Israeli surf seemed like a kind of contradiction in terms when I first heard about it but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. I mean, there’s plenty of sand at least, right? After doing a piece on another Israeli surf rock outfit The Orions (Interview here), I got pretty interested in the incredibly diverse and radically underexplored scene that was unfurling before me. Among the numerous bands I came across though, RPS Surfers stuck out like a sore thumb, and in the best way possible sense. While there are a few other bands playing surf in the surrounding area of Tel Aviv, I had never heard a surf album quite like Danger Beach from anywhere on the planet, if a surf record is indeed what it is at all; I simply know it’s all killer, no filler from front to back and that I needed to learn more about the twisted DIY genius behind one of the best surf rock albums in the last decade. From the moment the needle drops on Danger Beach it’s evident that while RPS Surfers are both incredibly talented and extremely interested in classical surf and it’s roots, they’re completely uninterested in being confined by the predetermined notions of what one of those songs should sound like, or even what instruments should be used on them, as evidenced by the saxophone on “Matador”, the zany organ on the title track “Danger Beach” which also carries a heavy horn section and bleeds Morricone-esque Western and rockabilly from every pore, not to mention the accordion on “Poseidon Mahalo” or the violin on “Paper”. Don’t get me wrong though, “Silver Surfer” is just what it sounds like, an all out, balls to the walls surf extravaganza, and it’s not alone on Danger Beach, there’s plenty going on here for surf fanatics. I’m just saying there’s a little more to this band than one might think. On the verge of releasing several EPs and a sophomore album, RPS Surfers took a ton of time out of their extremely busy schedules to walk us through the ins and outs of one of the most innovative and original surf outfits going right now. Hang five, hell hang ten or some brain why don’tcha? And get some knowledge dropped on you Psychedelic Baby style!
Listen while you read: http://rpssurfers.bandcamp.com/
What’s the current lineup for RPS Surfers and what does everyone play? Is this the first lineup for the band or have you all made some changes since you started playing?
Tal: The current lineup is: Gal Hai - drums, Tal Oren - guitar, Shay Landa - organ, and Lior Romano - bass keytar. Initially the songs were written for a soundtrack of a surf film. Shay and I played the songs mainly to ourselves, eventually the film didn’t happen and we moved to other projects. Seven years later we decided to record those tunes. That happened to be shortly after we built our own studio in a friend’s garage. I played guitar, Gal played drums and Shay did the organ and bass tracks. The feedback we got on the recordings was positive and we asked to play live in clubs. After a while, Lior heard the songs and asked to join the band as a bass player.
Are any of you in any other bands or do you have any side-projects going on at this point? Have you all released any music with anyone else in the past? Can you tell us a little bit about that? I seriously love playing musical connect the dots but when I’m trying to research a band that’s outside of the country I’m operating at a little bit of a disadvantage since I don’t speak the native language and so forth.
Tal: Shay and mine’s first band as teenagers was called “Black Lord”. It was something like 70’s prog-rock meets Iron Maiden with some Middle Eastern vibes. We played live gigs and recorded an album, Black Lord in 2002, but as high school ended the band broke up. At that time I was very influenced by The Ramones and The New York dolls, so I wanted to make a basic punk band that sang in Hebrew about our lives; the band was called MSD. Shay played the bass, I played guitar, Gal drummed and two childhood friends, Avihai Zohar on guitar and Hanan Krispil on vocals, joined us. We recorded a 14 track hebrew punk album and did a lot of shows. The band broke up after five years and Gal, Shay and I went on to form RPS Surfers. I’m also part of the band HEADON, in which Yizhar Goldstein from Black Lord plays bass guitar as well as Gal. We just finished recording a four track demo with some stoner rock guitar riffs and Middle Eastern grooves. The Israeli Kiss, a tribute band to Kiss we only do on Purim holiday - the Israeli Halloween, features all the guys we’ve played with over the years. Every year we change the line up but I’m always Paul Stanley.
Lior: I currently play keyboards for Ester Rada who just recently released the album Ester Rada in 2014, I’m in a reggae and dub band Zvuloon Dub System who’ve released three albums, Freedom Time in 2012, Weed Out in 2013 and, Love Is Stronger this year in 2014, as well as a dance group Sheketak. I also started an Afrobeat band called Hoodna Afrobeat Orchestra with fourteen players.
Shay: Tal mentioned the three bands that we’ve played in together through the years, Black Lord, MSD, and Israeli Kiss, but I also used to play bass in the Hebrew punk band The Liars and keyboards for a rockabilly band called Benedikt. Recently, I’ve recorded for a lot of Israeli Indie/alternative rock bands. My favorites so far have been the organ recordings for the Sweatshop Boys debut LP The Great Depression, and the soon to be released debut album by 1, 2 Many.
Gal: Apart from all the projects with Tal and Shay mentioned above, I started out playing drums for two small jazz bands and a friend’s funk band in high school. I also played a band whose name means Midnight Carpool.
Now where are you all originally from and what was the local music scene like there when you were growing up? Did the local scene play an important role in shaping your musical tastes or in shaping the way that you perform at this stage?
Tal: Born and raised in Tel Aviv Israel. The music scene in Israel is all centered around Tel Aviv, so as soon as I got into rock music it was easy to go to gigs. The local music scene had a big role in shaping my musical tastes, I was introduced to surf music by a band called The Astroglides who played hardcore surf and had a small underground club in the city. Another band Boom Pam had a big impact on me when they blended surf guitar with gypsy Balkan music.
Shay: We’ve all been friends since high school. The local mainstream music in Israel is very bad, but the alternative/indie/DIY scene is extremely varied and interesting. This small scene also had a great influence on me. Another Israeli band who influenced me that Tal didn’t mention are Rockfour who made great psychedelic rock in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.
Gal: I think that the local scene has really changed in the past decade or so. Before the internet boom (Napster, Kazaa etc.) it was hard for bands in the Israeli underground scene to survive for long periods of time. There are always exceptions, but in general the potential audience is very limited. That also makes clubs close and change constantly. As a band, you have to be very stubborn and consistent. Right now, the scene looks a lot better. You hear about Israeli alternative musicians touring and getting some attention, but locally it’s still hard in the sense of getting people to come to shows. People are a bit too busy with Iran and economics, I guess.
What was your home like when you were younger? Was there a lot of music around? Were either your parents or any of your relatives musicians or extremely involved/interested in music?
Tal: No one plays any instruments in my family, but they love music and they love to sing. My father’s into Yiddish folk and Greek music, my older brother’s into trashy pop from Europe and I got my sister’s CDs, all classic rock and 90’s grunge. From there, I got into heavy metal somewhere along the way. I also had an aunt with a decent record collection, from which I heard the album In Search of Space by Hawkwind. That album influenced on me a lot.
Gal: Mom used to play piano and listen to a lot of Chopin, my dad played Flamenco guitar but was also a big fan of oldies music like classic jazz. We had an old VHS tape of my sister being carried around by my dad with Pink Floyd playing in the background, but I think it’s safe to say I got into classic rock mostly myself.
What was your first real exposure to music?
Tal: The tape in my father’s car and him singing along with the music.
Shay: At the age of thirteen Tal let me hear Led Zeppelin’s first album.
Gal: Listening to Metallica and Nirvana’s discographies at age fourteen.
Lior: Going to art in high school and majoring in music.
If you were to pick a moment, a moment that seemed to change everything for you and opened your eyes to the infinite possibilities of music, what would it be?
Tal: The first rehearsal I did with a drummer, it was great. We jammed and played some of my riffs, the feeling of playing with a band was the moment that changed everything for me.
Lior: Seeing a really funky street band playing in Tel Aviv. I think their name is Funk Hapoalim.
When and why did you decide that you wanted to start writing and performing your own music?
Tal: I was writing songs before I knew how to play an instrument. I used to sing with my friends on the breaks between lessons in school and make up names for bands. As soon as my first guitar lesson was over, I was writing a song with the two chords I’d learned that day.
What was your first instrument? When and how did you get it?
Gal: I think we all pretty much play our first instrument, as long as you don’t count my piano lessons when I was like seven. It’s pretty straight forward for kids brought up by middle-class Israeli families in the mid-late 80’s to be sent to piano/keyboard lessons by their parents. That goes for Shay, Lior and myself. Tal wasn’t pushed by his parents and went to a guitar teacher when he wanted to. I started playing drums at age fifteen because of Travis Barker. I liked his fast, chaotic, powerful, smart drumming.
How did you all originally meet and when would that have been?
Gal: It’s all sort of been covered in previous questions but here goes: Lior, Tal and Shay went to high school together. At that time they played basketball with each other, not music. Lior went on to play in jazz, funk and dub-reggae projects and Tal and Shay were more into the rock scene, in their prog-rock band. During their army service they were looking for a drummer for a Kiss cover band on Purim, which’s Halloween for Jews, sort of. My best friend’s brother was a very good friend of Shay and Tal and he recommended we meet. The connection was instant. I went and jammed at Tal’s house and was really surprised and excited to meet someone that had similar tastes to mine and knew how to play all the guitar licks I loved. After a few permutations of glam, punk rock and eventually surf, Lior messaged Shay on the internet. It made for an exciting high school reunion for them, so you could say.
What led to the formation of RPS Surfers and when would that have been?
Shay: Tal and I used to play some original surf tunes together for fun in high school. Later on, we wanted to record a soundtrack for a friend’s surf movie so we wrote some more tunes. The film wasn’t shot in the end, but we still wanted to record the tunes and were looking for a drummer for the recordings.
Gal: It was a natural choice for Tal and Shay to pick me as we were playing together for so long. They were in fact auditioning/looking for a drummer who was more familiar with 60’s music or with surf a background, but gave up because they couldn't find anyone to their liking. The chemistry between us at this point was great and we decided to give it a go. After playing surf together for a while, Lior asked to join the band. For us that was a compliment, as we think he’s a great musician.
Is there any kind of shared creed, code, ideal or mantra that the band shares or lives by?
Gal: That’s a tricky question. We come from different places, in both life and in music, in terms of ideology. I think the only code we all live by is making music for the sake of art and enjoying it as much as we can. A lot of bands have ego issues; we try to avoid that as much as we can.
Shay: I would say that the mantra is, “Have fun all day, play fun music, make people happy in your own original way, don’t play encores”.
What does the name RPS Surfers mean or refer to? I mean I can kind of guess at what the latter part of the name is in reference to but I haven’t been able to put the RPS together yet… Who came up with the name and how did you go about choosing it?
Gal: RPS stands for Rock Paper Scissors. When Tal was a teenager, he read an article in the newspaper about a Rock Paper Scissors contest and thought it would be a cool name for a band. That’s about it.
Where’s RPS Surfers located at these days? How would you describe the local music scene?
Gal: We’re all located in Tel Aviv. The mainstream music scene’s rather dry, but there’re a lot of interesting angles when it comes to alternative, indie, and electronic music. The biggest events in the non-mainstream scenes are in front of an audience of several thousand, tops.
Are you very involved in the local music scene? Do you feel like it’s played a large important role in shaping the history or RPS Surfers or the way you all sound? Or do you think that you all would sound like you do regardless of where you were at or what you were surrounded by?
Gal: Every band member has a very distinct style of playing, and the other members feed off that. It definitely improves every one of us as a musician, and I strongly believe that playing with each other had really influenced us as artists in all aspects, as well as musical tastes.
Shay: Playing in Israel has a great influence on our style in that our style differs from the regular known American surf as we’re exposed from a young age to oriental, Greek, Balkan and Arabic music which are more popular as well as western rock/garage/surf music. It’s all combined in a unique way.
The local alternative scene in Israel’s very small, so everyone here knows each other...
Do you book or attend a lot of local shows?
Shay: The scene in Tel-Aviv is small but intense. Everyday there’s some great shows around. So, I find myself at another show everyday. We perform, on average, about once in a week in the Tel-Aviv area.
Gal: I would say so. We’ve played almost all of the available venues for bands of our scale, and most of the big festivals in Israel. Maybe we should try our luck overseas. Surf revival events are popping up here and there, that could be something to look forward to for us.
Are you involved in recording or releasing any local music at all? If so, can you talk about that briefly now?
Gal: We’re on the verge of finishing the recordings for our second LP, which is fully funded by the Kol Hacampus radio station, as a part of their Harake project. Our label, Audio Montage, supports us when it comes to mixing, PR abroad, and some distribution. We were lucky enough to have one of our heroes as the producer of this album. That would be Uri Kinrot of Boom Pam. It was a pleasure working with him. We also intend on releasing a special edition single exclusively for Japan, with a cover of a X-Japan and a surf interpretation of an old Israeli hit that became a Japanese sensation, Ani holem al naomi. You can hear the original here.
Whenever I do these interviews I like to open the floor up to artists and let them describe their sound to our readers. I feel like when I do it, I’m putting in way too much of my own ideas and perceptions of the music. How would you describe your sound to our readers who might not have heard you before in your own words?
Shay: I don’t like the over-descriptive genres, the music attitude in the world is divided in two: “Rock’N’Roll” and “Not-Rock’N’roll”, we play Rock'N'Roll. But to be more specific, I would describe our genre as Mediterranean surf rock.
Gal: When I first described it to my parents, I said it was like The Shadows on speed. To be more accurate, it’s a dancing soundtrack to the Tel Aviv beaches, with some Middle-Eastern vibe and a dominant psychedelic analog organ sound, with roaming, wet reverb guitars. I think that answer came out pretty well. I might use that in the future. Thanks for that question.
We’ve talked a lot about the history of the band, where you all came from and how you’ve gotten to where you’re at but I’m really curious to hear who some of your major musical influences are? You all have an obvious surf influence but I can hear a lot of other stuff as well. Who are some influences on the band as a whole rather than just individually?
Gal: Our influences are all over the place, it’s really quite a mess. It’s true that you can hear similarities between us and classic surf bands like The Ventures or more harsh surf like Dick Dale, with a small taste of Aris San and maybe other Balkan music somewhere in between. The beauty is the individual taste each of us brings to the band, Lior bringing in the upbeat dance and sometimes dubbish feel, Shay the psychedelia and 60’s rock organ sound, Tal with semi-Greek, semi-metalish guitars, and myself with bits of 90’s rock or classic hard rock chops. A real boost to our shows is Roey Bar Yehuda. He plays real stylish rock’n’roll Saxophone, with classic garage power. He’s an awesome player, plays in a lot of bands and is practically the fifth member of the band. During shows it sometime seems like he brings the glue to stick everything together real tight.
Shay: If I had to pick some names of people who influence us all I would choose Iron Maiden, Iron Butterfly and Aris San. Up the Irons!
What’s the songwriting process with RPS Surfers like for the most part? Is there someone who will come in to practice or rehearsal with a riff or more finished idea for a song and kind of work it out with the rest of you all, or do you get together and just kind of jam and toss ideas back and forth and work them into a song from there over time?
Gal: For the most part - Tal writes the music, and plays it to Shay initially. At rehearsal we start playing around with the ideas and really build the song into what it becomes. Lior brought some songs to the band and the work process on them was similar. When Uri Kinrot started working on the second album with us he would change things around from time to time and had some really good input and ideas, but I would say the core of the songs stayed the same.
What about recording for you all? I mean, as a musician myself I think that at least most of us can really appreciate the end result of all the hard work, time and effort; holding your album in your hands and knowing that it’s yours is a hard feeling to beat. Getting to that point though, getting everything recorded, and especially sounding the way that you want it to as a band can be extremely difficult and time consuming to say the least. How is it for RPS Surfers recording?
Gal: The recording process was fun. It’s the time you have to spend waiting for the final product that exhausts you. We were greatly honoured to have fine musicians playing on our albums, great partners making the art for it, mixing, mastering, distribution, every part of making the album was a great deal of fun thanks to all those people. For me, the hardest parts are mainly the logistics and being so anxious to have something out, my lack of patience.
Shay: I agree with Gal. Recording the music’s always very short and fun, but the process of releasing the album is really annoying. It can take years from the end of the recording until the finished product is out, as it has to be mixed, mastered, have cover artwork, liner notes, there’s the manufacturing of the LP, etcetera...
Do you all head into a studio environment to record and let someone else handle the recording aspect of things so that you can kind of relax a little more and concentrate on playing, or do you all prefer to take a more do-it-yourself approach to music and handle things on your own time and turf?
Gal: Our first album, on Danger Beach was all DIY. Tal and I did all the recording. We even built the studio with our bare hands. Being supported by the Audio Montage label and Kol Hacampus, our second album will have more of the latter approach. I sincerely don’t know what our next release will be like, that’s really depends on time and money, but obviously the work process is going to be very different. Personally, I think having an extra pair of ears around really helps the recording process.
Do you all spend a lot of time working stuff out before you set out to record, getting all the arrangements and compositions all worked out beforehand? Or do you all get a good idea of how you want a song to sound, and then give it a little bit of room to change and evolve during the recording process where necessary?
Gal: By the time we get to the studio the songs are pretty organized in their final versions on the band level. All other instrumentations, strings, horns, effects, etcetera, are added later. We leave some room for those to play around with, but the general idea is pretty solid and we know it pretty well.
Shay: That’s true for the current recording process, but don’t forget that when we recorded Danger Beach LP most of the tunes were built during the recording process with only the melody and basic parts decided in advance.
You all have only released one album so far, but you’ve also been featured on a killer compilation Monsters Of Surf Guitar from Dingdong Records and have two singles and a follow up full-length scheduled for this year as well. Let’s talk a little bit about your debut album Danger Beach which was released earlier this year (2014) by Audio Montage Entertainment. Can you tell us a little bit about the recording of the material for that first release? How was it for you all? Was it a fun, pleasurable experience for you all? When and where was that material recorded? Who recorded it? What kind of equipment was used?
Shay: All the material for the Danger Beach LP was written in the years since high school. The mood of the tunes tries to convey our experiences from surfing at the Danger Beach. For that album each instrument/track was recorded separately. It was a common effort by Tal, Gal and I, building the studio, recording the music, producing it and it was a lot of hard work but it was also a lot of fun. For the musical equipment we used Fender guitars through a Fender Reverb amp, a Vox Continental organ (64’ English version) through bass amp, a Rickenbacker 4001 74’ Bass Guitar, and all the saxophones recorded were alto saxophones which are very rare on surf recordings. Every track was once again recorded by Uri “Mixmonster” Wertheim with analogue effects like tape delay, spring reverb, Fender echo-reverb oil can, etcetera...
Gal: It was all recorded by Tal and me in our friend Avihi’s garage. We built a studio there on the second floor. That meant construction, dry wall, acoustics, and recording equipment that we’ve collected over the years; used microphones, stands, cables and what not. None of the equipment we used was high-end or even close to that, it was all basic amps and mics, a basic drum set and an awkwardly tuned snare drum. Our intent was to make something that doesn’t sound like a generic record of our era. The recordings took a few weeks, including all the guest musicians. It was a great experience and we had no idea how far it would eventually go. Uri “Mixmonster” Wertheim, of The Apples, heard the material and it really caught his ear. He agreed to mix and master the material and put a lot of passion into it. We’re super happy with the results.
Is Danger Beach a limited release at all or is that an open ended pressing? If it’s limited, do you know how many LPs were pressed?
Tal: For now it’s limited edition of 500 copies worldwide. I hope we do a second pressing of the vinyl in the future.
Now when I was chatting with you all not too long ago, and as I mentioned above, you all have two singles that you’ve already recorded and are planning to release this year. Can you tell us a little bit about the singles? Who’s going to be putting them out? Is there any slated release schedule for them at this point? What material is going to be on there?
Shay: Actually we’re planning to release three 7’’ records. Two are from the upcoming album Harake Gang which will be distributed mainly in Israel, released by the Harake 106FM label, and one which will be distributed worldwide, but mainly in Japan which is going to be released by the Audio-Montage Label.
Tal: As for the first single, we just celebrated its release during the Record Store Day events not too long ago. There are two songs on it, “Hang 5” on side-A and “Morder” on the B-side. Those two songs were written back in the days when I was writing the songs for Danger Beach. Our producer, Uri, and Lior took them to another level with some new parts and massive bass. The second single isn’t recorded yet. I mean, the playback is recorded but it’s our first song with vocals. It’s going to contain a version in Hebrew and a version in English. We still haven’t decided who the singer will be, I want to sing, Shay wants to sing, and there’s also a thought that maybe Uri Kinrot should sing… We’ve thought about some other guys from the Israeli scene as well. You know what? If you’re reading this and you can sing, love surfing and comics, call us... The name of the song is “The Ballad of The Silver Surfer”.
Can you tell us about recording the material for the singles? Was it very different from the session(s) for Danger Beach? Who recorded the material for the singles and when would that have been? Where was it recorded? What kind of equipment was used?
Tal: Because the first album was so DIY, with the second one we wanted to care less about recording and focus on the playing. We started rehearsing and Uri K. would come and change the parts a bit and help us put the songs together. Later, we came up with some riffs and made songs out of them together with him one at a time. We loved his suggestions and he didn’t add much, just made the songs cooler. In the studio Uri K. teamed up with Uri W. as the engineer and created the sound together. We brought tons of gear to the studio, old analog organs and guitar amps, and old reverb unit… We were having a great time.
You also have another full-length album that’s coming out as well which I’m super stoked about! You all have a really cool sound so I’m happy that you’re getting a chance to get so much stuff out there. It seems like the more that a band’s able to work together in respect to making albums the more their sound gets refined and perfected in a lot of cases. Did you all try anything radically new or different with the material for the new album when it comes to the songwriting or recording of that material? What can our readers expect from the new album? Do you all have a title or record label worked out for it yet? Is there any scheduled, or planned, release date for the album at this point?
Shay: Well, Danger Beach was really the effort only of the three of us. We didn’t know what the album would be like be and which label would release it. The new album, Harake Gang, is recorded and supported by the Harake label; 106FM radio label. This is a more produced album with the old line-up together again with a new bass player, Lior. It was also done with devoted producer and engineer and stuff. This album will be more astro surf and biker rock than the traditional surf rock of the first album. The album’s going to be released in October of 2014, till then we’re going to release two singles from it with different mixes and versions of the songs than will appear of Harake Gang.
Tal: We added a keytar as the bass. It changed the sound quite a bit. Lior’s parts are different from what Shay played on the first album; Shay played the bass guitar on Danger Beach. As for the songwriting, I wanted to be very free with the songs. Most of them were just riffs, since I wanted everybody to get involved and make it more of a collaboration.
Does RPS Surfers have any music that we haven’t talked about yet, maybe a song on a compilation or a single that I might not know about? I know the track that you all had featured on the Monsters Of Surf Guitar compilation was also on Danger Beach but is there any exclusive tracks out there or anything?
Tal: We’re working on a score for a silent movie called The Unknown, as a part of a student film festival at Tel Aviv University. We’re going to play live while the movie’s screening, which should be challenging but very cool. That’s happening in June and we’re going to record it and release it on the web.
Other than the upcoming singles and full-length album are there any other releases in the works or planned for RPS Surfers at this point? I know that seems like a silly question but with the insane pace that you all keep up it’s not out of the realm of possibility at all, ha-ha!
Tal: We’re making a special single for Japan featuring Japanese and Israeli songs that we love and there’s that live score I just mentioned. After that we’ll probably record more original songs, there’s tons of material to work on.
Where’s the best place for our US readers to pick up copies of your music? With the recent insane international postage rate increases that just don’t seem to be letting up, or show any signs of going anywhere anytime soon, I try and provide people with as many possible options for picking up import releases as I can!
Shay: We only issued 500 copies of the Danger Beach LP, which are being distributed in the US, UK and Europe so I guess a lot of the record stores around the US didn’t get it. The best way is just to ask your local store to order the LP which is distributed by Kudos Records in the UK. That way it also help us spread the music and get known in new places.
What about our international and overseas readers?
Shay: International readers who want to get the Danger Beach LP can do the same as the US readers and try to get their local store to order it from Kudos Records Distributor or order it from the net, Juno, Amazon, etcetera. I’m guessing the shipping rates within Europe are cheaper.
And where’s the best place for interested fans to keep up with the latest news from RPS Surfers like upcoming shows and album releases at?
Gal: We’re in the process of building our own website. Until then, you can look us up on Facebook.
Does RPS Surfers have any major goals or plans that you’re looking to accomplish in 2014 or 2015?
Shay: Our goals are to first finish and release the Harake Gang LP and some EP’s and then do a big European and American tour. Next step is touring Japan.
What, if anything, do you all have planned as far as touring this year?
Shay: We’re planning an Israeli Beaches tour as well as playing some festival in Israel and the regular local gigs, we hope to tour Europe and the US this summer and play some festivals, but it’s difficult to book as we work independently, all DIY.
Do you all spend a lot of time out on the road touring? Do you enjoy touring with RPS Surfers? What’s life like out on the road for RPS Surfers?
Shay: As of now, we’ve only toured Israel so we don’t really live on the road as Israel’s very small, though we do have at least one gig a week. Touring’s really fun and we have some different sets, one is more Danger Beach oriented without Lior and the other is Harake Gang oriented with Lior, and we also have a new acoustic set with buzuki and accordion.
Do you remember what the first song that you ever played live as RPS Surfers was? When and where would that have been at?
Tal: It was in a record store called The 13th Floor in Tel Aviv. I think Shay and I played most of the songs that later became Danger Beach. I played guitar and Shay played the accordion. That was as early as ten years ago, I guess.
Shay: After that show we didn’t play live as RPS Surfers again until Gal joined at 2010. Then it took two more years until we played at any big venues around Tel-Aviv.
Are there any funny or interesting stories, from live shows or performances that you’d like to share here with our readers?
Tal: At one of our live shows Shay ate a banana between songs and made some girls lose their head.
Who are some of your favorite bands that you all have had a chance to share a bill with or perform with so far?
Tal: We opened for the ten year anniversary of the band Boom Pam. That was very much of a closure thing. When they started the band, I heard them and it influenced me to write surf songs. Ten years later we’re opening for them in front of a sold out club with around a thousand people in the crowd.
Shay: On the international level we’ve had the chance to play with the world punk band Firewater. As far as the local scene goes, we often play with The Orions (Interview here), the Meatballs, and Electric Zoo. Anytime we share the stage with a great band we try to collaborate and bring one of the members up on stage to play something special with us.
Do you all give a lot of thought to the visual aspects that represent the band like artwork for flyers, posters and covers? Is there any kind of message or idea that you’re trying to get across with your art? Is there anyone that you usually turn to in your times of need when it comes to that kind of thing, and if so who is that and how did you get hooked up with them originally?
Tal: We usually work with Dar Golan on graphics. The cover of Danger Beach is the work of Kip from Ghost Town. We try to fuse styles of graphics like we do with the music, i.e. an American 60’s poster with Communist Russian vibes that shows a beach in Israel. I think the fusion is a very Israeli thing, as a young country our culture combines influences from all over the world along with Jewish folklore. We can start a sentence in Hebrew, add a few English words to it, and then end it with an Arabic word, such things are very common here.
With all of the mediums that are available to musicians today I’m always curious why artists choose and prefer the various methods that they do. Does RPS Surfers have a preferred medium of release for your own music? What about when you’re listening to and or purchasing music? If you do have a preference can you tell us a little bit about why?
Tal: We’re into vinyl. That’s where we learned about music when we were young and the internet was just starting to pick up speed. We went to record stores to learn about new music and to hear the classic artists. Back then, you could buy the entire discography of a band for the price of one CD. Nowadays, vinyl’s making a comeback and we prefer to release our album in that medium and over the web as digital files.
Do you have a music collection at all? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?
Tal: I have a small collection of two hundred vinyl albums. Most of them are 70’s classic rock and early 80’s heavy metal.
Shay: I have a large vinyl collection, I have several thousand LPs and 7’’s. Most of them are different rock genres from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, with a lot of classic rock, surf/rockabilly, psychedelic, blues rock, glam originals from the USA and the UK as well as a big collection of old, obscure and rare Israeli music also.
I grew up around my father’s enormous collection of vintage psychedelia, garage rock and blues, and beyond that I was really encouraged to dig in and enjoy it from a very young age. I remember pulling stuff off the shelf, sticking it into the player, kicking back with a set of headphones, staring at the cover artwork, reading the liner notes and letting the whole experience transport me off to another time and place. Having something physical to hold in my hands, something to experience along with the music always made for a much more complete listening experience to me. Do you have any such connection with physically released music?
Shay: As teenagers we used to spend a lot of time in record stores. In those days, the internet didn’t have the possibilities it has today, so that was our way of discovering music. We just bought the records that looked cool to us after staring at the cover and then discovered the music at home during a listening ceremony and got attached to the format. That’s why we insist on releasing all of our albums on the vinyl format even in small amounts, as well as getting the best artists to design the covers.
Tal: Yeah, the reissue releases usually have inner notes that I love, and I’ve learned a lot from them. Of course the covers of Iron Maiden, as a teenager I would listen to an album and just look at Eddie and the cover the entire time.
As much as I love my music collection having a digital backup of almost my entire collection has really changed things for me. For the first time I’ve been able to really take my collection out on the road with me, it’s changed the way I experience and enjoy music a lot more than I thought it would to be honest. That’s not even the crazy part though; when you combine digital music with the internet you’ve really got a game changer on your hands! Together they’ve exposed people to an entire world of music that they otherwise would never have even heard of, myself included. It seems to have leveled the playing field somewhat for independent bands, allowing them to interact with their fan bases like never before and somewhat leveled the playing field. On the other hand illegal downloading is running rampant and it’s harder and harder to get noticed in the chocked digital jungle out there right now. As an artist during the reign of the digital era, what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?
Tal: I love the digital world and what it gave to musicians and music lovers around the world. The fact that someone can tell you the name of a band they like and you can just type their name in a search box to hear their music is pretty amazing. In the past, you had to borrow the CD or vinyl from that friend/a record store. The business part is complicated because no one wants their art to get stolen. People want to get paid for their work. This is why I’m so into vinyl. For a new band the digital format is a must nowadays, you need your music online for the exposure. Vinyl’s the next level for a band who wants their fans to psychically buy their music.
Shay: Music lovers buy digital releases as well; it really helps the independent bands. Illegal downloading is also acceptable, as long as you download great music and expose others to and encourage them to buy it. Music fanatics will always prefer having the physical album as it’s more ritualistic. In our case, we even did a different master for the vinyl, so it actually sounds even better.
I try to keep up with as much good music as I possibly can but even with all of the amazing advantages that the internet and stuff provide, there’s just not enough time to keep up with even one percent of the awesome stuff that’s going on out there right now. Is there anyone from your local scene or area that I should be listening to that I might not have heard of before?
Shay: All of the Audio Montage releases are great. My favorites are Boom Pam, Balkan surf, Uzi Ramirez a blues rocker, the master of the guitar and Monti-Fiori, rock’n’roll with Italian flavour. Other independents worth notice are, Electric Zoo, a young blues rock band with the Israeli Jimi Hendrix Gal Davidson, Haxxan, killer garage band, and Aris San (R.I.P.) the man who first introduced the surf guitar sound into Israeli music in the 60’s.
(2014) RPS Surfers – Danger Beach – digital, 12” – Audio Montage Entertainment
Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
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