Over the years, there have been some fascinating band names in the pop and rock world. It must be said that some were downright infantile, some were clearly marketing oriented, while others implied some deeper meaning.
One could argue that Vegan Friendly pertains to the latter category, although stellar rock guitarist-vocalist Geva Alon says the moniker was more a matter of natural dietary default than anything else.
“All the members of the band are vegans, so that was the name that came up. It stuck,” he explains.
Vegan Friendly is one of the many star turns lined up for the forthcoming Haifa Live Festival, which will take place in the downtown district of the city on September 6 to 8. All told, the wideranging indie rock event features some 100 shows, with the fun kicking off at 8 p.m. daily and ending somewhere in the wee hours.
Other big names on the Haifa Live roster include Gilad Kahana, Assaf Amudursky and rapper Benny Esterkin, with veteran rock drummer and educator, festival artistic director Issar Tennenbaum overseeing the whole shebang.
Alon believes that abstaining from animal products must have some bearing on the way he and his pals in the group – drummer Assaf Reiss and bass guitarist-vocalist Amir Rossiano, aka Banjo – go about their artistic business too.
“Everything you do in life influences who you are as an artist,” he suggests. “Art is an expression of your reality. Everything you do is interrelated. So even if it is not a conscious thing, it finds its way into your creative work as well. That, for Alon, certainly takes in one’s choice of nutrition.
“I believe that being vegan involves focusing on everything around us in a more humane way. So that necessarily comes across in our songs, our music and the way we live. Everything,” he says.
The threesome, which got together relatively recently, is currently working on its debut album. Thus far, a single titled “Cows” has chalked up a significant amount of radio air time. The number alludes to Alon’s decision, which he made about two years ago, not to have any part in the killing or exploitation of living creatures in order to keep himself alive and kicking. He invokes his life-changing cuisine transition and wonders why others have not made the move.
“My eyes are open but I can’t see through/Each time you’re walking down the avenue,” he muses in the opening verse. Things get a little more direct by the second verse, as Alon intones: “My stomach is aching and I can’t go on/My diet is changing between right and wrong/The things they told me most all my life/Are changing shape before my lingering eyes.”
I’d say that spells out the personal vegan message pretty clearly.
“It’s a sort of change that you experience yourself, and you gradually understand what you were educated to do and what you have been told all your life. And you eventually understand the actual reality of the world, and the things you were told are not necessarily true. It’s not that you were lied to. It may have come from a lack of awareness,” he says.
That may sound more than a mite evangelical, but the band is not about pontificating to the, as yet, unconverted. In case you have missed the vittles veer in recent years, we live in one of the most vegan-friendly countries in the world. The score of “Cows” suggests that the full album, when it sees the light of the day – Alon expects that to happen before the end of 2016 – is not merely a soapbox venture and is very much about the music too and should appeal to indie rock fans of all stripes.
“We are not a band that goes on about veganism. That’s not us,” Alon declares. “It is an important of our lives and it comes across in our music, but we are a rock ‘n’ roll band. We write songs. Some have environmental or social or humane awareness in them, and others are more general. But you can look at someone in the street and respect him as a living being, and you don’t criticize him for his behavior and where he is going and for the color of his skin. First and foremost, you respect him because he is here on the planet just like you.”
Alon has been one of the mainstays of the national indie rock scene for some years now. A number of his called “Relaxation” reveals a healthy bluesy inclination in the Alon sonic makeup.
“I wrote that song when I was 18,” says the 37-year-old native of Kibbutz Ma’abarot. “I am delighted that it still resonates with people after all these years.”
The lyrics of the song also infer an ongoing search for meaning and some existential epiphany.
“In my work – everything I have done until now – I have tried to be aware, to look inwards and to see how I can improve myself as a person, to be a better me. A lot of my songs come from there,” he explains.
The new trio, which is something of a super-group, grew out of Alon’s gradual realization that it was time he had the benefit of some artistic cross-fertilization after a long period of performing solo or as the leader of a band.
“I felt I needed to get back to being a member of a group,” he says. “Not me with a group that’s there to serve me and my songs. I wanted to be involved in something that entails shared creativity, with everything contributing something. I wanted something new that couldn’t happen with anyone else.”
Alon certainly picked the right guys for the joint venture.
Reiss played on Alon’s last album, while Jango is a seasoned musical campaigner, having fronted a 1990s rock band, from which he took his nom de plume. That followed a formative stint as a member of the acclaimed Ascot Blend rock trio, along with fellow Haifa Live performer Assaf Amdursky and Yeremi Kaplan.
Alon says he and his cohorts are currently just going with the flow.
“We got together organically, and the recording of the album – we are at the mixing stage – is also just panning out naturally. We’ll see how things work out.”For tickets and information about Haifa Live: www.facebook.com/pages/Haifa-100-Live/627102490707783