A young jazz guitarist walks into a dimly lit parking lot three levels underground. His fingers grip tightly around a notebook concealing barely legible charts. When he enters the cold concrete structure, these charts are his security blanket – something tangible, learned, applicable. Two minutes into the jam session of mismatched musicians, however, all notes are tossed into the stuffy air.
A band is born.
“When I was a kid, we’d shout ‘coolooloosh’ every time we threw something into the air like confetti. For me, it was trading cards,” explains Yuval “Yuvi” Gerstein, lead guitarist and member of the multi-genre Jerusalemite band, Coolooloosh.
“It fit so well with our approach, the name was instinctive. After that first jam session, we spent a year throwing whatever style we were feeling in that moment in the air, then recording it, listening back, and making our music.”
The term also reaffirms the band’s local identity. Despite the indisputable thriving nature of the Tel Aviv indie music scene, even back in 2003, Coolooloosh’s Jerusalem roots were written in their intricate instrumental DNA from the very start. That DNA only grew more intricate when rapper and poet Joel Covington (a.k.a. Rebel Sun) joined the colorful cast in 2004. His lyrics offered a solution to their instrumental chemistry experiment. First, on a few tracks of the inaugural album, recorded in that same dimly lit parking lot, and later with the launch of the band’s most successful album, Elements of Sound
Precisely 10 years since its release, the boys are back in town for a reunion show at the Barby Club in Tel Aviv. The Jerusalem Post
chased after the ever-busy, ever-innovative Gerstein to find out: Why now? What’s changed? What hasn’t? And where to next?You scored quite the impressive Grammy-nominated producer for Elements of Sound (2008). How did your relationship with David Ivory come to be?
It all started with a demo. We sent it around the world looking for a producer or record label to take us on. That’s when we found David Ivory, who invited us to his studio in Philadelphia after listening to the demo. We hopped a plane and wrote loads more songs once getting there, then worked through each song individually in his studio. It took two months of constant work, playing 10 to 12 grueling hours a day, but it was worth it. It was the most intense time for the band. While many albums tend to demonstrate a cohesive stylistic direction, every song on ‘Elements of Sound’ truly feels like its own microcosm. How did you go about framing these songs into one album?
It’s true. Each song has a very different style. We jump from a soul ballad to a rock song and then a hip-hop track because we are influenced by so many different genres, but mostly, it’s because we don’t judge too much. If someone brings this rocky song, we’ll work with it. Or if we have a soulful, slow song, we’ll love that too. We don’t judge by genre, we only judge a song’s potential by its worth. That was our job as musicians. David Ivory helped us fuse it into one thing.
In retrospect, it was 2008 when we released the album. Maybe it was too eclectic for the time. But that’s why we’re coming back to it now. Music has become more eclectic, even in the mainstream. It’s easier to understand what we’re trying to do in 2018 than 2008.
While you may view the album as slightly ahead of its time, this ‘neo-soul meets hip hop meets Balkan meets a million other genres’ approach has really exploded onto the Tel Aviv scene. Do you ever stop to think that what you were doing paved the way for an entire era of Israeli indie musicians?
Despite growth, we still are a very small scene, so we can’t get too arrogant. I guess we’re just happy that we did a lot of work that musicians hadn’t done before. We were also one of the first Israeli bands to go abroad and tour on our own. Today it’s a no-brainer; any band that makes music in English can easily go right out and play around the world. When we first started out, this was almost non-existent. So I do feel that we’ve paved the way in some sense.
We recently played a show at InDNegev. They gave us a great spot: Friday night on the main stage. People were so excited – from kids to adults to audience members who had never heard of us, but danced to our songs anyways. It felt like a statement: ‘Here we are. We’re back!’ For good?
I mean it’s an exciting time because we’re not just trying to play through the album and get it over with. The reunion show was meant to be a one-off, suggested to us by our current manager Itamar Bernstein when he came across an old poster from the release show in my studio. But we’re getting so much creative energy in trying to find new versions of old flames. Some of them are great as they are, but it wouldn’t be interesting for us if we just replicated the same thing.
It’s part of our identity to constantly be looking for alternative ways in. And it’s working, too. We just met up to record a brand new song, ‘The Stakes Are High,’ which was laid out in a day from a melody in my head. Everyone felt good about it; it’s happening, it’s fresh, and most importantly, it doesn’t feel dated.Will there be any special guests at the reunion show on the 14th?
David Ivory is coming to Israel, which is amazing because he’s never been here. On top of performing live with us at the show, he will also be participating in an important showcase for Israeli talent and running a workshop with me at the studio. Red from Red Band is also joining me. That’s a bold choice to include in the lineup.
He was a great fit. Obviously, Red will pump up any show, and we’re really happy to have him join us for a few songs. I have no idea what it’s like to play with a puppet... interesting I’m sure.
Our final guest is Sivan Talmor. She’s a great singer and she’s putting out her own album now with our bassist Ori [Winokur] at the studio. She’s a good friend as well and a great singer and we need some female force.
All in all, I imagine it will be the perfect mini-festival of Coolooloosh coming together and playing with people we love, to the people we love, some of whom may have been at our shows 10 years ago. We’re super-duper excited.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers or perhaps an eager young jazz guitarist somewhere out there?
If you’re into music, go and play with your friends and don’t overthink it. If you feel chemistry with other musicians, believe it. That’s what we were looking for, and we played with a lot of different people before finding it. But when we did find each other, it was a golden thing so we held onto it for dear life. If you feel that with another musician, play with them, speak to them. Then find a dimly lit parking lot without toilets or air conditioning to build your first album.
Coolooloosh will perform on November 14 at the Barby in Tel Aviv. For more information go to: barby.co.il.
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