November 22, 2006
missFlag shuns politics for love in Israel’s indie rock scene
missFlag, an up-and-coming indie band from Israel, hopes to receive some special attention of its own when it makes its first stab at securing a place in the history of commercial pop music success stories.
The band just made its live debut in the United States with a handful of shows in the L.A. area, including at the Cat Club on Sunset Blvd. Besides getting a feel for American audiences, missFlag positioned itself to showcase for Universal Records, looking for a deal that would allow them to plant their flag firmly on American soil.
The band began its rise two years ago, in Jerusalem, with five local musicians, ages 20 to 32, all born in Israel with the exception of singer Ohad Eilam who was born in New York and moved to Israel with his parents when he was 7.
"The music community of Jerusalem is very small," Eilam said, "so all of us in the band really knew each other already from having been involved in other musical projects in the same scene. One day we just started collaborating, and we committed to it."
While the bandmates became bar mitzvah and are all practicing Jews, none of their songs reference Judaism and they say they would rather leave the topic of Israeli politics to the politicians. Instead, the band writes lyrics shying reflecting on the universal problems of love rather than personal problems tied to a war-torn Israel.
Establishing the common human connection of love with American audiences may be a smart way to go if they are going to conquer American radio airwaves, although American audiences might be more inclined to accept songs of political protest these days.
In late November, missFlag will release their songs, which are sung in English, on a full-length album to be sold on the Internet via the band's website www.missflag.com. The album, titled "To Infinity," was produced by Guy Erez, who is noted for his work with pop sensation Ryan Cabrera and the Gipsy Kings, among others.
"A friend of the band got us in touch with Guy. At first we asked him for advice and then it just turned into more of a working relationship," Eilam said. The result of this relationship culminated in Erez flying to Jerusalem to help the band record the album this past July.
At the Universal Records showcase Nov. 14 at the Temple Bar in Santa Monica, missFlag's music combined mood-altering piano acoustics reminiscent of the band Coldplay with vocals that transcend the likes of Thom Yorke from Radiohead.
Despite the simple melodies of their entire love-song repertoire, the reverb pulsating from the stage on this day was enough to shake all the Buddhist-inspired accoutrements hanging on the dark walls of the club.
The band performed each song happily, bouncing up and down to the beat of its own drummer, literally. The music inspired some of the patrons to tap their toes while others sat stoically, arms folded. After each song, a round of enthusiastic applause was heard, and then the real test began for the band, not knowing how many songs the Universal representative wanted to hear and not having any idea if she liked it. The uncertainty of the etiquette required in this situation left both band and onlookers uneasy, as they waited after every song for Erez, also in the audience, to call out, "Next song."
After playing seven or so originals and one cover song, a-ha's 1985 hit "Take On Me," the Universal rep called it quits and exited out the back door.
For a band whose future so clearly depends on signing its musical rights away to the big showbiz guns of Los Angeles, the guys didn't appear too nervous. It just goes to show that if you wave your flag high enough, odds are someone is bound to see it.