missFlag – ‘I think [our material] is really down-to-earth stuff… nothing political like one would expect from Israel.’Sometimes the difference between making good music and becoming big stars is simply a factor of getting the right people on your side. Israeli rock band missFlag seems to be making the necessary allies required for that big leap, to become the first Israeli act since Ofra Haza to break out big time on the international scene.
Of course, a little earnestness and a good heap of talent certainly help – two traits the five-piece, Jerusalem-based band possess in spades. They sing in English, and with their catchy tunes, sophisticated chord changes and high range vocals, sound something like UK’s Coldplay. A Boston Globe reviewer wrote that “missFlag brings a beautifully shambling sensibility to the epic chord changes and winsome melodies.”
Recently, missFlag’s likable and polished sound caught the ears of influential disc jockey Nic Harcourt from KCRW radio in LA – whose Internet-distributed show ‘Morning Becomes Eclectic’ is a staple among more discerning rock fans.
Known for giving the first radio push to some of today’s top artists like Norah Jones, Moby, Alanis Morrisette, and Massive Attack, Harcourt possesses the taste that record companies trust. And he likes missFlag, often playing their song Hidden Thieves from their debut album To Infinity on his show.
The courtship has become more serious lately and much to the band’s delight, Harcourt has invited missFlag to perform live in the studio on September 17th.
“You know how amazing this is for us,” missFlag lead singer Ohad Eilam told ISRAEL21c. “Just a couple of days ago Harcourt had Paul McCartney as a guest on his show!”
Eilam recalls that the band sent Harcourt their debut CD last year when they first traveled to Los Angeles to perform a showcase for Universal Records executives, but he doesn’t know which factor put the DJ on their side.
“Nic Harcourt is one of the most influential DJs nowadays – he is a tastemaker who has a knack for launching new acts in the international scene,” says Eilam, who adds that the band will also be performing at the LA showcase club, the Knitting Factory.
Synonymous with new music, the Knitting Factory has hosted well-known artists like Sonic Youth, Cassandra Wilson and Yo La Tengo in the past. And this time, with representatives from Universal once again and from EMI expected to be in the audience, missFlag is hoping to return to Israel with a record deal in hand.
The two-year-old band will have it no other way. International stardom, they predict, is their destiny. The members of missFlag are not your typical rock and rollers – they look like the kind of boys you could bring home to your mother.
“Yeah, we are soft and innocent,” laughs band keyboardist Gil Assayas. “We dress like nice guys and don’t look like rock stars. We don’t have long hair and we don’t smoke.”
Their clean-cut image matched with their talent appealed to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, which in a way has chosen missFlag as cultural ambassadors for Israel. According to the band, it was the Israeli consul in Los Angeles which helped them out with initial contacts in the music industry and media.
Despite being through and through Israeli, missFlag has made a conscious effort to sing only in English, since it’s unlikely that a Hebrew-singing band would have any chance of breaking out across Israel’s borders. Their songs all play on universal emotions, and aren’t derived at all, they say, from the fear of terror and war that Israelis face on a regular basis.
“I think it is really down-to-earth stuff… nothing political like one would expect from Israel. The songs are about relationships, hopes, loves and sadness and the things that everyone goes through,” Assayas told ISRAEL21c.
Assumptions about the Israeli persona came to the mind of a music representative from Universal when she first heard the song Hidden Thieves, says Assayas. “She assumed that it was connected to terror and fear, or the war in the north with Lebanon last summer,” he says. “Actually the song is about our lead singer Ohad who was robbed in Tel Aviv. Based on this experience I wrote the song. Certainly our music is connected to questions we have about life in Israel, but we are writing about the emotions that everyone experiences – our phobias and about love.”
Not that the war last summer didn’t affect the band. Guy Erez, an LA producer who works with MTV and produced the Gypsy Kings was flown to Israel last summer with his family to work on missFlag’s record.
“His family was in panic and we were upset too, but thankfully you cannot hear missile fire on the CD that we recorded in Tel Aviv,” recalls Assayas
Rounding out the band with Assayas and Eilam are Assa Bukelman on lead guitar who studied at the acclaimed Rimon School of Music outside of Tel Aviv; Assaf Krauss on drums who is a music school graduate as well as a holder of a BA in Psychology and Communications; and Shai Saadia on bass guitar, who like the others has been playing music since a young age.
As for the name missFlag, it came to one of the members in a dream, and stuck. The name is somehow fitting for a band who eschews political and nationalistic slogans: “We are not talking about politics and we are not waving any flag. We are five guys who are now living in Jerusalem who just like to make music,” concludes Assayas.