An Interview with Ninet Tayeb — Israeli rock-star jumps the Atlantic for U.S. takeover

Ninet Tayeb

Photo by Ido Izak

Ninet Tayeb: Keep an Eye on This Rising Rock Star

Interview feature by Steven Ward

Ninet Tayeb may be a new name on the Los Angeles music scene, but in her native Israel, she’s an acclaimed singer/songwriter/actress and one of the larger entertainment figures in the country. With four albums under her belt, Tayeb made the jump from Tel Aviv to the U.S. seemingly overnight, and the move was done with a childhood dream in mind and with virtually no friends or family to accompany her. For Tayeb, the transitional growth from Hebrew power ballads to grunge-rock vitriol was an arduous one that began over a decade ago with her winning Israeli Idol, and her debut album took less than a day to go platinum, resulted in five number one singles, and a television series based on her life that she starred in.

“Here I’m starting from scratch. I do have a fanbase in Israel and I’m pretty established there but I don’t want to think about it like that because I want to start fresh,” Tayeb said of the big move. “I needed it for myself to discover new things about me, the way I see and feel things creation wise. I came here and just started to write because I was so inspired from the nothingness, we had no family or friends–we do now–but at the beginning it was just so hard and I just wanted to use that.”

Tayeb gushes an enthusiasm for life and music that seems to thrive off each’s complexity and adversity–for a moment, she couldn’t pull herself from the confines of Blacktop Coffee until she’d figured out the band that was playing over the radio, and she was still talking about them long after. That adversity, which rumbles violently through her songs in the form of defiant perseverance, began with the release of her second album  Communicative, for which she drew influence from the likes of Jeff Buckley and PJ Harvey to bring her own voice as a female musician to the forefront. Public reaction was immediate and brutal–at her album launch show she was pelted with thrown objects and performed to nearly empty venues on her tour. Tayeb has carried the events of that night with her ever since, and has used them as fuel to continue making music that both speaks to her and speaks of her; the result has been emotionally compromising, fierce, and exceedingly voracious rock that burns as brightly as one might expect Tayeb’s soul to.

When she finally released her first all English album Sympathetic Nervous System, the transition was more than apparent and she’d earned back the ears of her country, becoming a two-time winner of Israel’s “Favorite Music Act” at MTV Europe’s Music Awards. “I still have power ballads but they’re kind of hidden,” Tayeb said of the growth in her sound. “It’s the way I live life now; I’m not afraid to be what I am because I found the courage to just say what I want, do what I want, and to not be afraid of what people think or say. I just listen to my heart and follow it.”

Her first three albums are entirely in Hebrew, and her bilingualism is more than just an interesting trope as both languages are described Tayeb as close to her heart; her music in Hebrew is broodingly evocative, boasting gorgeous inflections that you just don’t hear in English. As essentially Israel’s biggest female rock star, Tayeb has toured in support of and shared the stage with acts like the Jesus and Mary Chain and Cyndi Lauper, and the importance of female acts taking to the stage to sing is not lost on her. Tayeb herself has been compared to acts like The Kills‘ Alison Mosshart and Warpaint, but like them she has undoubtedly carved out a niche all her own–and that includes an obligation to get other woman singing.

“Nowadays, as a woman, I want to believe it’s getting easier,” she said hopefully. “I’m just calling every woman that’s here, that makes music to go out there and do it and to not be afraid of anything, because I really believe and feel that right now is the time. I feel it in my body. Now is the time to make a change, and the fact that there are so many girl bands just shows that.”

Practicing what she preaches, after her immense growth and rise in popularity in Israel, she knew that if she was ever going to make the move to America, it would be now. From the age of nine Tayeb had been singing, at sixteen she was writing her own songs, and every one was penned out of her insecurities as a girl growing up; but that same girl dreamt vividly of coming to the U.S.: “It was my dream ever since I was a little girl. The dream was like New York [she laughs] funny, but true, ever since I was like fourteen. But then someone here [gesturing to Civia Caroline, her manager] told us to come here and live the L.A. scene, and I do love L.A. now. It’s so big, like Israel. But it was always one of my goals, I was going to live in the U.S., I was going to write music and be a musician there.”

Since her arrival, Tayeb has been devouring the expansiveness of Los Angeles’ bustling music scene with delirious hunger, mentioning that she fell in love with the Alabama Shakes at their Greek Theatre date and expressive need to catch Warpaint. But she’s earned a few fans of her own, because at her Viper Room show a few weeks ago both Dave Grohl and a member of Warpaint were in attendance–a fact that Tayeb got glossy-eyed over just thinking about. Back in Israel, these had been her heroes: “Grunge, rock, alternative, that’s my thing. From, of course, Nirvana, to Patti Smith, PJ Harvey, I like everything, like a lot of bands. Like what just happened right now when I heard that song, I didn’t want to go out of the store I just wanted to stay there. Even in Israel, I don’t know if it will sound familiar to you, but everything that’s related to rock music.”

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As a fan of the grunge and rock scenes, it’s clear that Tayeb has a tendency towards wildly impassioned performances–“I’m an animal. Like a zoo; I can be tiger, I can be wolf–it’s hard to explain but I’m reborn onstage, and die onstage at every show.”

Sweaty, hot, burning with fiery deliverance, Tayeb isn’t just catharsis and release, she’s the aftermath as well, electrifying in the afterglow of the agony and the ecstasy. If you’re smart, you’ll catch her while she’s still running the circuit of small bars and clubs that such rock star purvey before their explosion of fame–Tayeb is already among the ranks of talented female rockers that exist, America just doesn’t know it yet.

Ninet Tayeb will be performing at the Hotel Cafe on Dec. 10 with her first U.S. released album arriving February 3, watch her latest video for “Subservient” below. You can also vote here to include your city in the running for Tayeb’s tour. Visit her website or Facebook for more info!

Ninet Tayeb’s next Los Angeles date is at The Echoplex on Thursday, February 15. Tickets are still available. Grab them here!

 

 

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