Interview with Behind the Sun
It has been quite some time since Behind the Sun recorded and released their self titled debut album. We sit down with both their guitarist and vocalist to have a chat…Aaron Lieber (guiars+ vocals) and Gad Erez (main vocals), tell us how and from where this hard / heavy rock evolved and tell us also about their every day life. We also talk a little bit about the rock scene in their home country, their lyrics and what plans lie ahead of this great band’s future! Both Aaron and Gad also share their thoughts about the music industries hottest topic of the last couple of years, the internet and copyright. Read and enjoy!
Hi and welcome to this interview. Thank you for your time. To start off with, can you give us a brief overview of how Behind the Sun was formed?
Aaron: Behind the Sun was formed by the current singer, drummer and guitarist (Aaron) a few years back at Saar’s farming village, called Timorim, in the north Negev desert of Israel. We used to jam and write songs in the basement underneath the village meeting hall. We played our first show at a pub in the same village and we’ve been going ever since. In fact one of the songs on the album, Running Water, we played at that very first show.
How did you come up with the band name?
Aaron: Our drummer Saar Gur thought up the name Behind the Sun. First of all, it represents a sort of metaphysical idea (I mean how can you ever be behind the sun, you are just on the other side of it). Second of all, its a name which brings up some memories of a bunch of our musical heros such as Nick Drake, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Eric Clapton so I assume that had something to do with it also.
It’s been some time now that your debut album was released. what response have you got from the public and media?
Aaron: We’ve gotten some really great reviews on blogs and websites from around the world. As well as the very kind review from MuzikaBlog here, we were named album of the month at progressiverockbr.com in Brazil, we got a 5 star review at YosMusic.com in Israel, and some great reviews at other blogs in Australia, the USA, the UK, France and Holland. We were on Israeli TV twice last summer promoting the album which was a new first for us and a lot of fun. Mostly the response is:” wow, I didn’t know that there were any bands in Israel that were playing hard rock music.” And then they say: “Great guitars, great drums, and the lead singer sounds like … ” and then we go all the way from Eddie Vedder to Ian Gillian.
What was the thing that triggered you as a band to play this genre of music and who are your infuences?
Aaron: I really didn’t know what kind of music I was going to play with this band when we started playing. I listen to all kinds of music and in the beginning we had some jazzy funky jams, some more like Neil Young country rock type songs, and some very heavy metal songs. Over the years of playing together I think our influences have merged and we have the 70s progressive influences coming from Gad and myself, the metal coming from Saar and Yoram, and some grooving rhythms and some bounce coming from Dan. And that I think is the North Desert sound — 70s tube guitars screaming over a driving modern and intense rhythm section. And of course, Gad is in my mind the voice of the angry pissed off desert, coming to get even.
So, what kind of CD’s / music a Behind the Sun member would have on his Ipod or at Home?
Aaron: This is an interesting question … what do I (Aaron) think the other guys are listening to… hmm… I could be less than diplomatic and say Saar – Depeche Mode, Yoram – Whitesnake, Dan – Leonard Cohen, Gad – Jeff Buckley, but it could be something more like Saar – Strapping Young Lad, Yoram – Iron Maiden, Dan – King Crimson, Gad – Queens of the Stone Age. I’m sure they think I am listening to Keith Jarrett all the time.
Gad: I know for a fact that Aaron’s also listening to some west coast gangsta-rap and some heavy metal in the car, on his way to and from work. I guess it’ll be a good idea to listen to Jarrett at work though….
Personally, I’ve been romancing with a good ol’ love of mine lately – The Black Crowes. They’ve just released a fantastic new album (“Croweology”), but what made me go back and listen to them was a semi-religious experience of listening to their 2009 album “Before the Frost…Until the Freeze” on my iPod, while speed-walking around the block at dusk, one summer evening a few weeks ago.
The lyrics reflect a lot of unfortunate and sad reality. What kind of message are you trying to propogate to the world?
I think the message is don’t live in denial. Be aware of what kind of things are going on in this world. Don’t follow anything blindly be it your religion, your leaders, your society, your parents, your boss. Question everything. If there’s a dark message in the lyrics its because we’ve looked into a lot of what’s happening in Israel and in the world and we don’t like the way its going right now. On the other hand I think songs like Running Water and Still are very positive messages of self-fulfillment. If you work on it and you put in the time and really pour your heart into whatever you are doing — you’ll get there.
As you well know in the last couple of years there have been a number of problems related to copyrights, distribution of music over the internet etc. Your debut album was available online in the beginning. What made you make such move and did it / would it effect sales?
Aaron: The internet is a double edged sword. On the one hand, people are downloading your album for free from all these places (not itunes, i’m talking about bit torrent, rapidshare and emule) and you don’t see any revenue or even have the satisfaction of knowing who’s listening to you. On the other hand, we never would have reached all these countries and fans overseas without the internet and file sharing or online streaming or what have you. Also, the fact that we were able to produce our own album is a direct result of today’s technology (cubase and protools) allowing you to mix in your own home. If we were mixing everything reel to reel in a studio it wouldn’t have been economically viable for an independent band such as ourselves to make a studio album.
Gad: At this point in our career I think we only benefit from the internet. I, for one, really don’t care if someone’s downloading the album on some file-sharing site – I want our music to get to as many potential fans as we can and one way to get that is to share this music and spread the word out via blogs, file-sharing and music web-sites. I think it’s all about building the fan-base and establishing our name/reputation at this point, as a leaping platform for the next album.
What are Behind the Sun members up to lately?
Aaron: Dan is finishing dental school. Aaron is flying all the time to the far east for his work as a software engineer at a major phone manufacturer we can’t name. Saar has just gotten married and is going on honeymoon to Sri Lanka. Yoram just had his first kid and Gad is taking spanish classical guitar lessons. So its just your average summer.
Tell us what is the rock scene like in Israel?
Aaron: The rock scene in Israel is slowly but surely getting known around the world. Steven Wilson from Porcupine Tree recorded an album called Blackfield with an Israeli artist I won’t name. Then, Mr. Wilson went on to produce and album by a friend of ours Omer Ephrat which came out on Inside Out records. And to top it all off he produced Orphaned Land’s last album which is becoming very well known all over the metal world. Besides that the Israeli singer Asaf Avidan, who sings in English and sounds a bit like Janis Joplin (even though he’s a guy) just signed with Sony Germany. There are a bunch of other great bands in the Israeli rock, progressive and metal scene besides Behind the Sun including a fantastic group called Eatliz which I recommend to everybody to check out. The rock in English scene in Israel doesn’t get a lot of respect or radio play on the biggest stations in the country, but its a very diverse scene with groups playing everything from Reggae to punk to progressive to neo-progressive to folk to black metal to grindcore to indy rock to emo. There’s something for everybody. And in Behind the Sun we represent the big, hairy, beer drinking, detuned guitar rock section of the spectrum.
Is there any fair amount of clubs and events promoting such music in Israel?
Aaron: There are some clubs in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. After that it gets a bit patchy. We’ve played kibbutzim (collective farms) all over the country where the whole kibbutz shows up at the show and even bring their dogs. I’m not sure everybody there are huge fans of Opeth or Rush but we play our set with conviction and anybody who can stand the volume has a good time.
Obviously recording your debut album thought you some or a lot of lessons. Any lessons you would like to share with upcoming and aspiring bands?
Aaron: I’m sure everybody learned different lessons. The lesson I learned was everything takes twice as long as what you think it will take. That could be recording drums, recording guitars, arranging backing vocals, mixing, mastering, deciding between 5 heads on cover art — everything will take twice as long as you think so start sooner rather than later.
Gad: After passing the long tunnel and coming out to the big bright light at the other side, I have only an immense respect for bands that have released a lot of albums and stuck together for a long time. It’s a very intense process where (for good or bad) everybodys level of sensitivity gets very high but at the same time it’s a very interesting, educating, fulfilling and rewarding process.
Are you planning any concerts / gigs / tours outside Israel?
Aaron: We are on the lookout all the time for some cool places or festivals to play outside of Israel. When the opportunity presents itself and it looks like we’ll be able to reach the right audience, our bags are packed and we are ready to go.
Tell us about Behind the Sun future. Any new songs / records plans?
Aaron: We are now in the process of writing songs for another album which we hope to record next year. we’ve got about 7 songs worked up with the whole band and another 5-10 songs or so in early sketch form or in bits and pieces. We’ll probably keep writing for the next few months and then see which songs work the best together as an album. We have all sorts of wild song ideas now, from 13th century Icelandic gang violence to a song about Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. It will be interesting to see if it can all be fit together.
Thank you for your time and interview. While wishing you all the best for your future, anything else Behind the Sun would want to say?
Aaron: Thanks for listening to our music and we hope you enjoy our album.