Courtesy Lola Marsh
Lola MarshCourtesy Lola Marsh
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Tel Aviv’s Indie Bands Take SXSW by Storm

Lola Marsh and Oren Lavie win over fans, awards in Austin

Amir Bogen
March 19, 2018
Courtesy Lola Marsh
Lola MarshCourtesy Lola Marsh

It’s not that common that an Israeli indie rock band will go all the way from the Middle-East to tour all over the USA. Usually, the itinerary would stay within the limits of Europe, and flying all the way across the Atlantic demands a good enough reason. In the case of Lola Marsh, a romantic folk-pop duo from Tel Aviv, an invitation to showcase in SxSW music festival in Austin is definitely worth the time, money, and effort. After nine successful gigs over five days in the Texas capitol, also known as the “Live Music Capitol of The World”, they obviously left a mark on the audience—local and foreign. With simple lyrics in English and charming catchy harmonies, it’s almost impossible not to fall in love with the band, its sweet vocalist Yael Shoshana Cohen and guitarist Gil Landau.

Lola Marsh’s pilgrimage to Austin started earlier this month with shows in Brooklyn, Washington DC, Atlanta, and Savannah, Georgia. The American tour culminated in SxSW, where bands from all over the world fight for the fans and media attention. While dealing with sound system malfunctions (a common event in the festival’s assembly line of concerts), Cohen and Landau managed to create an unmediated connection with their audiences, and pull them into their playful fantasy world. Backed up by their supporting crew (Mati Gilad on the bass, his brother Micha Gilad on the keyboards, and Dekel Dvir on the drums), Lola Marsh earned the trust of the fans who seemed very receptive to their lovely positivism.

Lola Marsh obviously caught the attention of the critics, and the band appeared in NPR Music’s 100 gigs to watch in SxSW this year, which also praised the group’s biggest hit so far, “Wishing Girl,” a catchy song that aims to settle in your subconscious. “Imagine Lana Del Rey whistling and strumming a ukulele,” wrote the popular music outlet, “and you start to get a sense of the moodily ingratiating charm offensive that is Lola Marsh’s ‘Wishing Girl’. If the duo’s charisma were a weapon, you’d hate to see it fall into the wrong hands”.

Their charm offensive worked out pretty well during their shows along Austin’s infamous 6th street, and fell into the right hands, thrown up in the air as a result of Cohen’s naughty interaction with the audience. Through the cheerful whistles of “Wishing Girl,” the emotional trip of “Your Mine,” and the sarcastic tone of their cover of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’,” the band made its fans feel cozy, like taking of their shoes and staying in socks.

The comfort of Landau’s home was actually the setting for the couple’s first meeting seven years ago, in a birthday party at his bachelor apartment in Tel Aviv. They fell in love with each other and started working together as creative partners, writing charming songs full of intimate energy that echoed on small and big stages. Cohen is an alumnus of the Israeli “The Voice,” and while she didn’t win the talent show, she did gain a lot of respect and appreciation for her singing. Her reality TV fame didn’t hurt when she and Landau were trying to break out as a duo. Like many indie bands in Israel, they wrote their lyrics in English, hoping to make it big abroad. It worked out pretty well for them, with successful tours in Germany, France, and other European countries—and now in the US. Their melodies speak for themselves everywhere in any language.

Another Israeli successful story from SxSW 2018 is singer-writer Oren Lavie, who won the film festival jury award for the best music video as a director. The 41-year-old artist from Tel Aviv beat out Jay-Z, Amanda Palmer, and others with his beautiful video for his song “Second Hand Lovers,” the second single from his second album, “Bedroom Crimes”. Lavie wrote the script to the video, directed it, and also plays the main role in it alongside actress Daniella Wircer and ten female dancers. Maya Binder shot the video, and Amichai Bikovski edited it.

The video’s synopsis in SxSW’s program describes its theme as “a modern-day bachelor shares his apartment with the memory of all his past lovers put together. In his fantasy, they all share a loving, perfect, harmonious relationship, all synced into one being. The fantasy falls apart when he meets a real woman and has to choose between the safety of daydreaming and the challenges of real love”.

Lavie, who was nominated in the past for a Grammy award and was praised for his artistic vision in several film festivals, said in reaction to his achievement in SxSW: “It feels incredible to win the jury award in the same category of the best video clips of the year. Life pets you once for every three punches, and I enjoy the petting and getting ready for my next fist fight.”

Amir Bogen is a film journalist.