Israeli band rolls through the states

By Colleen Seidel

Despite living the distance of an entire ocean plus one continent away from where they were… Despite living the distance of an entire ocean plus one continent away from where they were born, the members of the Israeli group Moshav Band are never too far from home. After a group of American college students raised funds to bring the boys ‘mdash; Yehuda, Meir and Yosef Solomon and Duvid Swirsky ‘mdash; to the United States in 1998, Moshav decided to focus more on touring and working in the United States to get its music out to a wider audience, said Yehuda Solomon in an interview with The Pitt News.’ The group is now based in Los Angeles, with Keren Teperberg replacing Meir, and tours around the country regularly, including a stop on Pitt’s campus this Sunday. But it’s the group’s music, an interesting and meaningful fusion of world styles from the Middle East, Israel and the United States, that always brings the boys ‘mdash; and their fans ‘mdash; back to their roots. ‘In a lot of ways, it’s my connection to my home,’ said guitarist Duvid.’ ‘Being in this band, it’s kind of like a turtle, carrying your home on your back.’ To me, when I get together with the band, it feels like I’m going home.’ It’s no surprise the four turned out to be as musical as they are ‘mdash; they grew up on Moshav Meor Modi’im, a musical village in the countryside between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.’ ”Moshav’ in Hebrew means ‘a dwelling place,” Yehuda explained.’ ‘There are a bunch of different moshavs in Israel.’ Ours was different because it was made up of Americans that moved there in the early ’70s, like an American bubble in Israel ‘mdash; very hippie-like, a lot of arts and crafts.” With American parents who brought American records and a lack of electronic entertainment (save for a record player), the boys were surrounded by music from the start.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘Listening to records are in my first memories ‘mdash; banging on pots with chop sticks, pretending I was in a band,’ said Duvid. ‘The only things we really had were guitars, mandolins and the record collection that our parents brought with them,’ added Yehuda.’ ‘We grew up playing music and listening to the music that [our parents] brought.’ That record collection included American icons such as Bob Dylan and Neil Young.’ And while these artists ultimately had an impact on the group’s music ‘mdash; no where is Dylan’s influence more present than the track ‘When I’m Gone’ off the band’s latest release Misplaced ‘mdash; growing up, the music was more different than anything its contemporaries were listening to. ‘It was very different. With the music in Israel, there are a lot of different styles. But [American music] was definitely different,’ said Yehuda.’ ‘Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of war and stuff like that, in that way . . . maybe the music was a little lighter.’ As far as the band’s beginnings go, ‘We just kind of hung out and jammed together and wrote songs,’ said Yehuda.’ And then it began playing in small clubs in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.’ ‘Israel is such a small country ‘mdash; it’s a 25-minute ride to Jerusalem.’ Over there you can’t really even say ‘touring.” It’s more like ‘short car ride,” joked Yehuda. It was in these clubs in the major cities where the band caught the attention of American college students ‘mdash; who eventually brought them overseas. ‘They wanted to bring the experience they had back to their campuses in North America,’ said Yehuda about the students’ work to bring the group to the United States a decade ago. For a while, the group split its time between touring the United States and living in Israel.’ It put out a few records on its own budget, but was really looking for a major label to release its music. That happened when Yehuda met famed music industry publisher Ronny Vance, who’s known for getting artists like No Doubt and 2Pac on the main stage.’ But not right away ‘mdash; it took some perseverance to get Vance on board.’ ‘ ‘It’s funny,’ began Solomon.’ ‘He was a big music industry guy.’ He’s Jewish, and one day he decided he needed to connect with his Jewish roots, so he moved to Israel.’ People told me I should go see him. I was naive and thought he would give me a record deal right away. ‘I met him and told him about us, and he was kinda sweet but at the same time kinda blew me off.’ But I didn’t give up.’ I kept going over to his house, kept playing him all our songs, and every time he’d be like ‘Yeah it’s all right, but there’s nothing I can do for you.” So I kept going over there until one day he stood up and clapped his hands and said, ‘Bravo, kids.’ Now that’s a piece of business.” The group’s first major-label release was 2006’s Misplaced.’ It’s a 13-track disc with a sound that defies any one category.’ Produced by Ron Aniello (Barenaked Ladies, Guster, Lifehouse), the sound fuses American rock, Middle Eastern vocal stylings and traditional percussive elements.’ Despite its eclectic array of influences, though, Moshav’s music is surprisingly accessible to the average listener. ‘It’s all different music that we love, that’s what we wanted to play,’ explained Duvid about the group’s influences.’ ‘It’s a challenge to fuse it into one thing that works.’ ‘It seems like you have to have that nowadays, something that makes you stand out a little,’ added Yehuda.’ ‘The response has been incredible.’ A decade down the road from when they first hit American shores, it seems Moshav Band has found success in its own right ‘mdash; which begs the question of how its popularity has been affected back home. ‘It’s funny, in Israel, anything from America is, like, automatically a success,’ laughed Yehuda.’ ‘It makes us more exciting for them.’ They start playing us more on the radio.’