Gaining a new perspective on the world with Noga Erez
NOGA EREZ is a musical force.
Her songs are full of strength, knowledge and power, something that the artist herself, has in spades.
Whilst living in Tel Aviv on Israel’s coastline, the artist has been exposed to some corrupt and frustrating events that have allowed her to channel her anger into electronic messages that we all desperately need to hear.
The world is a crazy place and Noga is simply trying to make sense of it all in a musical medium.
We chatted to her about her experiences and thoughts on what her world is like and how she feels about becoming such a relevant artist in this confusing age.
You’ve just returned home from playing SXSW, how what that experience?
It was crazy. Everyone prepared me for how crazy it’s gonna be, but I didn’t realise how crazy. It was all so big and packed with people, just so many things happening at the same time. It was confusing and fun [laughs]. I don’t think I would have gone if I was in the crowd, it’s too much for me.
The lyrics to your songs are quite political and have a very strong message about what’s happening in the world. Are you involved in politics at home? Have you participated in many campaigns or protests like most people are in America right now?
No, I’m not an activist at all. I’m a musician one hundred percent. The kind of stuff that I write about comes out political, but it’s all very, very personal. It tells a story about my personal experience living in a place that has a lot of issues and a lot of complexities. It’s a place that always gets me asking questions. I can’t really agree with everything that’s going on around me and it’s so frustrating to know how little control I have over things. These things are happening in a way that really gets to me and just gets me so pissed off at times and even when I’m not aware that I’m pissed off about what’s happening around me, I’m just kind of stressed. I think that that’s the kind of state you can be in when it has to do with the place that you come from. You’re in a situation where even if you’re not waking up in the morning to go and protest at the parliament or something you’re still affected by the situation. So, I’m not an activist but I am aware of what’s happening in my country and in the world because I’m very curious about it and it kind of bothers me. It’s just a very personal kind of thing.
Your music always has such a strong message and tells stories that are quite intense, like ‘Pity’ for example. The song touches on a topic that’s very relevant to our times and has a message about how we’re treating one another. When you’re writing your songs, do you tend to have the message you’re trying to get across in your mind already, or does it seem to just organically make its way into the music?
It changes from one song to another. A lot of songs are written during a time where my mind is very occupied by a certain subject. I have this privilege where I have a partner, Ori Rousso. We write the music together and we write the lyrics together and really, I’m saying privilege because we’re not just great partners in music, we’re good partners in everything. We have some long and very deep talks about a lot of things. He is someone that I talk to whenever something bothers me and in a way, it kind of just gets into the songs in a very natural way. We kind of talk about something, or I’m upset about something, or he has something on his mind and we talk about it like friends. Then it’ll just move into the songs, sometimes in a very unconscious way and sometimes, we’ll say let’s just do something about how we feel and what we talk about, let’s make something out of it. So, it changes and sometimes it’s a kind of jibberish, something that I make up and then I kind of structure the words around it and it becomes something else.
How long have you been making music together for?
We’ve been making music together for three years. We haven’t been on stage together, though. I have a drummer and he’s an amazing drummer. He joined us two years ago for the live show but now, it’s going to be a trio it’s going to be me, Ran my drummer and Ori. So he’s joining the stage which is a super exciting step for us.
There are a few artists who like to have an extravagant light show when they perform or a large theatrical set. Are your live performances created in that way, or do you prefer things to be stripped back and focused more so on the music?
It’s an interesting question, I have to say because when you ask someone at my stage, there’s always something that has to do with a budget. If I had money to do whatever I wanna do, I don’t know where I would go with it. Every show that I make, they’re stripped down. I don’t have lights, I don’t have anything. It’s all music now and my performance with the people who play with me. But every time I go on stage, I have this opportunity to imagine what’s gonna happen and I imagine stuff that will happen eventually. I love visual arts and in a way, I would love to combine that with my performance, but I’m very aware of the fact that I’ve been to some shows that have this amazing visual aspect and I was so concentrated on the visuals that I couldn’t focus on the music. That’s a border you kind of don’t want to cross as an artist, you want to make a visual that supports the show and doesn’t take its place. I think many electronic artists compensate the fact that they don’t actually have a live show, with crazy visuals. My show is live, it’s electronic, but it’s played by human beings and it’s not all on the spot, it’s very human. It’s got a lot of small mistakes and it’s very, very live but I could image myself doing something very interesting visually, but something that can really help the crowd connect to the music and not distract from it.
You’ve really branched out on a global scale over the last few months and people have been comparing you to artists like Bjork and St Vincent a lot because you have a very honest way of writing and performing your songs. How have you felt being compared to those kinds of artists?
When it happened at first – it’s happened so many times now – but, I was compared to M.I.A and FKA twigs a lot too. These are the four artists that always come up. At first, it was like okay, that’s pretty amazing but, super over exaggerated! [laughs]. I mean come on, I’m a fan of all of these artists and I’m inspired by them, so it’s very easy to understand why the comparison happens. It feels like I’ve managed to get attention but now, I wish I could maintain that and not have it as a first comparison that happens with a new artist because you need to compare them. I hope it’s something I can maintain, the standard that it put me in because it’s a really high quality of music and a really high standard that I can fulfil in my album and my next few albums.
You’ve been travelling quite a bit recently performing in a lot of new locations. How does the music scene in those places compare to the music scene back home in Tel Aviv?
My perspective on that is very narrow. I didn’t get a lot of chances to explore, which is something I’m sad about, but I can’t complain because I’m so fortunate. When I travel, at this stage, I get to a place and on the same day I do a show and then I maybe stay because I have some press things to do, but then I leave and get to a new place. I never really get to experience the place and I’ve been to so many places in the last few months. I have no idea whatsoever about what Paris is like, what London’s like now, what New York’s like. I just have no idea. My angle on the scene is only from how I’m treated by sound engineers and technicians. Just the service to an artist, how polite and nice and how good they are. In the U.S they’re kind of like assholes [laughs]. Some are okay but in the U.K as well, they’re rude a lot of the time. They’re kind of shocked as well, they’re like ‘Oh, you do know how to connect this cable’, they’re just so surprised that I know how to fucking plug in my own gear! In France, they’re just the nicest people, they’re just all friendly. So that’s the kind of angle I have, and how you feel the crowd. But when we’re talking about the scenes, I don’t really have that knowledge yet.
Going back to what you said about your love of visual art, it seems to come across well in your music videos. ‘Dance While You Shoot’ for example is very wonderful to watch and very visually stimulating. How do you decide on the concept for a video?
Whenever I finish a song, when I have that demo and I have it in my email, I listen to it on my way somewhere, because that’s how everyone else will listen. That’s usually what happens immediately after we finish a song, I do that and start to imagine what the visuals could be. The thing is, is that the things I’m able to imagine in my mind, are not the things I can create in real life [laughs]. I don’t have the budget to create what I want to create at the moment, but I think it’s an amazing thing because the things that limit you are the beautiful things about creativity. When you don’t have all the options, you have to come up with creative ways to create the same feeling but solve it in different ways.
In ‘Dance While You Shoot’ video, I had this imagery in my mind of pink stuff that has to do with violence. I ran into this serious photography by Rickard Moze, he’s a photographer who did a lot of shoots in the jungles of the Congo and the soldiers there. He used an infrared lens that makes everything green, turn pink; so all the uniforms, all the trees just everything is coloured with this beautiful and amazing shades of pink. It took these surreal and crazy situations that he documented and coloured it in this super nice and soft pink [laughs]. That whole atmosphere made me imagine this video happening in a jungle, or in a forest with greens that become pink. I imagined taking these serious things and turning it into a video but eventually what happened is that we took it to a more urban atmosphere and stripped it down in a way. We couldn’t find the infrared lens, but that’s one way the video’s kind of connected to that. On the second video, that was ‘Pity’, that was completely the director’s idea. He just came up with this concept and we were like, “Yeah okay!” [laughs]. ‘Toy’ was completely different because that video was a DIY video that we did and we did it the same way we make music. We had a certain idea in our heads and we went to this roof in Tel Aviv and just created it on the spot.
It’s awesome that you’re able to kind of stretch your creative muscles when you have those limited resources because you can create things you didn’t think you could with so few materials and technology around.
Yeah, ‘Toy’ as a video got the best responses from people because, in a way, you can create something super intelligent in your visuals, but people connect to simple things. I really get why too, because you see something and you think ‘they definitely don’t have enough money to do that’ [laughs] but they’ve still created something so cool.
Speaking of audiences reactions, the whole album sounds amazing and every song seems to emulate a different message. They all convey something so strong about our current times. Are you hoping that Off The Radar will show audiences another way of coping with what’s happening in the world today?
The world has become such a crazy place and it’s becoming crazier. I think I started feeling that a decade ago and thought everything was going the wrong way. Then like, five years ago when ISIS started showing themselves in such an extreme way, and now with everything that’s happening in America and the U.K, everything’s kind of going crazy. I think that in a way, that’s why my music has become so relevant to people around the world and that’s kind of unfortunate. Fortunate for me [laughs], but unfortunate for the world. I believe that music has the power to change the way people think about things. I don’t know if music has the power to turn the world around, but I do think that music changed me in a very critical way and a very crucial way. I was exposed to music that made me want to go and see what happens around me and in the world. I believe what we are lacking, the more fortunate people, the people that live in places that have electricity, water, access to food, the internet and whatever, the fortunate ones, we’re lacking in the knowledge that we’re not the majority. We have that responsibility to connect to what’s happening to the less fortunate people and if we start with the ones who are closer to us, it’s a very good start. Know your environment, know what’s happening around you because it is very, very easy to disconnect yourself. It’s so easy to feel that you are connected, but not actually be connected. When you read the news and you kind of feel that you’re involved that kind of doesn’t make you involved, you have to try to identify with what’s happening around you. I think it’s a very important thing that music could do. It can help people relate to other people’s experiences and other people’s struggles. But what’s great is that something difficult can create art.
Grab Noga Erez‘s debut album Off The Radar when it’s released on June 2. You won’t regret it.
Words by Lauren Payne