My Scene // Israeli Punk w/ Zoo Harmonics

by DavidBeech
DavidBeech
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on 24 October 2014 in Lists

Since its inception, punk has been associated with political dissonance and social commentary, provided a voice for a voiceless collective and shunned mainstream ideology in favour of something far more reactionary and at times, even dangerous. Bands such as Dead Kennedys in the US and Crass in the UK sent the media in to a moral panic, viewing them as a threat to the then social climate. It was the politically outspoken, those harbouring anarchist ideals, that hogged the headlines, leaving those bands who just wanted to drink beer, skate, and play music to get on with it outside of the limelight.

It's worth noting though, that for every Dead Kennedy there was also a Descendant, for every Black Flag, a Blink-182. Punk doesn't have to be outspoken and political to mean something to someone and in fact, the light-hearted, uplifting elements of the genre's more melodic side can often provide escapism far more effectively than bands entrenched in activism. Israel, for instance, and the current conflict is a perfect ground for politically-driven punk, yet it's pop-punk which finds itself enjoying relative popularity. “We felt a revival In the late 90's, mainly due to the success of bands like Useless ID and Man Alive says Zoo Harmonics front-man Dror Goldstein “There were times that we could see more and more people attending punk shows, but we're not sure it has something to do with the political situation, the Punk scene has existed since the 70's and it has been pretty stable since.” So if it not the politics, is it the community created by punk in Israel that has allowed it spread? “The Israeli punk-rock scene is obviously smaller than most of the others in the world...That's one of the reasons we choose to join forces with other punk bands, and together we try to deliver our music to as many listeners as possible.” Goldstein also goes on to say that “We have lots of friends in this scene so we find ourselves often attending punk shows, playing or just hanging out.”.

So whilst war might wage in Israel and its surrounding areas, punk has already won a battle of hearts and minds over the country's less conformist youth. And not your traditionally dissonant kind the genre's associated with, but the uplifting So-Cal, smoke a bowl and skate kind. “It's true,” says guitarist Ron Minis “Western punk-rock has had a large effect on us, we grew up on bands like Blink 182 and Green Day. In regards to Israeli bands, the band that influenced our sound the most is Useless ID.” a band whose sound is the kind of punk completely synonymous with a generation of Tony Hawks Pro Skater soundtracks; completely uplifting, entirely devoid of political narratives. So despite the Israeli punk scenes harmless catharsis, are those involved under any real threat from the authorities? “We actually have a really good story about this: A friend of ours was accused of using drugs. Anyway, the police shows up at this guy's place for a search, but all they found was a bunch of CDs which had a cover photo that didn't please them so much. It was a picture of the same guy that "hosts" them in his house at that moment, strangling a cop! On top of that, the name of the band is Mahleket Hanikot Shotrim - which in a free translation means Cops Strangling Department!” Easy to see why the police weren't best pleased, but only an album cover all the same.

When asked about putting on shows, the band link back once again to the idea of punk as community “Nowadays, there are two venues in Tel Aviv that support punk music. One of them is called Koro, and was opened a couple of years ago by six friends, each one of them playing in a punk band. A year ago, several bands, us amongst them, joined together and created a fund-raising event for the venue, in order for it to stay open. Whoever came to that event could easily understand how important the Koro is to the punk community in Tel Aviv...We often find ourselves searching for alternatives, too, for example, bomb shelters, parking lots etc.”

Gigging in bomb shelters, and album art featuring a cop killing, all sounds very punk and surprisingly political to me, after all, even Pussy Riot only played in a church. Are the band sure the politics of their country's conflict isn't seeping in to their scene? “We've been familiar with this conflict since we were little kids, but our band wasn't formed in order to take a political side, in fact, none of the songs on our debut album "Business in The Front, Party in the back" talk about politics”. A very definite answer then, but even though their music might not address the current conflict, the way in which punk creates a community of like-minded individuals is very much a subconscious reaction against conflict, be it social, political, or military and just like the punks in the 1980s sought solace from Reagan or Thatcher in hardcore or anarchism, Zoo Harmonics and their contemporaries take solace from the society formed around their scene.

In order for us to gain some insight in to the type of music the band are listening to at the moment, they gave us a mix-tape featuring some Israel's strongest artists, not just limited to punk, either.

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