INTERVIEW: Zoe Polanski


photo by Ori Kroll 1.jpg


Zoe Polanski


MY last interview today...

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is with Zoe Polanski who has been talking about her new single, Violent Flowers, and filming its video (which is due soon). I ask the Tel Aviv-based artist what the scene is like there and which artists have inspired her – and which albums are most important to her.

Polanski talks about her upcoming plans and provides some advice to rising artists; which gifts she would like for Christmas and whether there are any approaching artists we need to get behind – she selects an interesting song to end the interview with.


Hi, Zoe. How are you? How has your week been?

Hi, Sam. I’m great thanks! This week has been really nice since summer has finally ended in Tel Aviv and the heavy hit has been broken at last. It always feels like a burden is lifted when summer ends here and the first rain arrives.

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?

I was trained as a guitar player, but I’ve been also writing music for as long as I can remember myself. I started my first solo project, Bela Tar, in 2010 as a manifestation of my growing fascination with texture-based songwriting, production and loop exploration and, during the years, it has been an active project. I have released two albums and an E.P. Another substantial project I was involved with is the Israeli band, Reo. It served as an outlet for a vision we had combining ’80s Pop aesthetics with Hebrew lyrics. In recent times, Bela Tar and Reo have taken the back seat in my life and gave room to new interests.

Composing several film scores shifted my work into the field of ambient experimentation. I met Aviad Zinemanas, who is a prominent Israeli Electronic musician, and together we started creating new arrangements to my songs.

Violent Flowers is your latest single. What is the story behind it?

I originally created it as a Bela Tar song using my familiar method of working with loops. First came inspiration for a single loop with a texture that fascinated me and made me want to explore all of its secretes; its lights and shadows. In this method of working, the loop is like a terrain for me and the song structure is my exploration of it.

I later realized that the basic loop in Violent Flowers was a manifestation of a beautiful memory I had that belonged to a previous chapter of my life. The song evolved as a visualization of that memory. When I met my current band mate, Aviad, we tackled this song pretty quickly. The soft electronic parts are his take of my first basic loop and an enriching addition to the sound image of the song.

What was it like putting the video together? Was it good working with Nadav Direktor?

In the video, we tried translating the audial experience of the loop based song into image and editing. We knew from the start that our subjects are going to be flowers and leaves, so coming up with the idea of a constant ‘zoom-in’ motion set us on a journey exploring hundreds of old nature films. It was a really fun process and Nadav is a mastermind in finding the rarest most beautiful pieces of film. Nadav worked hard on creating an organic flow between the different footage and the result, in my opinion, is a trip like experience.

Is there a strong music scene in Tel Aviv right now? What sorts of sounds are popular?

Tel Aviv is a very culture oriented city. Music-wise, its strong-suit at the moment is the Electronic music scene. There are a lot of great-sounding clubs and a growing amount of Techno/House producers and D.J.s that are based here. Tel Aviv is dramatically different from the rest of Israel (much more international) but, still, this is a Middle Eastern country and you can find traces of more local musical genres in a lot of the music that originates from here. The use of African or Arab instruments is evident. I also like using the Darbuka (an Arab percussion instrument) in some of my songs.

The sound of it is pretty far away from the kind of dream Pop that my music is often described as, but it’s an instrument that I heard around me growing up in Israel and I feel that it makes sense for me to combine it with what I do.

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Did you grow up in a musical household? When did music come into your life?

My mother was a classically trained pianist and we always listened to music when I was growing up. Jazz and ethnic music were the most common; some Country music as well. Surprisingly enough, we hardly ever listened to music sung in Hebrew, so when I started writing songs, it was strangely obvious for me that I needed to write in English - even though my native tongue was Hebrew. Only later on did I start writing in Hebrew and it was a big challenge for me.

Do you already have plans for 2019?

Yes, I do. I am planning to release the album that I am currently finalizing with Aviad Zinemanas. It will include both songs and ambient pieces. I am also currently working on a few collaborations that will see the light of day in 2019. One is with an Israeli Techno producer and another is a new project in Hebrew. My biggest plan for 2019, which is more of a hope though, is to continue experimenting and collaborating and creating lots of new materials.

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Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?

Music gave me so many great memories. But, in all honesty, I think nothing beats the feeling of having a moment of musical inspiration when I’m working on a piece, by myself. It’s rare and it’s wonderful.

Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?

Teenage years are the ones in which music hits you with the most intensity so it saddens me a bit to admit that music I discovered then and loved during that period of my life probably means the most to me. Red House Painters - Rollercoaster was one of the first albums I fell in love with.

In later years, I discovered a newer incarnation of the same artist and Sun Kil Moon’s Admiral Fell Promises became a really important album for me. My third choice would be a more recent one; one of the exceptions that were able to blew my mind, even though I was older…that’s William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops. In contrast to Mark Kozelek’s work I adored in previous years, in Basinski’s music I found elements that are closer to my own creative process.

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As Christmas is coming up; if you had to ask for one present what would it be?

Tough call. There is a Neumann microphone that I am dying for and a Maison Kitsuné jacket I would love to have. Either one of those would be awesome. Or, perhaps, that the entire world becomes vegan.

If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

I was actually pretty blessed and I got a chance to support so many great musicians in their Israeli tour dates - like Tame Impala, Swans; Mark Kozelek, Lætitia Sadier; Sleep Party People and more. I feel I’m satisfied in that area. Regarding my dream rider - maybe a backstage full of dogs.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

I don’t know that I’m qualified to give any advice; I believe that, for different people, it works differently. Some clichés are worth mentioning though - that it’s okay to be influenced by stuff but don’t try sounding like someone else. Try doing only what inspires you and makes your insides feel warm and fuzzy. Don’t worry too much about self-promotion. Worry about your art being amazing. That being said, you should find an awesome graphic designer.

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Do you have tour dates coming up? Where can we catch you play?

I am currently playing only in Israel but planning some European dates for spring of 2019.

How important is it being on stage and delivering your songs to the fans?

Playing live is a part of my work as a musician that I have grown to love. When I started out, I had a terrible stage fright and it took me years to shake it off. Only in the past year have I started to enjoy it. And I do now, tremendously. I am not a super-social person to say the least and playing shows allows me to connect with people on a very profound level, something that is almost impossible for me otherwise. So, I would say being on stage is a huge deal for me and it has a lot to do with me being less lonely.


 IN THIS PHOTO: Shame on Us

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

I would love to recommend some Israeli artists that I admire. As I mentioned; the Electronic scene is happening in Tel Aviv and there are a lot of interesting artists like: Red Axes, Shame on Us; Or Edry and TV.OUT. And, not Electronic but still great: Vaadat Charigim and Hila Ruach.


 IN THIS PHOTO: Vaadat Charigim

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

Since I work independently in music - with no day job -, I have no other choice but to really fill my time with all kinds of different projects. Other than creating original music, I score films and I teach production and guitar. I actually don’t have much time left for hobbies. I do unwind though by taking my dog on walks and watching Netflix.

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Or Edry - Cheder Choshech  


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