Former jazz musician turned electro-pop singer, songwriter, producer, keyboardist and technology master, Noga Erez is quickly becoming a global force. Producing unique politically charged sounds all the way from Israel, Erez’s art is perfectly balanced: it is hard-hitting and dangerously danceable while also being refreshingly unapologetic in its approach to subjects such as sexual violence, power and corruption. Channelling SBTRKT, FKA Twigs, Hot Chip and RL Grime-ish vibes, Erez’s music is an ambitious, bold and intoxicating mosaic, ranging from trap to R&B. From her cosy home in Tel Aviv, Noga took some time out of her busy tour schedule to chat with The Ladies Network all about her upcoming debut album Off the Radar, the Israeli music scene, and how to be a fearless, kickass woman.
What has it been like growing up as a musician in Israel? Do you think it has had a big impact on your music?
Completely, I mean I can’t really separate it any more. I didn’t actually realise, but this is the biggest theme I write about. I’m very concerned about what’s happening and I have a lot to say about it. I’m trying to help myself process what’s happening around me through my music. But I’ve only come to realise that I’m approaching that subject, tackling it with my music, a lot. Only when I’ve collected the songs for the album that I’ve realised there’s a main theme, inspired by everything that happens in my country. So absolutely. The answer is absolutely yes, it had and it still has a huge influence on my music, on my art, and on me as a person.
What’s the music scene like in your home town Tel Aviv?
The music scene is very similar I think to everywhere else, every cultural capital in the world. It’s similar in many ways to London, New York, Paris, maybe even Sydney, I don’t know (she laughs). You get a lot of things going on all in the same place. There is a huge variety and huge amount of artists and a tonne of things to do every day and every night. What makes it kind of different is two things: first that Tel Aviv is in the middle of Israel, and that creates a different kind of artistry, not in all the cases but in many cases. I think a lot of artists’ project that subject into their artistry. And the other thing is that Tel Aviv is a very very small city, super small, so it makes everything more compressed, there is a lot going on but it’s all in such a small area and such a small population and that kind of makes it a more community type of atmosphere between people here.
So it’s a very supportive environment?
Well we are all human beings, so sometimes it’s supportive and at times it’s not, which makes it super competitive. I mean it all depends on the kind of people you meet. Some people are influenced by this specific situation by embracing it, making themselves a part of it, and helping others, and I think that’s a beautiful thing that can happen with being a community. But in other cases it kind of intensifies the competition; there is so little space and so many people who want to take over. So it goes both ways.
We’re loving your recent single ‘Toy’, where was it recorded and what was the process behind it?
Thank you so much! This song started with a beat that my partner made. I have a partner that I work with – Ori Rousso – and the work is divided between us sort of in a random way. Sometimes he brings the beat and I create something on it, sometimes it works the opposite. And in this case he was sitting alone in the studio making this beat and I just walked in and I was like “Oh my god yeaaah” (she says laughing), like I loved it so much and it kind of inspired me immediately. So yeah, that was kind of the process, I just walked in and we started kind of improvising stuff on that and that song just came out. We like jamming over something that one of us did and picking out the nice moments that we can find and put them together into songs. I think it’s one of the earlier songs that we’ve written together.
The music video for ‘Toy‘ looked like a fun clip to make, did you enjoy making it? What’s it like making a music video?
Well, this video was actually made by me, Ori and a friend of ours who is a director. We didn’t have a lot of time, and we wanted to create something very simple, basic and fun. We did these super complicated videos before and we just wanted to do something fun and cool. So, I just called a couple of friends of mine who are dancers, and all of us on the spot went to this rooftop in Tel Aviv and we just made the whole choreography and the whole environment of the video on the spot. It was very fun and very similar to the spontaneous way we like to make music. But the whole thing was about the editing in the end. Ori my partner is apparently becoming an amazing video editor, he’s so good at it, and he did some amazing and very rhythmic editing to the video. That is what I think made the video so cool, I think the way he put just put things together made them look and feel very rhythmic and very bound to the song.
Do you tend to write from personal experience or from observing the experiences of others?
Both, I believe there’s a separation between writing about your own experience and writing about someone else’s experience. But I think that writing songs enables me to kind of do both at the same time – making other people’s experiences my own experiences. And that’s what I do a lot with lyrics and with text in my music. I try to make someone else’s experience my own and make my own experiences more global. It is something that is very nice about writing songs, you can play a role and then you can kind of switch your experience to someone else’s. But I feel like even though I talk a lot in my songs about more global experiences – things that happen in the world and specifically in my country – it’s all coming from a very personal point of view, always.
What’s it like being a woman in the music industry? Do you find that it has its challenges at times?
I have to say that I grew up in a place that made me so strong.
I grew up in the most supportive family and the message that I got from my parents was always that I can do whatever I want to do. They taught me in a very smart and delicate way how to choose what I listen to, and choose what I ignore. And it’s a very complicated thing to do as an artist, because as an artist you have to listen, you have to be someone who opens their mind and their ears. They taught how to find out which comments and which criticism is a good one and which is something that I need to put aside and ignore. And I have that kind of mechanism in me, which is something that makes me luckier than other girls.
But I do think that I have run into many situations where I have had to use that kind of power I have, and I think that women are being extra criticised and looked at in a very specific way. Especially in my experience. When it comes to technical things – because I’m a very technical kind of artist and have a lot of technology in my art – I meet a lot of people that are sometimes in a good way surprised by the fact that I can manage it. And sometimes in not such a good way. They don’t really put the faith in me that they put in my partner. When there’s a problem and I can’t fix it, a lot of times I will get some speculative kind of looks, mostly from sound engineers. And then if I call Ori then things will just solve themselves because he gets treated differently. So, it sucks. And we have to do a lot to change it. And I think the most important thing is just to kick ass in how confident we are. Be totally crazy, on the target and confident and strong about how we believe in ourselves. I think that’s a very crucial way of solving this crazy situation that we’re in.
I understand that you’ve recently started playing internationally, making appearances at big showcases like SXSW and The Great Escape, what’s been your favourite moment on tour so far?
We opened the show for Crystal Castles in Paris. At the beginning, there was a moment just before the show that the crowd was screaming like crazy because they were such fans. I think most of their crowd is around that age that you are a crazy fan, I think 15-18, which is the best crowd. And they were crazy on fire, and I was like: “Oh my god, I can’t go on stage now because they are so enthusiastic about seeing the headline show.” And then I went onstage like super anxious and they were an amazing crazy crowd, they accepted the music and loved it so much. I have a lot of new fans because of that show. So that was an amazing moment to start the show worrying about, I don’t know, people throwing tomatoes at me, and then I got the best crowd I have ever performed to. So that would be a favourite moment.
What can audiences expect from your live shows?
I have a drummer, the most amazing drummer in the world. He’s a human machine, he’s crazy. The fact that he can play the beats that me and Ori are making in our room is really crazy. It was just us until now, a duo, but now from May onwards Ori is going to join the stage and take some more parts. So the show is more or less going to be all live playing as much as we can, so it’s going to be a trio from now on. It’s very live, more than people would expect from an electronic thing, but it’s very live. It’s played by human beings.
You’re set to release your debut album Off the Radar on June 2nd later this year which is really exciting, what can you tell us about the album? Was there any particular reason why you chose ‘Off the Radar’ to be the title track?
I didn’t choose Off the Radar as the song to be the title track, I chose it because of its title. Basically, ‘Off the Radar’ is a topic. It became a topic in my life since we wrote the song because I have talked to people about the song and about the sentence “off the radar” and I’ve realised how people interpret it in so many different ways. People have sent me all these articles about off the radar and what it means in different kind of slangs and stuff about it. My dad, he used to be a sailor, and part of his job was to just look at the radar and he has crazy stories about his experiences with this. It just felt like it could touch people in so many different ways and that’s what I wanted the album to do, to be what it is but reflect on people in a different way. Because it meets different people. So that felt very right.
What are your plans after you release the album? Do you think you’ll make it down to Australia on your album tour?
I’m dying to come to Australia! But it all depends, I don’t know how successful it will be. I’m hoping it will take me around the world, we had a very good start I think, we got so much attention in relation to how much we’ve done so far. We’ve only released a few singles and we got a lot of good comments so I’m hoping that the album will just take it one more step further, take us around the world, and get us to Australia and New Zealand which I so hope to get there and bring my music there with me.
I’m calling from Melbourne, Australia. What is the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Australia?
I know some Australians, very good friends of my family moved to Australia for maybe 10 years and moved back, and what I’ve heard is that it’s like maybe the most chill place in the world (she laughs). That everything happens at such a different pace than here. It sounds like such a beautiful place and I can’t wait to meet people who live in this atmosphere. Taking the time, experiencing the world, I think that’ s something that is lacking where I come from. I don’t know if it’s really like that, we’re so different from one another no matter where we come from. But that’s the impression I get.