[Michael Topyol]

SXSW Music 2018: An Oasis of Sweet Sounds in a Stormy, Turbulent World

18:22 March 21, 2018
By: John Dean Alfone

More mellow than past incarnations, 2018 will probably be remembered as the year when SXSW Music which recently celebrated its 41st year returned to its showcase and label roots downplaying the “selling in” culture of large corporate participation coined by Lady Gaga in recent years. Originally started as a crossroads for bands and media outlets to network at two-day regional music conference, at this juncture in the festival’s history SXSW Music has arguably become an afterthought being wedged between SXSW Film and SXSW Interactive which have morphed into steamrollers with their deeper pockets and tremendous impact on society particularly in regards to their focus on cutting-edge spaces and technologies (i.e. artificial intelligence, cryptocurrency & blockchains, 3-D printing, virtual/augemented reality, and robotics).

Some highlights of the music conference included the unofficial day show “LatinaPalooza” featuring female Latina artists at the venerable Continental Club featuring Austin singer/songwriter Patricia Vonne and the best live act seen during the festival, San Antonio-based Mariachi Las Coronelas.  Other high points included the Keeled Scales official showcase at Lambert's Barbecue which featured stalwart bluesy indie rock act “Knife on the Water” (named after the Roman Polanski 1962 film) who have returned to live performance following a 10-year hiatus.  

New Orleanians Vockah Redu & Da Cru represented the Crescent City in the Texas state capital by performing their rap and dance performance at the celebrated closing night event at the Palm Door on Sixth. At a time when many New Orleanians have tempered their infatuation with Southby, "Vockah," who lives in Houston part-time, has doubled-down.

"This was 8th year playing the conference and my 5th year in a row playing "Soul Clap" which is the closing party of the entire South-by-Southwest. "Soul Clap" is run by Jonathan Toubin from New York City who spins amazing records and has a dance contest where contestants get numbers placed onto their backs and the winner receives $100. I have been a judge each year I have performed at "Soul Clap" and this year was different and a little more low-key. I am looking forward to seeing everyone in New Orleans either at the Santos in the French Quarter on April 21st and Spanish Moon in Baton Rouge on April 22nd where I will be supporting the Epic Beard Men or the Allways Lounge for my monthly residency."

One of the pinnacles of SXSW 2018 was the act Lola Marsh who have logged 10 million streams on Spotify. Yael Coen and Gil Landau are the duo behind the band from Tel Aviv, Israel. Receiving airiplay throughout the United States, the band recently played official showcases during SXSW with both Bureau Export France (lebureauexport.fr), a non-profit arm of the French government, and Rosquatch (“A Hairy & Sweaty SXSW Official & Unofficial Showcase”). Yael and Gil caught up with WhereYat near the notorious intersection of Red River and 6th Street while preparing for one of their sets. 

WYAT:  I was watching your video “You’re Mine”  which was shot in the desert. Can you tell me about this?

Yael: We shot it next to the Dead Sea in Israel.  It was a cold day in the morning and then very hot in the afternoon and we just went for it. 

Gil: We worked with a French director named Colin Solal Cardo. Challenging and amazing in the end.


WYAT: How has your SXSW experience been?  

Yael: Amazing. Crazy. The audience at SXSW has been really warm to us. Very loving. Nice people.

Gil: Exhausting.  Exciting. We love it!

WYAT: Can you talk about your childhood, Yael? It appears you have lived internationally during your youth. It has probably made it easier made it easier for touring, no? And yourself, Gil?

Yael: We lived in African and Singapore. For a child, Africa is very interesting to live with all of the animals and nature. It creates lots of good memories. 

Gil: I was born and raised in Tel Aviv. I love touring but I love my home and miss it.


WYAT: Your record label is called Anova (anovamusic.com). How did you meet your manager Josh Perry who is the CEO and does A&R for your label? What is the music scene like in your country? 

Gil: It’s a really cool, small label. We are on his record label with Garden City Movement and Less Acrobats. All of the people who work there are all about the music. They are not all about the money. This kind of label has become rare. 

Yael: The music scene in Tel Aviv is wide and colorful. Electronic music is big there. Folk artists. Techno. When we played as a band, Josh came to one of our first shows. 

Gil: It was like in the movies: Josh came to us after the set and said he wanted to sign us. We then released one single called “Sirens” and then the other labels Sony and Universal approached us. (The band premiered their first single, "Sirens" in March 2015 and would go on to reach number 5 on Spotify's list of the Top 10 Most Viral Tracks in the US.)

Yael: They are very free about allowing us to do what we want. We all work together and the label is our friend. 


WYAT:  I know some bands have to leave their scene to gain exposure. Did you grow too big for your scene? Did you seek wider horizons in your decision to expand beyond the scene in Tel Aviv? Was the Internet the key to breaking out?

Yael: We didn’t have to leave. We just wanted to. 

Gil: In Tel Aviv, we had the audience before we gained exposure and we worked really hard there releasing singles. The radio stations started playing us and then we started getting played in Germany, France, and the United States while touring. The Internet was absolutely one of the keys to our wider exposure. 


WYAT: You're dressed in a uniform for your video “Wishing Girl.” Was that your school uniform, Yael?

Yael:  (Laughs) It was not my school uniform. It was just clothes I like to wear on stage. 


WYAT: What are your plans for the future?

Gil: After we finish touring, we are going back to Israel to write music and create a new record.


WYAT: Cool. A lot of Americans have strong political views on Israel. Any thoughts on this?

Gil: We just try not to deal with it. We play music. Music is an international language. 

Yael: We do music choosing to focus on good things.


WYAT: 110% agree. 

Photo Credit Michael Topyol 

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