Interview: Noga Erez on Connection and the Physical Power of Music

Tuesday, September 17, 2019
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“I hope when people listen to my music that their senses can feel it. That it's something that’s happening in their body and will stay with them long after they’ve listened to it.” When Tel Aviv-based singer, songwriter and producer Noga Erez talks about music, it transcends sonics — she wants you to have an experience. She talks about one of her favourite songs, ‘Joga’ by Björk, and the physical feeling she feels when she listens to it — it’s almost orgasmic, she notes. It’s a song that makes her feel inebriated from solely just listening to it. Erez’s experience when listening to Björk is something her fans feel when they listen to her music — every time you listen to Erez's music, it gives you an all-consuming and euphoric experience.

In-between touring, she has been working on the follow-up to her 2017 debut album Off the Radar. She feels confident with what she’s created so far for the release, but she also doesn’t want to rush it — she wants her new album to accurately capture the changes she has endured internally. She wants to create something that shares an essence with her debut album but also make sure it reflects her growth. “You want to be able to do the same thing but not to be able to do the same thing at the same time. You want to show people that you have evolved as an artist.”

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Until she maps out her plan for the next record and what the first single will be, she’s been keeping busy, including spending time in Melbourne recently to play a show at the Melbourne Recital Centre as part of the Festival of Jewish Arts & Music. Experiencing different audiences and travelling is something that inspires and fascinates Erez — it also provides her with an opportunity to connect deeply with her fans, which is immensely important to her.

Even after the number of shows that she has played, playing to an audience is a mind-blowing experience for her. “You sit in a room, where you're in a certain mood, you’re thinking about something that you need to get out and express, so you make a song and record it. All of a sudden, you’re in a space when you’re on-stage and you are performing it and watching people’s reactions, it’s truly mind-blowing.”

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Her performance in Melbourne was at a seated venue, providing her fans with a different way of experiencing her music, with clubs and festivals being the regular space she performs in. A seated show is something that she has done before back home in Tel Aviv — where she took the songs from her debut album Off the Radar and rearranged the tracks with an orchestra. Though she said that the experience of seeing people seated is strange and different at first, it allows people to digest her music in a different way. “To notice small details, sitting down and being focussed gets your senses working. Sometimes it’s not always about the primitive reaction of moving your body. It lets you experience what you’re hearing in a different way.”

Erez is frequently inspired by her travels, but Tel Aviv’s underground scene and the intimacy of venues in the city influences her greatly. The small size of the city means bars and clubs are close to each other. “Tel Aviv’s night scene is very vivid as people can move around from one place to another throughout the entire night. It allows people to drink more and to be more free and hang out and the whole city becomes a kind of vibrant festival that happens in one place, but it happens almost every night.” The close nature of Tel Aviv’s music scene also means musicians are constantly collaborating, whether they’re a household name in the city or an emerging artist, which works to creates a communal atmosphere — it also ensures there’s healthy competition amongst creatives who reside in Tel Aviv.

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“It creates something that is very warm, very positive and but also competitive. It pushes people to their boundaries because there’s always someone there you’re comparing yourself to, and helps you want to always try and be the best you can be.”

Being in Tel Aviv also places her amidst conflict, and the area’s internal and external conflict is something she channels in her music — which is her preferred way of communicating how she feels about politics. “I do have a lot to say about things, but I'm not a talkative person,” she says, “Music is always where I start talking. It’s a space where I can talk about serious or heavy subjects or even say something very dark, or outrageous or rebellious.” Talking about how she feels isn’t something that comes naturally to her, but music is a place where she does this intuitively.

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Her debut album Off the Radar featured songs like ‘Dance While You Shoot’, which is a charging critique of the government’s handling of poverty and the destructive actions of those with the most power. Her compelling album channelled the feeling of living in an area of constant terror and internal turmoil.

“I just feel like who gives a fuck about my opinion, but if it comes in the form of music, I can do something artistic with how I feel. Through layers, I can share a message that says something about the world that you can either agree or disagree with. I'm able to feel completely free to express what I am feeling, and that freedom is the best feeling as an artist.”

Music is a form of self-expression for Erez, but it also enables communication — not only through her powerful and sharp lyrics but also through the intricate sounds she presents  — something she achieves through her creative partnership with Ori Rousso. “I think music and words do the same thing to the brain, but I would say that the brain has a more primal response to music. When you hear something, you can associate it with many different things and it can make you feel something in many different ways.” For both Erez and Rousso, production and beat-making present a deeper form of communication, one that’s best used to capture feelings that are more abstract and harder to express through words.

Whenever she questions her purpose within music, she reminds herself of the power music can have on someone else. “Whenever you feel like you work so hard and doors are being slammed in your face, you have to remember why you do it and for me, it’s that I want to make a difference in people’s lives and I want to be able to create something that they can feel deeply and connect with. You want to have some influence and that is the strongest feeling, it keeps you going regardless of what happens.”

Written by Amy Smolcic (@amysmolcic)
Photos by Kristy Smolcic (folio)

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