Blue and White Noise

You can love them or leave them, but you can hardly ignore the raucous local band, Drunk Machine.

Uri Zer Aviv
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Uri Zer Aviv

Not long ago the Drunk Machine band was invited to appear in Carmiel and was a bit taken aback by the reception they got. While the equipment awaiting them was topnotch, the crowd acted as though they were at a billiards club, relates Idan Katz, the band's guitarist. "The stage looked like something at a wedding hall, with lasers and all kinds of stuff. From the day we started the band we'd decided we'd kill ourselves on stage and give everything we've got even if the audience is only three people or a cat. But at the performance in Carmiel it turned out that not only did we not interest the audience, but they had brought us there to provide background music."

Drunk Machine - whose other members included soloist and bass player Lior Abel and drummer Ran Cohen - never wanted to make background music. It is a band that by definition makes a lot of noise. "Either you listen to us or you leave," says Katz. But at that gig the audience neither listened nor left.

"We got there and we yelled our lungs out across from a table that was set up right under the stage. The people seated around it didn't stop making peculiar requests of us." One asked him: "Do you know Eric Clapton?" and added that the previous week a really nice cover band had played blues. Katz replied that of course they know Clapton but that isn't why they had driven all the way to Carmiel.

Cohen, Abel and Katz have been working together for three years as Drunk Machine, which is named after a song by the British musician and songwriter Thom Yorke. The band has performed many times and has won the admiration of quite a number of rock fans in Israel - that is, those who wax nostalgic for its rowdier days.

Drunk Machine won a certain amount of media exposure with its second short (extended play ) disc called "Hot Flushes" comprised of four songs. In addition to this EP and its predecessor they have also issued one single, which is slated to be included on the debut full-length album they are working on now.

Soloist Abel writes the lyrics (in English ) for Drunk Machine and most of his songs are about personal and social troubles. For example, he explains the meaning of the title "Hot Flushes" in Hebrew. In the nature of things, he first became aware of this phenomenon by means of his mother but he felt it also speaks to him and embodies something he himself feels.

"It also defines a personal anxiety of mine," he says, "In not very pleasant situations I have a kind of phenomenon of shutting down and I become all embarrassed and red and my face really burns." As for the unpleasant situation in Carmiel, Abel now says: "It's known that this music doesn't speak to everyone and sometimes works less well outside of Tel Aviv." However, the trio have also had some good experiences at performances in outlying areas - one of them at Kibbutz Givat Brenner where "a performance that was packed with people of all ages became a carnival of dancing and costumes."

Much to their delight, the members of Drunk Machine will experience the real thing when they perform tonight at the Barby Club in Tel Aviv as the opening act for the American indie rock star Stephen Malkmus and his band, the Jicks. The producer of the concert invited them after Malkmus asked him to see an Israeli group "that knows how to make noise."

For Katz, mainly, this is a kind of closing of a circle. Malkmus' sound on the guitar, he says, has very much influenced the character of his own playing. "A few years ago I went into a guitar shop to buy a sort of fuzz pedal. I played a Malkmus and the Jicks disc for the salesman so he could find me a machine that produces the same effect."

Members of Drunk Machine (left to right): Lior Abel, Idan Katz and Ran Cohen.Credit: Daniel Tchetchik