Following her instincts

Emily Karpel says her electro-pop sound is part of the change that's coming to the local music scene.

dash cover 248 (photo credit: )
dash cover 248
(photo credit: )
The following is the cover story of d"ash magazine - The Israeli magazine for English speaking young people around the world An average CD collection of Israeli music will likely contain albums by artists like David Broza, Rami Kleinstein and Rita with their soft rock numbers and soothing lyrics. Until recently, an album like Emily Karpel's Freckles with its electro-pop tunes would have had only a slim chance of inclusion. And while she still doesn't fit the mainstream profile, her debut album is selling beautifully and topping charts. We meet at her favorite Tel Aviv coffee shop. She wears a black leather jacket over an '80s style T-shirt. Her hair is wild, her jewelry minimal. She looks cool. No wonder fashion magazines refer to her as one of our best-dressed stars. When I comment on her style she laughs and tells me to stop wearing Crocs. "I was always into fashion," she recalls. "As a kid I used to rummage through my mom's closet for things I liked. Now, whenever I see something interesting I buy it. The Jaffa flea market is a good source." Moving the conversation back to music, I ask when we can catch her on stage. Emily surprises me: "There will definitely be shows, but right now I'm much more interested in getting back into the studio to record my second album. The first was sort of about a lost kid wanting to grow up. I know the second is going to be more mature, but the pop sound is going to stay." Since she plans to stick with pop, I wonder why she chooses a sound so different from mainstream Israeli music. "It's not a question of choice," she says earnestly, "this is simply music that I love and that I want to do. I always do only things I believe in. Besides, the music I enjoy the most ¬Asaf Amdursky, The Ivrit and Marioneta Sol ¬ is played by bands that make a different, more '80s style electro-pop-type sound. And they're succeeding, aren't they? Change is in the air ¬ I am only one element of it." Her songs are happy and funky, with catchy melodies. The title song Freckles, for instance, conjures up Joe Jackson's 1980s pop hit Steppin' Out. But listen more carefully and you'll feel a sadness buried in the lyrics. Move on to Emily's Myspace profile and you'll discover Serge Gainsburg among her friends. Gainsburg, with his Euro Electro music and au contraire Chanson melancholy lyrics, seems to be a big influence. That's soon confirmed by Emily in person: "I love Serge and the contradictions he conveys. They create an emotional stir. I have the same contradictions within me. I can be very happy and loose, but deep-down there's also sadness and solitude." Emily's standout style is apparent not only in her appearance but also in her videos. The Freckles video, one of a thousand entries, recently won a best director award for Ofir Lobel at the High Desert Short International Film Festival in Las Vegas. "I'm very happy," says Emily, "everyone worked really hard on the clip. I'm thrilled that it paid off." The next minute, someone phones to tell her that the Hebrew version of her song Except for You (also the soundtrack for the latest Fox fashion label commercial) has become the most-played song on the radio. Emily's delighted. She smiles when I tell her that young people really love her. She sips her tea contentedly. She appears to be a very happy person. I can't see any of the sadness that she mentions. She explains: "My parents got divorced when I was a child and I haven't seen much of my father. Also, a favorite uncle died when I was a kid. I carry that sadness with me. "With time I learned to accept it and to live with it, but it comes out in my album. For example, in the song Here I Stand, I'm really talking about every male figure in my life ¬ from my dad to my uncle to every boyfriend I've ever had. Most people see it as a song about couples, and that's OK. Everyone should interpret a song just as they like." Emily Bio Emily, 28, was born in Montreal, Canada. Her mother was in the fashion business and her father was a musician. The family immigrated to Israel when she was three. When she was 15, they moved to Holon, south of Tel Aviv. It was then that Emily won a role on Youth on the Way, a popular TV show about a youth band that travels around Israel, performing in unlikely places like old folks homes. In the army, she served in an entertainment troupe. After the army she worked with Shlomo Artzi, Ricky Gal, Metropolin and other top performers. She married music producer Tomer Lantzinger four years ago. After three years of intense work, they released her first solo album Freckles. It was an instant success, with three hit singles ¬ Drop, Except for You and Freckles. Foxy commercial Many call the Fox fashion company, with its reasonably-priced trendy clothes, the Israeli equivalent of Gap. In its commercials though, it's closer to Levi's. The company has a history of picking up unknown songs for its commercials and transforming them into chart-topping hits. Fox has always used foreign, English-language songs. But this time, in search of a soft ballad, they came across Emily's new album and the minute they heard Except for You they were hooked. "We were asked to re-do the song in English," Emily reveals. "They asked us to re-work it in English, because their soundtrack is always in English. We were happy to comply, and we're very pleased with the result. It's a very aesthetically pleasing commercial." At the same time, Emily released the song as a single in its original Hebrew. It was a huge success, rising quickly to No. 1 on the local charts.