In January I reviewed an eclectic Brit-pop album from Israeli artist, Benjamin’s Brother. I thoroughly enjoyed the updated, timeless sound and the poignant, honest lyrics. When the opportunity to have a conversation with the creator of this album appeared in my inbox, I was excited and terrified. Talking with people is not this introvert’s strong suite. I’m so thankful that I overcame my anxiety, though, because this guy is rad and I wanted to ask him everything about his life. We will start with my own aversion to the computer (I hate it). I’d neglected to check my email for quite a while:
Me: “I’m so sorry! I’ve been extremely negligent of anything to do with the internet for the past few weeks. Do you ever wish that you could just disappear for a while and come back to no piled up responsibilities?”
Benjamin’s Brother: “Every day, when I have to wake up for work. I wish I could just sit back, relax and play music. I wouldn’t mind being piled up with music duties, but in order to do that – I have to make money. Which means I don’t have to make music…
I do wish I could wake up with responsibilities that I love.”
Me: “Your wife just had a baby, right? How wild has that been?”
BB: “Well, no sleep but it’s worth it! But she was born with a lot of hair!”
(He sent me a photo. Lots of hair. Super cute!)
Me: “What instruments will you teach her to play?”
BB: “Piano definitely. She has long fingers. What ever comes after she will decide 😉 Do you play anything?”
Me: “I took twelve years of lessons. Piano, guitar, violin. Can’t play a note. I just don’t speak the language. I am so proud of the people for whom music comes naturally. I am not one of them and that is alright.”
“Is she your first child? What instruments do you play and when did you start?”
BB: “I don’t know how to read notes. I mean not as good as any musician. I started composing and making music at the age of 24. I played guitar and piano only by hearing the notes. And I still compose music like that. I hear in my head what I wanna play and I play it. My music is based on the atmosphere and by the feeling I wanna create. We have this joke in the band, whenever they want me to write the notes to what I play I always tell them that I have no idea what I played – I just play it!”
“That brings me to what you said – you’re not one of them. I don’t believe that in order to make music you have to be “by the book” musician. You don’t have to speak the language, you just have to feel it. And yes, she’s my first child. Her name is Gaby.”
Me: “What music do you want her to grow up with?”
BB: “Well as for now she likes Bon Iver, the new Beck, and Paolo Nutini. Hopefully she’ll figure out her own style soon enough.”
Me: “She has good taste so far! Have you always lived in Israel? What music did you grow up listening to? What musicians have influenced and impacted you?”
BB: “Well yes. I have always lived here. The music I grew up on was nothing like what do now.
I grew up on Arabic music, Jewish hasidic music, middle eastern music, and Israeli oldies music. But I ended up listening to the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync, from that point – I fell in love with pop music. And like every other musician (only late), I found out about the Beatles, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, played “Nothing Else Matters” as the first song on the guitar, and I evolved from that point to my opinion.
When I first found out indie folk rock music I knew I found my sweet spot. Ever since I’m trying to combine my love for pop music with the indie world. Hoping its going on ok 😉
My really first big influence was Bon Iver and Paolo Nutini. Most of the songs in the album are made under their impression.
But again, I feel like my Arabic influence got in there somehow. The long notes, some chords that were mistakenly out of the final scale and such. But maybe its all in my head…”
Me: “Can you tell me a bit about the rest of the band?”
BB: “Sure! Well, me and my producer recorded the album by ourselves in London almost two years ago. When I wanted to perform, I started playing with one of my oldest friends Yoav Gilad who’s my guitarist for the past year or so. Then came along my favorite drummer Roi Brum who played with us for the past 6 months, I’m playing on the acoustic and electric guitar, and a month ago two beautiful ladies joined us – Lihi Eshel on the bass and Eden Liberman on the keyboard.
We just had an amazing opening act to one of the greatest indie bands here in Israel in front of 400 people. In the Israeli scale – that’s fucking huge. So we’re happy! We’re now working on our album release tour, and hopefully we’ll get to to that also outside of Israel.”
Me: “I am excited for you all as a band and would love to hear how your sound has evolved with the addition of more talent. I wish you all weren’t halfway around the world from me. I also wish you all the best with the tour. It sounds like so many exciting things are happening for you! What developments are you hoping for in the next few years?”
BB: “Well it’s pretty simple – we wanna make music, perform all around the globe, and we’re even thinking about making money out of it (hopefully).
But seriously, we’re looking to expand and explore our limits as a band, record an album together, and get on the big stages such as SWSX, Glastonbury, Lollapalooza and such, and also come to a quick tour in the States. But for now we settle on working hard on our Israeli tour!”
Me: “I am so excited for you and I wish you the very best. A few more silly, personal questions–what is your choice of drink”
BB: “Beer. Beer. And more beer. There’s a bar next to my house that has a huge sign that says ‘To Beer Or Not To Beer’ I live by it.”
Me: “Fantastic answer (I had beer for dinner tonight, not with dinner, for dinner). Do you have a favorite kind? Also–have you had beer ice cream?”
BB: “I have to be honest – I haven’t tried the ice cream. If you know where to get, I probably never try it. Beer should stay as beer. Stop trying to modify it. It’s good like that!
Well I’m more of a lager blonde kinda guy. Love all the new Israelis beers (Alexander blond and the old famous “Goldstar” particularly) but a beer I’d choose anywhere? Stella Artois.”
Me: “Well, if beer ice cream isn’t your thing–what would be your choice of sweets or desserts?”
BB: “Gummy bears and profiteroles.” (Kate thinks: “Ugh–gummy bears. I could live on gummy bears.”)
Me: “What do you think you will you miss most about home while you’re touring?”
BB: “Well, that’s an easy one – my daughter!”
Me: Last one “When did you begin to consider yourself a musician?”
BB: “Well, I’ve never considered myself a musician, I just follow the rules of society and define myself so that people could fit me into some sort of box in their head. I hate definitions. I think the first time I ever said out loud that I’m a musician was in January 2014 when I got a scholarship to ‘Banff music centre”to , to make music for a month in a cabin with a grand piano inside while snow and elks are surrounded me. I got a card that says “Artist” on it. So when people asked me what kinda art do I do – I told them I’m a musician.
It took me a long time to realize that I’m a musician, and I still don’t think I deserve this title.
When I was a kid, all of my school mates told me I have a terrible voice, and I will never learn how to play a guitar.
I sing, I write, I compose, I have a band, I have an album. I think they were wrong.”