Home-grown band featured at 21st edition of Piano Festival in Tel Aviv

A folly by any other name

THE PARTICIPANTS in this year’s Piano Festival gather for a group photo this week.  (photo credit: YAEL TZUR)
THE PARTICIPANTS in this year’s Piano Festival gather for a group photo this week.
(photo credit: YAEL TZUR)
As band names go, Folly Tree is up there with the more subtle ones. Folly suggests some kind of foolishness or absurdity. Alex Moshe would probably go along with that.
Moshe is the founder vocalist, and – often - guitarist, of the said musical project that has been doing the rounds of the country, and various spots in Europe, for the last half dozen years or so. It slots most comfortably into the indie category – that is, if pigeon-holing must be done – and Moshe will lead her merry melodic band at the Mizna Blumenthal Gallery of the Tel Aviv Museum on November 15 at 10:30 p.m. as part of this year’s Piano Festival.
Twenty-something Moshe has been pounding the artistic beat for a few years now, and appears to be intent of honing her craft just about as far as it will go. That is the reasoning behind the band’s moniker and is central to her credo. There is a saying in Hebrew that if you don’t make mistakes you don’t learn anything. Moshe follows a similar line of thought which, after all, is a tenet of any creative avenue. “Art comes from exploration, from the wounds. You can’t really do something that is perfect and devoid of defects.”
Moshe sensed that from the off. “It’s funny. I had a song lined up for the first album, before it came out, which opened with the line: ‘Please forgive my folly,’” says the singer who was born in Montreal, Canada, and immigrated to Israel at the age of four. “I really liked the word. It seemed precise. And, one day, when I was thinking about a name for the project I dreamt about this sequence – folly tree. I looked it up in Google. It sounded a bit strange.”
Moshe found a point of reference, of sorts, way over the horizon. “I found a café by that name in Australia,” she laughs.  “That was the only mention of those two words together. So, I thought it sounded weird enough but also logical.
The untested syntactical confluence was duly adopted, with a little biblical innuendo sewn into the titular seams. “It is the opposite of the Tree of Knowledge,” Moshe suggests. “It is when you don’t know anything that you can learn. As an artist you always have to keep on learning.”
INDEED, IT is the imperfections in us that keep us on the move up life’s learning curve. As late legendary poet-musician Leonard Cohen posited in “Anthem,” on his 1992 record The Future: “Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
The upcoming Folly Tree gig will feature a slew of songs, including material from the band’s debut release, Consolidate, from 2017 and numbers Moshe penned for the sophomore recording which she hopes will be out there in the coming months.
Although still in her twenties – albeit on the cusp of her next decade – Moshe has been working on her lyrical acumen for quite some time. “I still have my first song notepad, from the age of seven,” she smiles.
It has proven to be an enduring touchstone, rather than just the fruits of insouciant endeavor consigned to a proverbial drawer of emotive but uninspiring keepsakes. “I sometimes go back to it to look at what I wrote as a little girl.”
Moshe always wrote in English, even in infancy, despite growing up with Hebrew. “I don’t know if that is connected to Canada, or to my musical influences, even if they were the trashiest around when I was in my adolescence.” For a while she tried to create in the language of her adopted home. “When I was in the army I wrote some songs in Hebrew. I even recorded an album in Hebrew with [guitarist and producer] Ariel Tuchman, but I decided not to release it.”
Mention “singer songwriter” and “Canada” and, for most, that conjures up the name of Joni Mitchell. The iconic Canadian artist was a powerful influence on Moshe and also helped her to keep things together during a trying time of her life. “When we went on the school trip to Poland, you know, to concentration camp sites, I listened to her music the whole time on the bus trips. She sort of kept me on an even keel. That was a time when her music was very meaningful for me.”
There is certainly a poetic quality to Moshe’s lines, and one might venture that there is something in the descriptive element that could be traced back to Mitchell and her ilk. But, of course, Moshe is the product of her own time, and personal and cultural baggage.
“It is hard for me to say what impacts on my work,” she notes. “There are so many influences and so many things come into the equation when you write a song that you soak up like a sponge. It doesn’t just have to be music you have heard. It can be books you’ve read, movies you’ve watched, people you meet and just life itself. It is hard to put your finger on a specific thing. Maybe someone else can pinpoint some influence on me, but I don’t consciously notice these things.” 
FOR MOSHE, it is just about getting on with her creative work. The band with which she recorded Consolidate and toured intensively for four or five years, is no more. “When we came back from those gigs in Sweden and Hungary it was pretty clear that we’d come to the end of our road together,” she recalls. “We went through life changes, we were all working on all kinds of projects, and we went our different ways.”
Not one to rest on her laurels, Moshe quickly set about getting on with the nest chapter of her personal and professional life. A long-term relationship came to an end, and a new partner in love came along. And Moshe got herself her very own studio with all the requisite equipment instruments, and began crafting her next recordings, some of the fruits of which will be on show at the Tel Aviv Museum this Friday.
The aforementioned indie delineation infers something of a tender-sounding approach to imparting her thoughts and feelings, although there are some darker sentiments in Moshe’s lyrical mix, such as on “My Emptiness.” Lines such as “I’d like this space to be left empty, it’s my one need, it’s where I scratch the walls and bleed” suggest there’s some angst in there behind the sunny countenance I met in Tel Aviv’s hip Florentin district a few days ago.
Challenging baggage notwithstanding, Moshe’s vocal delivery tends to the gentler side. I ask whether she ever gets the urge to let it all hang out, with something a little more elemental, say, louder rougher vocals and maybe a little guitar distortion. Moshe says there may be something in the offing there.
“This week I took my first voice-training lesson since I was at school,” she laughs. “I suddenly thought that I don’t allow myself to shout, not when I sing and not in life. That’s important. I really need to open that up.”
The Tel Aviv Museum audience won’t be subjected to any outpourings of wrath from Moshe or her new partners in musical crime. “We are playing in a gallery, and the museum people asked us to perform without drums, and not to play too loudly, because of the fragility of the works of art there,” she explains. “That’s OK. It should be fun anyway.”
There is plenty of fun, and artistic variety, on offer across the November 13-16 program in the 21st edition of the Piano Festival. 
For tickets and more information, call *9080 or go to zappa-club.co.il.