Lola Marsh to bring intimate, folkish sound to L.A.

June 21, 2017
Lola Marsh’s Yael Shoshana Cohen and Gil Landau. Photo by Micheal Topyol

With a whistle on their lips and a bit of sunshine in their pockets, members of the Israeli band Lola Marsh will be coming to Los Angeles to spread their homegrown take on indie folk and pop music.

Making its debut June 28 at the Bootleg Theater, the band, fronted by singer-songwriter and ukulele-playing Yael Shoshana Cohen, and songwriter and guitar player Gil Landau, is musical proof that while many things coming out of Israel are about politics and conflict, some things offer ways to get through those challenges.

Part of the band’s charm comes from its folkish sound, but that’s not to say its music, which captures the longing for things like feeling inspired and the pain of saying good-bye, is always easy listening.

On its new album, “Remember Roses” (Universal), a listener can find songs with English lyrics that share the wonder of holding onto a bit of sunshine even after acquiring “bruised and battered” wings (“Stranger”), the complexities of living in a world that has grown too large (“You’re Mine”), and a view into the hall of self-critical mirrors that may exist in one’s mind (“You’re Mine”).

Recently, its single “Wishing Girl,” which opens with a whistled hook, was featured on NPR.

“I need to get ready for it,” Cohen said about performing the song live, explaining that to get its several bars of whistling right, she needs to focus on her breathing and swallowing.

Cohen and Landau, who live in Tel Aviv, were born and grew up in Israel. Landau is from the Tel Aviv area; Cohen, who lived in Singapore and Africa as a child, spent much of her childhood in the small, central Israel town of Kochav Ya’ir.

Though their sound is aimed at a world audience — two singles from the “You’re Mine” album released in 2016 totaled 10 million streams on Spotify, mostly in the U.S., according to Vents Magazine — Cohen and Landau said they were influenced by the music they listened to while coming of age in Israel.

“There’s a lot of Israeli music that I grew up on,” Landau said. “Arik Einstein is the best. He’s like the Israeli Elvis. He’s an idol of every Israeli man, I think.”

Cohen, a fan of Israeli folk music, also listened to Shalom Hanoch, considered the father of Israeli rock.

“When I was younger, I listened to rock music and psychedelic,” she said. “Then, in my 20s, I discovered [English singer-songwriter] Nick Drake and Crosby, Stills & Nash. I found this world and it blew my mind.”

Cohen said she also enjoyed the music of Esther Ofarim, an Israeli singer, who has gained an international following. And trips in her family’s vehicle were a musical influence as well. “We would always play classical music in the car,” she said.

Both musicians said they love Simon & Garfunkel.

The Israeli duo, who knew each other before performing together, joined to play music at a birthday party for Landau in 2011. Shortly after they formed the band in 2013, they were joined by Mati Gilad (bass), Rami Osservaser (guitar, piano), Dekel Dvir (drums) and Ido Rivlin (keyboards). When asked if the band’s name had any special meaning, Landau said simply that it “found us,” and just sounded good to them.

Stories behind the band’s lyrics are more revealing.

“Almost all of my lyrics are autobiographical,” Cohen said. As an example, she cited the lyrics of “Hometown,” which speaks of “Saturday night sing-alongs,” and the “sweet smell of fields.”

Cohen remembered vividly the times spent sitting and singing with her family, as well as days she spent living in Kochav Ya’ir, a place where she “could jump from my window and into the fields” and meet up with friends.

The reference in “Remember Roses” to “sitting on the shoulders of my father,” is also based on an early memory. As a child, Cohen said, her father often traveled abroad and “we didn’t see him a lot. So the rare moments that I was with him were especially precious to me.”

Other lyrics, like those on “She’s a Rainbow” — “She’s a rainbow, and I am a difficult man” — might suggest Cohen and Landau have a relationship beyond their musical collaboration. “No, not necessarily,” Landau replied when asked. “We will keep it mysterious,” Cohen added.

On the band’s recordings, the personal lyrics, expressed through Cohen’s emotionally edged singing, mix with an often feel-good and warm accompaniment to create an intimate sound.

Even with the challenges of amplification and larger venues, the band tries to maintain a close relationship with the audience. “We have these big, cinematic, wide kind of songs; and by their side, intimate songs. It’s important for us to be intimate, even in a big place,” Cohen said.

That approach is especially important to the band when it performs in a place filled with tension, like Israel.

Cohen said her wish is that the people coming to their performances “will forget about their daily lives, or what they were supposed to do before the show — that they will just be with us and maybe take the melodies with them,” and even “start to whistle.”

Lola Marsh will perform at 8:30 p.m. June 28 at the Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd. For tickets and more information, go to http://www.bootlegtheater.org/event/1481868-lola-marsh-los-angeles/.

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