An interview with theAngelcy’s Rotem Bar Or

Written by
Shahni Ben-Haim

With the recent release of their newest record, Nodyssey, and their upcoming show's in Israel, we sat down with vocalist, guitarist and founder of theAngelcy, Rotem Bar Or, to discuss the evolution, the impact, and the journey the band has embarked on.

Your second album, Nodyssey was just released in early December. What is different about this album in comparison to your freshman album?

I’m a different person, you know. It’s like these songs were written like two years ago and the first album was written, I don’t know 8, 9, 10, 11 years ago so it’s 7 years apart, everything is different.

Did you have a different writing process?

Yes, the first album I wrote it to overcome some emotional difficulties, or spiritual crises, so in a way in the beginning the songs were between me and me. It was really something that happened in my room between me and myself and that was like the essence of the songs. The second album I wrote for a much more precise reason. I wrote it so that the band has new songs so that we can keep going just to keep the group together. So it was a much shorter process, and anyway it’s different I think to write a second album. The first (album), the songs that I’ve written for the first one, I was just a very weird guy that thinks of being a musician but you know no one knew me, no one expected anything, and I think in a way to produce a second album it’s always going to be different, it’s already more public. It took a lot of effort to make this album, to forget about the expectations, forget about the people. You know, to put that aside took me a long while.  

For people who are just discovering your music how would you describe your musical style?

It’s eclectic. Yes, the sound would be folky I guess, I get why people call us folk but we are not so influenced by folk actually. I think we take influences from many different genres and we bring them together to our principle framework which is acoustic, kind of organic music that can happen in a room. I don't know what to call it. You can call it eclectic folk, but I don't feel that. I guess that all the artists are like this, no one feels like these ‘two words’ can describe him, but okay, in a way we are what you say we are, not what we think we are. We are not trying to be a part of any specific movement; we have the values that we work by which are we are not trying to produce stuff that will be big and impressive, you know, we’re trying to make something warm and full of memories. And we don’t use a click track. That is very unusual in this day and age. To have a full album of a band that is not recorded on a click track, and every special choice that we make has a price, has a cost, because there is a reason why everyone is doing things the way everyone is doing things. To do things the normal way, a standard way is the easiest because everything is built for that. And we do a lot of stuff, like we use the instruments in ways that it’s not the ways that they were designed for. The drum kit wasn’t designed to be drummed on like that. Sometimes the way we use the clarinet, the viola, the double bass, we do a lot of stuff. For sure, me with the classical was not built to be played on like that and it’s nice, it’s unique and it also brings a lot of challenges by the way of recording. A lot of things are more difficult like this because it’s not your textbook production.

You’re kind of inventing new ways to use different instruments and building on that?

Yes, I guess this is where our curiosity takes us, that’s what happened anyway.

© Alex Farfuri

Your music has brought you all over Europe, what are some main differences between performing abroad and performing locally?

Anything that I’m going to say is going to be a generalization because we’ve had really quite attentive audiences in Israel and really wild audiences in Germany but usually the audience in Europe listens much more quietly; there is a lot of focus. Even when it’s a standing show, even then they’re quiet which, in Israel, we don’t get that. When people sit, yes, they’ll be quieter but also its different because for the most part up until now, we’ve performed in Israel, and ever since 6 months ago or one year after we formed the band, we were performing for people who knew all the lyrics. With the majority of the audiences in Europe, many of the times we performed for 400 people, then 50 will know all the lyrics or 100, but most of the room would be listening. So it's kind of a different function, but I’m telling you, you’d be surprised, sometimes it goes the other way around completely.

Some of your songs portray specific situations Israelis go through throughout their lifetime, how do you want these songs to be perceived by your audiences here in Israel and abroad? How are they perceived?

I’m trying to do my job and my job is to try and be honest and to describe my emotions which then, because I’m a part of the people, I describe the feelings of other people. Also, and I’m trying to do my job, and just put it out there and of course it will touch everything that hurts, because it’s a strong emotion. So, of course, I’m going to respond to that… So, yes, sometimes we’re scared and sometimes we’re proud also and sometimes I feel like I’m saying something important but both of these things, they are not the important things. I’m just trying to do my job. I am sure that it's good to have the dialogue. I am another voice in this dialogue, it's a dialogue between a lot of people, but yes, I want to be heard. And for Israelis, kind of like minded, I feel that this just takes this load, what they’re carrying all the time, it helps them, gives them a little relief to feel that there is a feeling together, a mutual feeling, with other people to come as an audience around something. And I think for a lot of people out of Israel it’s interesting to hear this voice because they get a specific voice of Israel that is not exactly that. I’m especially curious to reach Jewish listeners out of Israel. I’m very, very interested in what these songs can mean for these people. I am very touched when it gets to Jews out of Israel because we don't get to have this conversation. I feel in a way the only conversation we have is through establishments, it’s through the Israeli government, it’s through, I don’t know, AIPAC, it’s through very institutional (mediums). We don’t get to talk, so it’s a way, because I sing in English, so of course.

You actively write in English in hopes of reaching a bigger audience?

I’ve written songs in Hebrew and English ever since I was a young boy which is very normal if you think about it, because I grew up with radio that plays music in both languages, mostly. There was also Brazilian music around me, as my mother is Brazilian, but I didn’t speak the language. Some music in French, which all influenced me. But from a very young age, I could imitate the songs in English and Hebrew that I heard on the radio so it wasn’t so much a step to start writing in English. What happened, I guess, is that at some point I spent almost four years out of Israel. I lived in London, I traveled in India and I traveled in Europe and then even after I came back to Israel, I have a lot of international friends here. People I used to jam with, so of course it was natural of us to jam in English. So I built a whole thing around that, but I really miss writing in Hebrew. I really have a wish to also write in Hebrew. Like everyone, I’d like to have both, I want to have the world and I want to be here also.

Right now, is there anything you admire about the local music community here in Tel Aviv or anywhere in Israel?

Yes, I love it and there is a lot of talent here. There’s a lot of, I’d say innovations, by the way of style and I think for what we lack in the know how, because we don’t have a long tradition of music and recording music compared to of course the United States, UK and even Europe, but I think we make up for elsewhere. A lot of people here are very innovative about their style, about what they do, about what they bring forward, even though I know this scene better than I know other scenes. Maybe other scenes are also like that. I especially like the kinds of music that are different than mine. My kind of music, it’s boring for me to hear other people do it, but I like a lot of the new stuff that has Arabic or Mediterranean flavors. I like it because it’s a very unique thing about Tel Aviv. I guess Istanbul, I’m sure Istanbul has this also like the meeting point between east and west is some really beautiful stuff, a lot of stuff that I’m really touched by. And it’s the stuff that I can’t do, so I like it the best.

So you have a show coming up in Tel Aviv.

Next week, yes.

How are you preparing for that show?

We are doing rehearsals. We’re back to playing live. We haven’t played together for three months, the band, so it’s very special for us to get back to playing together. We already kicked it off; we played some radio shows, so we already started actually performing again and even though we used to play these songs before the album, because it’s the way we do this stuff. First we do live, then we record an album. It’s very different, it feels very different after the album is done. Something is more solid, something feels more accomplished, and you know, we’re going to be very nervous, for sure. We’re going to be very nervous.

Do you have any methods to calm your nerves?

No, you let it take you. It’s a very very strong energy, that’s where the fear comes from, a lot of it. Of course there is a fear to fuck up, but fear is energy, it’s the same as being excited. When you let it take over you then fear turns to excitement.

So you are going to be playing new music at this show and your upcoming tour in Europe. Is there anything else that is new that you are bringing to your shows?

It’s not so much what we do, we’re a band and we go on stage, we play our songs and we speak and we actually don’t plan what we are going to say. Just speaking what we feel like in the moment, sometimes being awkward, sometimes being funny, you know, just being together there on stage. We are not so much the kind of band to prepare a performance; it’s very alien to us this thing, it’s not what we do. If you like the songs, then that’s what we do. I’m not wearing any golden trousers and going on this giant swing near a fake moon. It’s not going to happen.

Check out theAngelcy’s newest album here!

The theAngelcy - A national tour in celebration of to their second album:

Barby Tel Aviv - March 2nd 
Yellow Submarine Jerusalem  - March 7th
Pubella Moshav Manof - March 15th
Baraka Bar Beersheva - March 28th
Zappa Herzliya - March 30th
Wunderbar Haifa - April 11th
Hapina Pub Hamadia - April 18th
Pytria Pub Kibbutz Dan - May 5th

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