Seven unmasked avengers wave their flag in foreign lands in the name of rock, sort of...
Earlier this year, the genre-bending Israeli indie band called Acollective first appeared on American soil with hopes of taking over. Starting with SXSW, their US invasion, which included an interesting gig at the Savannah Music Festival, was energetic, if not powerful, in that who would have thought that a seven-piece band from Tel-Aviv, who has been rocking Europe for years, could move fickle hipsters nationwide? If you let them tell it, their eclectic mix of electronic jazz, psychedelic folk, Middle-Eastern-blues was meant to be.
Why the name Acollective? It’s impossible to Google you know…
It was actually chosen as the most Google friendly name. Hmmm… We didn’t really start out as “a band,” just a couple of friends meeting to make noise. We used to call those meetings “the collective” (or “ha-kol-eh-kteev” in Hebrew, with an Anglo-Saxon-Russian twist). When we had to choose a name, thinking of anything else felt a bit contrived and unnatural, so we had to stick with that name. Also, we like the ambiguity in it.
All seven members of the band shared a two bedroom apartment in London while recording Onwards, which must have been an intense bonding experience. Who was the messiest? How did you find a way to get along?
It’s a form of organised chaos — each of us is unbelievably messy, but we manage to find an equilibrium. Also, we never get along anyway, so it felt quite natural.
How did you meet producer Chris Shaw? Who decided to record the album in Tel Aviv and not London? Was it his first time in Tel Aviv?
We actually only met him in person almost a year after we first got in touch. We started out looking for producers for the album, and started drawing up names of fantasy producers (if we were super rich and they would answer our emails).
Chris was one of the only unanimous decisions, from the start, and we clicked instantly. He was really eager to take the project on board and we sent him a bunch of sketches to get a sense of some of the material.
It kind of made sense for him to come to Israel rather than try and commute our circus to NY (not including instruments). Also, it was really nice to record at a place that felt like home. He came to Israel to spend a week of pre-recording before going into the studio, and spent a month tinkering about with us there. It was his first time in Israel, though I’m sure that if you ask him he’ll say he wasn’t actually “in Israel,” more like locked with us in a studio for a month.
Why did you decide to record the album in live takes?
Chris really wanted us to get as much down live as possible, particularly after seeing us play the album start to end. It made sense, in a way, and gave a really dynamic feel to each of the takes — we’re very much a live band, and have always been.
It was a bit of logistical nightmare, as we had to find ways to get all seven of us recording. So some of us had to spend takes and takes isolated in the basement or the stairwell, because that was the only possible space to set up. Chris loved it.
Can you tell us a bit about how you and Roy met?
We met in the army. Probably the only good thing to come out of that.
What’s the worst show you ever played?
A venue in London, two years ago. Three people in the audience — an eccentric elderly man of an unidentifiable sexual orientation dancing with himself, and a homeless woman being violently dragged out of the venue by the bartender. It was like a David Lynch scene.
Acollective has a sort of onstage spontaneity and chaos that’s found in bands like Gogol Bordello and DeVotchka, but rarely in bands with a more indie rock bent. Were you influenced by those bands?
Can’t say we were influenced directly by them, but it’s the sort of thing that just always happened since we started playing together. In a way, it was there a lot before the songs.
You went to Oxford, what were you studying?
Politics, Philosophy and Economics. It was always cold, which sucked, and it was hard to be in the band while studying. I did read a couple of interesting books though, which was cool.
Oh? Which books?
I can’t say I “read” books properly, more like gulped down pages upon pages during the binges of tutorial assignments. Some of it was fascinating — political philosophy was always my guilty pleasure.
To be honest, the best books I read were the last books I read before studying — Lord of the Barnyard, which is just a perfect piece of literature, and the trashy spy romance I read immediately after finishing my degree.
“Simon Says” is like a call to arms against conformity. What bothers you about rules and structure? How do you decide when chaos is beautiful and when it’s crap?
Rules are stupid when they’re artificial or arbitrary, or when you got locked up.
I’ve heard the band members described as diverse, that you come from different backgrounds, different perspectives. To the outside world you are a band from Tel Aviv, so can you explain more please?
We all come from different musical backgrounds (punk, metal, folk, blues, electronic music, industrial, funk, classical) — so it’s a mix of musical perspectives. At the end of the day I think it’s the way we’ve managed to find our sound or the unique way we’d like to hear the songs played. It’s not always easy, but it’s very much rewarding.
Onstage, band members swap instruments with freewheeling abandon. Anything you won’t try as a band? Anything you won’t try in life?
Sharing woman. Both on stage and in life.
Is there a story behind the song “Girls” then? Of all the songs ever written with that title, this one seems to have the least to do with women, love, etc…
The song is about sharing girls.
When you’re touring, how do you get all seven members to agree on a place to eat? Food is obviously important…
You have no idea how insightful this question is for us at the moment. So — to answer:
We spend four hours arguing in the middle of the street, get tired and then eat at the nearest place. We are then filled with tragic regret.