Nitzan Horesh Brings a New-old Big Band Sound With Cut Out Club

'We wanted the bass to be funky and the guitars not to be dominant, and the chorus to be Duran Duran and for there to be female vocals.'

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Cut Out Club lead singer Nitzan Horesh.Credit: Lior Keter

A few weeks ago, Nitzan Horesh appeared with his Cut Out Club, a big band with eight members, at SYRUP in Haifa – a fun place, but small and not ideal for such a large band. It was so crowded on the stage that bass player Ishay Berger spent most of the performance sitting on his amplifier.

Despite all the limitations, it was quite impressive. First, even in this tiny place, the band played as if this were its most important concert, or maybe its last. Horesh came down from the stage into the audience, raising his arms and clapping. The rest of the band members

really looked as if they were enjoying the show, and just as important, enjoying each other’s company. They were happy, and happiness is contagious.

Most importantly, the enjoyment and social cohesion within the band did not for a moment slip into negligence in their playing. When Doron Talmon, the backup singer and percussionist, took her tambourine in hand, it was exactly with the beat. And that is not something to take for granted.

After the show, and even after most of the audience had already left, the band continued its party alone, with the members dancing to the sounds of the deejay, as well as refills of chasers. They were pleased with themselves, the bastards.

Nitzan Horesh, 38, is fixed in local memory as a rocker, but Cut Out Club is a project that has taken a sharp turn into a completely different path. This group makes music in which rock ‘n’ roll is almost a marginal component.

In fact, Horesh never planned to build himself such an ensemble. After two albums with his previous group, Electra, he decided he had more or less had his fill of the standard rock formats, and went into the studio with the band’s producer, Baruch Ben Izhak of Rockfour, to work on a solo album. But then he discovered that he’s the “band type,” and all sorts of ideas that deviate from the classic structure of guitar/bass/drums, and require an augmented ensemble, had filled his head for years.

That is how we got Cut Out Club, a super-group of various talents with very different styles: Berger, who is a member of the pop-punk band Useless ID (where he plays the guitar); Talmon, the soloist of Jane Bordeaux; drummer Haggai Fershtman, who came from Monotonix; leading guitarist Ben Golan, who also plays with the band Tree; keyboardist Shay Roth of Taani Ester; saxophonist Roey Bar Yehuda from The Meatballs; and another singer, Daniella Milo, who was the only one who did not present a resume of present and previous bands. But listening to her singing made it immediately clear that she was one among equals.

The group’s first album will come out in August, but three singles have already started their rounds on the local playlists, and soon a music video for a fourth will be released. In the meantime, the band has already signed with the European music management and public relations agency Factory 92 (whose other clients include Nick Cave and Arcade Fire) and with the German booking agency FKP Scorpio (Tame Impala, Alt-J, Faith No More), and it is preparing for a round of summer festivals in Germany, France, Russia and India.

“I am a bit panicked, but these are good problems, as they say,” Horesh said. And all this makes it a bit hard to paint Horesh as a frustrated rocker.

Horesh insists on remaining an individual and avoiding clichés. Even the photo session for the pictures for this article – based on the concept of reproducing the iconic album cover of The Clash’s “London Calling” – was something he agreed to only after hesitating and voicing reservations, despite having bought the double album when he was only 10.

Though he became a music freak even before he was a teenager (“I had my picture taken with the Johnny Rotten figure in Madame Tussauds at age 10!”), he did not become a front man for a band, aside from a few transient episodes, until he set up Electra, about a decade ago. On the way, he worked in journalism. But all other business ended the minute Electra became the main focus.

Today, hard as it may be to believe, he makes a living from making music.

“I was what is called a ‘sensitive child,’” Horesh said. “The world looked cruel to me, but at a relatively early stage, I understood that the other children around me lacked worries about this world. Music provided me with a special protective wrapping – an intimate world, aesthetic, mysterious, a bit anti. One could say that from the age at which they start expecting you to deal with life’s concrete challenges, I chose to enter a world of fantasy.

“I bought my first guitar when I was 14. My connection to creating music was from the internal and intimate side, of a guitarist who plays alone. But for the life of me, I can’t remember a fundamental moment of moving from a consumer to a producer of music. I’m not a nostalgic person,” he added.

“Baruch and I came to the album with a clear vision of what we wanted to happen in it. We wanted the big band atmosphere. We wanted the bass to be funky and the guitars not to be dominant, and the melodies to be Duran Duran and for there to be female vocals. We recorded demos for everything before I knew I had seven people who were capable of taking it in every possible direction, since they were that good.

“And so, every one of them took it in their own direction. So there is a vision, and I found myself in a new role, as a sort of conductor or arranger, and it really interested me. I always dreamt of being Burt Bacharach. But there’s nothing of the kind of ‘let’s put something here that will sound like this and that.’”

Listening again to the album gradually reveals that Horesh isn’t exaggerating in the least. There are songs the public has yet to hear; one, “New Confrontation,” is completely David Bowie from the 1980s. Another song, “Colorized,” has a true Nik Kershaw line. In the middle of another song, Milo’s voice suddenly reminds you of the new wave of Lene Lovich and Nina Hagen.

It’s not a synth pop album, since the orchestration, keyboards included, is not cold and synthesized. It’s a warm album, one in which a lot of things happen. It also has rock ‘n’ roll bordering on the Rolling Stones. It’s an amazing load.

Electra and Cut Out Club are both bands with a mainstream sound that’s in a dialogue with global genres. Horesh’s bands do not sound as if they are from Israel, and don’t look it either, which has brought him criticism.

This criticism stems from an Israeli phobia: “Just don’t copy the foreigners.” But this is an empty and stupid phobia, since after all, everyone who is “here” came from some “there” or another. Even Horesh himself has a look of not being from here, from his hairdo to his pointy-toed shoes.

Today it may be a bit different, but for years, he stood out in the Israeli rock scene, which was traditionally and dictatorially careful about its “anti” look, and in the name of an anachronistic kibbutznik authenticity, viewed anyone who took the stage and demonstrated even the slightest bit of theatricality as a poseur who wasn’t concentrating solely on the music. Thus some saw Horesh as a poseur, an scenester, and full of himself.

“The source of my look is that I was a ‘total’ youth, with a feeling of having my back to the wall; so I loved ‘scenes’ in which the music and the agenda and the style line up to create something unified and strong,” he said. “But a few years have passed since then.

“I discovered that scenes are something infantile. Sometimes that’s part of the secret of their charm, but most of the time they are a pretentious waste of time, lacking a future, limited and narrow minded. There are a few exceptions throughout history that we cling to. But in most cases, the ‘scene’ is something that narrows your range of creativity as a musician.

“What arouses my curiosity today is mostly a fusion of styles, lifestyles and music of various types. And this comes out in Cut Out Club, and it really is hard to find another group like it, in which the people come from such different musical worlds.

“Cut Out Club may have started from a rather clear vision I had in my head,” Horesh added, “but as Ben says today, ‘We lost the storyline a long time ago.’ And that’s wonderful.”

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