The indie band Sandhaus wants to go where no Israeli band has gone before. But for now, the chief beneficiaries are the concertgoers.
"We want to take our music to a place where no Israeli band has gone before." This Star Trek-like sentence was uttered with complete confidence by soloist Asaf Sandhaus about Sandhaus, his eponymous band.
"We'd like to be as big as Arcade Fire," he said when asked about his wildest dream. "That's our goal, and we've reached it in music and performance; the rest is a matter of good management. I think if you don't dream of [going] far, you don't get anywhere."
"I would say it's not a matter of dreaming, but more of defining your goal," added guitarist Ran Cohen. "We see what there is in the field and it doesn't seem like just a daydream, but like something we can achieve. We want to be in music's big league - to tour for an entire year with a large staff that enables us to rehearse all the time and perform all over the world with the best equipment. And mainly, we want to be able to focus just on this and not have to do all kinds of other things at the same time."
Perhaps they won't be as big as Arcade Fire, but Sandhaus does have a real chance to go far. The reason lies not only in the wild ambitions of the band members (songwriter and singer Sandhaus, guitarist Cohen, bassist Ran Kaufman and drummer Itzik Ben David ), but mainly in their music.
As opposed to other Israeli indie bands that sing in English and dream of performing at Wemberley, but sound like something heard at the Roxanne Club 20 years ago, Sandhaus has a 1980s sound updated through contemporary filters. Sometimes they sound like The Editors, sometimes like the Drams. Their forthcoming single, "Never Be Alone," sounds like it was taken from an album by Phoenix.
Despite the comparison to other bands with an '80s sound, Sandhaus refuses to commit to any one musical genre. "Our songs have a lot of frames [of reference]," said Cohen. "If you looked at any particular one, you'd put it in one pigeonhole, while if you looked at a different one, you'd put it in a different pigeonhole."
"What's important to me is a good song," added Sandhaus. "Trends come and go, but what lasts in music like that of David Bowie, the Beatles or Velvet Underground are the songs. This has to do with what you are trying to say, what's at the heart of the song. Afterward, you can do it '80s, indie - that's already less important. I feel that a lot of what's being done is more about a trend and less about good songs; there's no basis, no meaning."
"I think the race for sound and innovation has made people slightly crazy," chimed in Ben David. "But I believe that at some point, there will be a return to naivete in songs. It's hard to find these days."
Sandhaus is the son of a painter and a graphic artist and studied film at university, so he has a broad cultural heritage that provides inspiration for his songs. "Inspiration comes from all kinds of places," he said. "It can be a painting, an interesting exhibit, music, movies - especially film noir and old European films - or a young woman I happen to meet."
Another item to chalk up to the credit of the band - and primarily of its soloist - is their sense of direction and total attention during concerts, which is extremely rare on the local scene. Last Friday, they appeared at Rothschild 12 at a party celebrating the sixth anniversary of the alternative music blog Oneg Shabat. The band members mounted the stage a little after midnight, near the end of a marathon that began in the afternoon, and played for a few dozen people as if they were on center stage at the Glastonbury Festival.
In one song, Sandhaus sat on an amplifier, rode it and moaned. Then he stood upright on it and continued with his song on the improvised stage he had made for himself, his head touching the ceiling.
The band will soon release a mini-album, to be launched on October 16 at Rothschild 12 ("like a home for us" ) and at the Indie-Negev Festival, also in October.
In addition, they are preparing a demo for a London recording company and are planning to play festivals in the United States and Europe next summer.