Some try to classify them as hip hop, others funk, but Lucille Crew is so much more than a one-word genre.
Isgav “Izzy” Dotan, the guy behind the grooves of the Israeli outfit with the descriptive name, the International Groove Collective, first picked up a guitar at the age of 10.
“My brother played a bit of guitar and percussion. He was my role model, so I naturally had to do everything he did,” Dotan chuckles.
While guitar was more of a pastime for Dotan, his true musical passion came to fruition upon receiving some hip hop CDs for his bar mitzva.
“I listened to those albums a lot.” Dotan continues, “I didn’t understand any of the words, so I’d curse all the time, even though I had no idea what I was saying.”
Dotan gravitated from hip hop to rock and roll to blues and back.
“I loved Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Israeli rock... and then some way through that, I got into the blues, which eventually brought me back to hip hop.”
Over the course of a decade, the prolific producer had come full circle. His diverse musical taste gives audiences a glimpse into Lucille Crew’s extremely varied style, one that fuses elements of blues, funk, soul, hip hop, Balkan – and the list continues.
Produced by Dotan, the group just released their brand new EP, Respect The Dawn
, and they’re finishing up a Israel-wide tour before heading across the ocean to share their beats with European fans.
Dotan’s inspiration for the project extends even further than his personal tastes, though.
“We are eight of nine musicians in the room at any given time and each brings their own background to the collective. Some reggae, others jazz, even Balkan, and it’s really noticeable in the music,” Dotan explains. On top of that, Dotan is inspired by international icons (like The Fugees, Wu-Tang Clan, Etta James, and The Roots – “especially concept-wise” – as well as local musicians.
“There are so many great musicians in Israel that we borrow inspiration from – old, new, dead, alive... we try to embed our local influences into every aspect of our music.”
His influences are not strictly musical either – far from it. In Respect The Dawn
’s acknowledgments section, Dotan credits Bruce Wayne, Steve Jobs, and Charle Chaplin as inspirations for their tracks.
Everything down to their name encompasses Lucille Crew’s diversity of influence. Dotan explains its origin: “the name Lucille goes way back in history with Afro-American music and culture – seen in the lyrics of the genre, the name of B.B. King’s guitar, Louis Armstrong’s wife.”
Playing with that historical lens, Dotan has cast Lucille as the “grandmother” of his crew’s musical innovations.
While the International Groove Collective has earned the unofficial title of “Best Live Show in Israel,” which Dotan attributes to their contagious onstage energy, ironically enough, live performance was never part of the groove master’s agenda.
“After the army, I recorded a few demos at Sapir College in Ashkelon,” says Dotan. “I started collecting people around me to play a session in Tel Aviv. One thing led to another, and a debut album was born.”
“It was never meant to be performed live on stage,” he admits. Their first album targeted US audiences, clarifying Dotan’s choice to record in English with a goal of reaching as many people as possible.
“In Hebrew, you’re stuck with this glass ceiling, I wanted to break through that barrier.”
And that he did.
After agreeing to play just one show in March 2012, the crowd’s response was explosive and the collective set off on a new quest that took them to stages across Israel and eventually overseas.
Besides language, what are the main differences when playing abroad?
“It’s kind of like the difference between a good first date and a relationship. With our audience back home, we already have that strong connection; when a new fan sends us a message, say after a European festival, asking us where they can see us play next, it’s like getting asked out for a second date,” he grins. A fitting analogy.
Lucille Crew has already kicked off their EP release tour with a bang, selling out at Tel Aviv’s Barby Club.
“I don’t think we’ve ever experienced that amount of love before,” Dotan relives the night.
When asked about the narrative of the new EP, which features New York MC Snowflake Black, Dotan says, “We’ve been on a quest for five years now, and finally, I feel that we got the full picture. It was the first time we’ve managed to set out on a quest and complete the vision.”
“It felt like a beginning. A new dawn, like the title suggests. ‘All right,’ I thought, ‘now that we’ve found our voice, let’s get started.’”
Dotan shows no signs of slowing down, either. He is currently working on yet another incredibly unique music video for the final track of the EP, “Got It” (featuring Guy Mazig), which will hopefully be shot in New York.
Dotan divulged that they’ve already started working on their next album. “We have a few demos that we plan to put into fast drive after the Euro tour this summer.”
For Isgav Dotan, keeping busy is the key to success. If there is one thing to take away from his musical quest, it’s to never stop.
“I base my life on the movie parody Popstar
. In the words of Andy Samberg, ‘Never stop never stopping.’ That’s what we’re going for, for now at least.”
Lucille Crew will continue their EP Release Tour at Tel Aviv’s Barby Club on June 8; then head to France to start their European-wide tour.For more information, visit their website: lucillecrew.com