] Hayehudim, Riki Gal, Ruthi Navon and Kaveret, and all the great Israeli stuff. But, for some reason, I have always felt more comfortable writing music in English. Anyway, English is the language in which rock was created. So it makes perfect sense to me. You can say anything you want in English in at least six different ways. And English slang sounds so much better, and you can get away with a lot more in English. It is a very expansive and rich language, and it is rounder and more malleable than Hebrew.”
She also took a while to find her own singing style. Harking back again to “Shemesh Shakranit,” you find a young artist with a mellifluous timbre with just a smidgen of individual input. Now, De-Paz sounds more like the daughter of an African-American Baptist preacher than a rock singer from Tel Aviv.
A video clip ahead of IndieCity has De-Paz and the other four members of the band singing a number that sounds like it came straight out of Mississippi. The clip was shot at a special location, with special acoustics, the chapel of the Hospice of Saint Vincent De Paul.
De-Paz got the vibe of the place and ran with it. “We were supposed to do another song there, but when we got to the place I knew we had to do something else.” The singer opted for “Down the Rabbit Hole,” the title track of the band’s last album, which came out a couple of years ago, and has more than a hint of black gospel music about it.
By the way, there is a new De Paz Band offering due out toward the end of the year, which will go by the economically axiomatic title of Supply and Demand.
“I just felt that the song we did was tailor-made for the place,” she notes. “Every fiber in my body said that we had to do ‘Down the Rabbit Hole.’ It was perfect. What a place. What great reverb there. All I was missing was a gospel choir behind me. I would have been in seventh heaven.”
In an interview De-Paz gave at the age of 23, she was asked where she wanted to be 10 years down the road. She replied that she’d like to have performed at Wembley Stadium or have won a Grammy.
“I’d love that to happen, but I’m not sure now,” she laughs. “I’ve matured since then.”
While the maturing process may have mitigated De-Paz’s starry-eyed view of life, it has also enhanced her personal and artistic outlook. “I get a lot more enjoyment out of what I do today, in all sorts of senses. I have a better understanding of what I am doing. I have a better understanding of who I am.”
That, and a shift in logistical approach, comes in the new release.
“The new record is very different from stuff we’ve done before. In the past the band wrote songs together, but now I write all the songs,” explains De-Paz. “And we took producers from outside, which also changed the way we worked, and the sound we got. I sing differently, too. We are always trying to evolve, and to try out new things. There are some softer things in there, but also some hard-hitting things. I think it is a more mature work all round.”
There is also a little in the way of personal viewpoint comment in Supply and Demand. “There is some political stuff on the record, but of a more global nature. Nothing too heavy,” she says.
De-Paz is not an IndieCity debutante, and says she eagerly anticipates her forthcoming gig in the capital. “We’ve performed in IndieCity before, and I’m really excited about coming back. We have great audiences in Jerusalem. I love the place.”
The feeling, it seems, is entirely mutual.
For more information: young-city.co.il and facebook.com/IndieCity.project
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