On their 2013 debut, The World Is Well Lost, Israeli shoegazers Vaadat Charigim took listeners beyond the shroud of Levantine politics and shattered perceptions of their home with a universal-sounding and instantly classic shoegaze album. Now, with their follow-up, Sinking As A Stone, the band has jumped headlong away from the hype and into the genre. SLUG spoke with Vaadat Charigim’s frontman, Juval Harring, about the process of writing and recording the new album.
SLUG: It’s been 17 months since the release of your debut album, The World Is Well Lost. Looking back on the process, how was it for you and what have you learned as a band?
Vaadat Charigim: First of all, I learned that as a person, you communicate best with other people by remaining true to yourself. The language is neglectable. Words have so much meaning, but what that meaning is, is less important than the power of meaning on its own. When you feel something strong enough or have a strong enough idea, people will understand it in any language, because you brought it out from within yourself.
I toured the States quite a bit in the early 2000s. In those years, I think, playing with so many bands in so many different bills, I got the somewhat wrong impression that music is about entertainment; that strong showmanship was powerful; that noise and sheer volume on its own was enough to communicate with people, and I guess it took me a few years to find my voice—and by voice, I mean what I have to say, even if that thing is in a language few people can understand.
SLUG: What do you think of the album now that you’ve had time to reflect on it?
Vaadat Charigim: The World is Well Lost is one of those albums you make as a musician, that when you look back at it, it’s like a photo you like because you looked a bit younger and your skin was nice, and you did this gesture with your hand and smiled in some way that now feels distant to the present you. I think, much like the new LP, that it captures a moment in time for us as a band, and that moment to me, thematically, was a kind of “teenhood.” The end of the world seems around the corner every moment, and everything makes you fall in love.
SLUG: You’ll be releasing your second full-length, Sinking As A Stone, this May. How did you begin making your second album, and what did that process entail?
Vaadat Charigim: The new album is somewhat darker, people say, because it is a departure from “teenhood” into longer, more abstract realizations for myself about life, death and especially time.
Much like the first album, this new one was recorded at home. I like recording at home with Dan and Yuval because we get to talk about the music and re-record as much as we want, and, when we take breaks, we go down and eat hummus or drink coffee near Yuval’s house, which is right by Levinski Market in the south of Tel Aviv. The songs were written beforehand by myself, and we then took them apart to record them in layers, discussed the layers, and then recorded them through pretty simple gear in the living room at Derech Yafo 44. Some songs had different versions, and finally, I listened to all the versions, sort of decided on a flow for the record and sent it off to mixing. This isn’t much different from the first album’s process. I used to record live with other bands in a studio—these days I enjoy multi-tracking. I like how it sometimes feels like deception, but I like thinking of art as a sort of lie, a lie that is greater than reality, that can make you think outside the box about life and sound, etc. There is great truth in live recording, great energy. I guess I am at a stage in life where I don’t care much for either.
SLUG: Sonically, Sinking As A Stone is a wonderful companion to Well Lost’s sprawling, space-y shoegaze. What draws you toward making music in this timeless genre?
Vaadat Charigim: With this record, I was thinking of [Éric Alfred Leslie] Satie’s “Furniture Music” and of Philip Glass—music that describes what is in the background. The record is called “The Boredom Sinks In” in Hebrew. That is where boredom lies—in the background. People run around living their lives, doing things, making things, working, buying, selling, so that the endless boredom won’t come in through the cracks from the background and into the foreground. Boredom is life itself, lying still in the background of our everyday
lives, and it is frightening, life itself. [Martin] Heidegger described boredom as a moment that creeps up on you while you are waiting for the train. It is the feeling of time itself, without the relief of “something to do.” In that sense, the idea of our music is timeless, but the aesthetic of it is very much rooted in time.
You can date our sound to the mid–’80s/mid–’90s, but that’s just the ear bait. The bigger idea in the second album was to stretch song structures we had achieved in the first album, so that a person finds himself “waiting,” and in that “waiting,” he feels time passing, and his own self passing.
SLUG: The garage and psych-pop heavy Burger Records is your U.S. label. Do you feel like musical outsiders there or part of the family?
Vaadat Charigim: I love Burger for how they operate. I don’t care too much for musical genres anyways. Their model of work—using cassettes to make releasing music easier and more diverse than any other label out there—is genius. It’s pluralistic and allows for a lot of genre bending.
SLUG: You posted about the recent Israeli elections on Vaadat Charigim’s Facebook page. I’m curious as to how you approach political and social commentary in a genre that’s often considered to be solely musically focused.
Vaadat Charigim: We’re quite upfront politically. We’re all left to far left in the band—walking, breathing Tel Aviv hipster clichés. Some songs are straight up about political stuff happening in Israel. Well, maybe not straight-up, but this album and the first are both heavily influenced by Israel and things in the region. Our approach to politics in songs is mostly by underlining the cyclical and Sisyphean nature of politics—how evil is endless, and always a part of everything. The World is Well Lost’s “end of the world” theme is just a “tale,” but it’s based on feelings. We all grew up in between wars. We all have seen carnage either in person or happening right around the block. You suppress these memories into a deep place within you, but when you make music, you have to go down there and bring that out.
SLUG: What does the future hold for Vaadat Charigim?
Vaadat Charigim: I would like to move from Tel Aviv to the countryside and build my own recording studio. That is my biggest dream right now. What happens with the band isn’t really that interesting. We’ll probably tour, eat hummus, press record now and then and put out records.