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INTERVIEW: Hagar Levy

Hi Hagar, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hey guys! Thanks for having me!! I’m good, except for the heatwave in Tel Aviv!

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Hectic”?

I’d love to! Hectic is a song which took me by complete surprise. Most of the songs I write are this “total” experiences where the lyrics, melodies and harmonies usually come to me together in a not-too-long  space of time. This one though, came in bits and in a bizarre way. The line that I sing throughout came as a result of me hallucinating after an injury (audio accident in the home studio) which threw me off for a couple of weeks, …. And the lyrics are basically a dialogue between generations, this feeling of the older world falling apart…an invitation to connection. When I healed and we went back into the studio to work we decided to give it this “Game of Thrones” dramatic quest-like feel to support the drama of the lyrics.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

I think it was me becoming more aware of what my generation is seeking, from looking around at myself and my peers. It’s very possible that the summer of 2011 in Israel, which is known as the “Social Justice” summer and made quite a few waves around here (maybe equivalent to “Occupy Wallstreet”) inspired everyone here to speak up. It was quite a summer, and the results of it…well, are frustratingly unclear sometimes.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

There was but we will now leave it be as an audio track, there is however a cool live video of it of a big show we did in Tel Aviv, which receives a lot of love up until now! It’s on youtube for you to enjoy.

The single comes off your new self-titled album – what made you decide to name the record after yourself?

That’s a great question. It comes down to me not having the guts to call the album “Reasons” – one of the songs we recorded on the album – it being a cover version of Minnie Riperton. I don’t know if I made the “right” choice, if there is such a thing anyway! I decided to go for the classic “Debut Album with Artist’s Name on It” thingJ.

How was the recording and writing process?

Writing the album began quite a few years back when I had a song called “Winter Love” which served as an exercise at Music School (I studied at the Songwriting Department of Rimon College). So I had this one song, and some more in Hebrew, not much. Then I bumped into my friend Jonathan Jacobi who had just returned from Brooklyn having worked there for five years. He’s one of the best Israeli Sound Engineers in the world, it’s safe to say! So we got to work after we hadn’t seen each other for ages. I wrote all the other tracks while preparing to record an EP with Jonathan as a producer. Then on the way more songs came my way and so we recorded a Record instead. The musicians we worked with (Avri Borochov, Yonatan Albalak, Shahar Haziza) are Israel’s finest so to no one’s surprise I was inspired during rehearsals. Plus they are so cute.

What was it like to work with Jonathan Jacobi and how did that relationship develop?

WOW! You guys have good questions. Well, Mr. Jacobi and I met one night when I was a soldier in the army, I had this whole depressed Sinead O’Connor vibe to me (Shaved head period) and I was writing songs on the piano just to release myself from pressures… Fiona Apple was a huge influence and I looked in the phone book to find a place to record this one dark song I had written. And so I came to meet Jacobi who was sound-technician the night I came in. We had a strong connection as Fiona fans and he really liked the song (to my huge surprise) and since then has believed in my music. Then life came in the way and we went into different directions (we still have that demo though). Then ten years later (!) we find ourselves working on a debut for me. Circle of life. Jacobi and I are brothers, we have a deep love for each other, had our ups and downs but I think we’re both very happy with the result of the album. He’s done an amazing job.

How much did he get to influence the album?

The beautiful thing about Jacobi is that he’s such a casting master. He knew he wanted the Bass and Guitar roles to be filled by the genius of Borochov and Albalak and that gave a flow to the whole process. Haziza was my pitch and I’m so glad he came in. So, Jacobi didn’t interfere much as he trusted the songs and their musicianship deeply. He kind of let it happen and then gave a lot of his own mastery on the sound, the editing and the mixing.

Does Israel play a role in your music?

Well, beside the thing I said about ‘Hectic’ earlier, it being influenced by what I saw around me as a young Israeli, I would say not so much. My songs are deeply personal songs revolving around relationships mostly. It’s funny that we chose Hectic as a single, it being a bit of an outsider that way. I’m curious as to the reactions to the next single, it’s about a breakup, which is the biggest theme of the album. Reasons – the Minnie Riperton cover – is another outsider by being a very social – universal song, in my opinion.

How much did the 70s get to influence your music?

Aaaah. I wish I could tell!! I’m a big Grace Slick fan, and her being Jacobi’s favorite singer…maybe that’s what you’re getting from the album. Jacobi is influenced by 60’s and 70’s. I myself see my own influences ranging from Carole King to Fiona Apple to Jill Scott. I’m very much a 90’s/mtv girl, but sang Jazz from a young age. Aren’t influences a cool thing J

What aspects of your life did you get to explore with this record?

ALL of them. Many times round. A loop of therapy and challenge.

Any plans to hit the road?

I have mainly played shows in Israel this last year, nonstop touring around here, and played a couple in Germany in April. I’d love to get myself over to the States for a few shows. I hear you have the best crowds ever! Let’s hope!

What else is happening next in Hagar Levy’s world? 

Hagar is just in-between a Fiona Apple tribute she’s produced (this week in TLV) and a LIVE EP recording session happening next week, new songs with a new vibe…Can’t wait to share it with you. Good times.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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