SKIRTING central Tel Aviv in a quaint tucked away quarter, live creatives Ran Shem Tov and Shiri Hadar of band Izabo. Nestled directly beneath them is their music studio bursting with instruments and obscure objects, a haven for their musical vision.
Ran is the driving force and main writer for Izabo, playing the guitar and leading the vocals, he also produces for artists including Yehudit Ravitz, Anat Dmon and Dikla. Shiri plays keyboard in the band and is a solo artist in her own right, producing her latest album purely in Hebrew.
In 2004 they released an EP with Sony BMG and are now signed with the 100% Records in London, alongside big name bands Skunk Anansie and Monarchy. The band launched their new album, Life Is On My Side, a few months months ago.
Slanted Mansion learns how patriotism, Israel’s turbulence and Tel Aviv’s collective spirit has added to their creativity.
Ran is a self-taught musician.
R: I used to paint and do sculpture, but then I picked up the guitar and music was way better. I never went back. One day I decided to buy a guitar and write songs and that was it. After playing guitar, it is easy to play bass. More or less. Then drums took me a while to play and to be professional, but I practiced. It’s longer and harder, but I like to find things on my own. You do it the wrong way, but you learn stuff that those that did it right will never see.
When Izabo is together, Ran records highly detailed demos which are played to the band, who may then offer changes.
R: When I write the songs, I have the vision of the arrangement in my head. Before this album, I did hundreds of demos that weren’t produced. I am used to it because you do stuff that doesn’t come out. I am not a guy that cries about what didn’t happen.
Having recently shifted to their new home after living to the north of Tel Aviv for more than 15 years, Ran’s long hours and odd sleeping habits meant building a studio beneath their home was the prefect solution.
R: I am used to sleeping just four hours. I don’t need more than six hours and four is okay. I got used to these kinds of hours when I was in the army.
S: Because of the Army!?
R: Yeah, when I was in the Army.
S: You were two minutes in the Army.
R: No, it was a year and a half. My food habits and my sleeping habits changed.
Ran completed less than the three years conscripted service which all men and women from 18 years, must serve in Israel.
R: I didn’t like the Army, so they let me go. You need to have a problem with your body or your mind to be let go. I acted like I had a problem here [points to the head] and then I was let go.
Shiri completed her service in security, where was given the option of working with the dead or injured, she chose the former. Shiri’s job was to sit with the bodies and console their families.
S: I just said I would go with the dead, I didn’t know why. I am saying to my child, I hope in my heart, that when you are 18 you won’t have to enter the army. My mother told me this also, but it didn’t happen. Then, due to medical reasons they discharged me like I had done full service.
Ran and Shiri have a palpable sense of pride for their country, it was this desire to champion their heritage that lead them to enter into the Eurovision song contest in 2012 . This was a controversial decision for some in the industry. It also meant they had to go against their previous beliefs of using two languages in one song.
R: We had to do it otherwise they wouldn’t have taken us. English is a better language for rock music. I find it more musical. Translating songs between languages is always compromising. It’s a different song. I don’t believe in two languages for one song.
With violence an immediate presence in their lives, Shiri explains how it has affected both the world’s view of Israel and Tel Aviv’s collective mindset.
S: It’s totally different in Israel to what you see in the news. You come here and you feel the sunshine, the beach and people are really having fun. I think though, deep down it’s in our DNA, the security thing. I think it’s really affected our society.
There are a lot of people, Tel Aviv is a really small city.
Everybody here is doing something creative. EVERYBODY!
And I think it’s because of the security. Insecurity. The urge to do something. Everyone you ask in the street is some kind of artist.
Or wants to be.
Interview: Siobhan Frost
Edited by: Nicola Robey