Interview: Monotonix

Two Wednesdays ago, Israel’s Monotonix paid our little corner of the country a visit. It was an incredible show; arguably one of the more memorable shows I’ve been to in my neck of the woods.
(Photo: Gabriel Elizondo)
Before the show, I had the pleasure of pulling the band aside for a bit to talk about shows, songwriting, and getting older.

TPG: So, introduce yourselves.

*introducing themselves*

Yonotan Gat: My name is Yonotan.

Haggai Fershtman: Haggai.

Ami Shalev: Ami.

Yonotan: Sacci.

TPG: What’s that?

Yonotan: Sacci. It’s his nickname.

TPG: Oh okay. How did that start?

Yonotan: When he was an activist, and he used to work at Whole Foods, he changed his name to Sacci for a few years. Then when he quit, he went back to being Ami.

TPG: Oh, (to Ami) when were you an activist?

(Ami turns around)

Ami: Hm?

TPG: Activist?

Ami: I am very activist; especially in bed. (they laugh)

TPG: Are you married?

Ami: Married. Buried.

TPG: (laughs) Alright, so you’ve been a band since 2005?

Yonotan: Yes. (to the others) He did research. He talked to me about Mono Addicted Acid Man.

Ami: Wow.

Haggai: Good band.

TPG: Yeah, how did you all meet?

Haggai: In a club in Tel Aviv.

TPG: How long ago?

Yonotan: 10 years ago?

Haggai: 10 years ago.

TPG: How old are all of you?

Ami: Ah!

Yonotan: I prefer not to say my age.

Haggai: 38.

Ami: 45.

TPG: Okay, is it true that you were banned from all the venues in Tel Aviv?

Haggai: No, almost all of them.

TPG: Almost? Why?

Ami: They say that we [were] playing too loud.

TPG: Too loud?

Ami: Yeah.

TPG: But you’re a rock band…

Haggai: But this is Israel

TPG: Oh, well yeah. Israel is more conservative?

Haggai: Ehh, yes and no.

Yonotan: When it comes to certain things.

Haggai: Like, if you do Eastern music, they go [thumbs up], but if you do rock [thumbs down].

TPG: Really?

Haggai: It’s a matter of culture.

TPG: Hm. And I guess rock isn’t a part of that culture?

Ami: For example–I can give you an example. A friend of mine; they play in a band called The Bee Gees, back in the 60s. And I said to them, “Guys, you playing too loud” and they listened to me, and look at what happened in the 70s; they became one of the biggest bands in the world.

TPG: That’s right.

Ami: So, it might be bad for us that we didn’t listen to the people in Tel Aviv that telled us that we play too loud.

Yonotan: They also tell us that we look like the Bee Gees.

TPG: Really?

Yonotan: In Tel Aviv, yes.

TPG: Haha, do you agree with that statement?

Yonotan: I wish.

TPG: Can you sing like The Bee Gees?

Haggai: I can!

Yonotan: Haggai has a really good falsetto.
(Haggai proceeds to sing into my mic)

Ami: But you can tell by the way they walk! He is the woman-man!

TPG: Yeah, with the hips! So, you were injured earlier this year, Ami.

Ami: Yes.

TPG: How did that happen?

Ami: I dont’ know, because I didn’t do anything in particular that made it happen.

TPG: It just happened?

Ami: I just tear up the meniscus.

TPG: Are you better?

Ami: Right now, yeah.

TPG: How long did it take to recover?

Ami: (thinks) Two months.

TPG: So no walking or anything?

Ami: No, walking, lot of practicing, a lot of physical therapy. We played shows in Australia, but we had to cancel one show.

TPG: That’s cool. You guys play a lot of shows. You’ve played…

Ami: Thousands of shows!
(Photo: Gabriel Elizondo)
TPG: Thousands?

Haggai: We feel it, we feel it!

TPG: That’s really good. I’m really glad about that because there’s a lot of young bands nowadays that burn out, you know? They stop playing really young…

Yonotan: We wouldn’t know anything about burning out. That’s never happened to us.

TPG: That’s really cool. I really, really admire that. So you have your third album coming out next year. It’s called Not Yet.

Ami: Yes.

TPG: Why did you call it Not Yet?

Ami: I dunno, it’s a long story. It happened in Tuscon, Arizona.

Haggai: Yes, Tuscon, Arizona.

Ami: Someone in an interview asked us “do you have a name for your last record”? So we say “Not Yet”. Then–“Oh! That’s a good name”! (laughs)

TPG: For your last record? So it’s your final album?

Ami: Ah! No. He asked us “what is the name of your next record” and we say “Not Yet”, then “Oh! That’s a good name”.

TPG: Yeah like a little light bulb appeared above your head.

Haggai: Yeah.

TPG: I wanted to ask, I was looking at the track list and you have a song on there called “Before I Pass Away”.

Ami: That’s correct.

TPG: What inspired you to write a song like that? You have other songs like “Set Me Free”—very exciting songs, that seems very mature.

Haggai: Because we never died before. You mean like there is a ‘gloomy’ atmosphere to our [music]?

TPG: Maybe, something more contemplative, mature even. Would you say that there is something like that?

Ami: Well yeah, we’re getting older. You can’t say that we’re getting younger.

Haggai: And this is like, in the eye of the beholder.

TPG: And in your eye, you’re getting older?

(they nod)

Ami: You can’t ignore it. We’re getting older.

TPG: But I’m sure at shows you’re younger in spirit?

Ami: Uhh, yes, we try to but—I don’t know.

Haggai: Time will tell.

(Haggai and Ami say something in Hebrew)

TPG: Okay then. On the new record, you worked with Steve Albini.

Ami: Yes.

Haggai: Yes.

TPG: That’s awesome. Are you fans of Shellac?

Ami: Of course!

TPG: What was it like working with him? I’ve always wondered…

Ami: It was really cool.

Haggai: Down to business.

TPG: Down to business? Is he very serious?

Haggai: No, you could joke with him but he’s very functional. Very simple, very straight forward. It’s very simple to work like that. You know what you see, you know what you want to get—very clear.

TPG: Did you do it digitally?

Haggai: No, never.

TPG: Oh okay, cause I know Steve only works with analog.

Ami: Yes.

TPG: Okay, do you think that you represent Israel well?

Ami: I hope so!

TPG: Given that you don’t play there very much—I was talking to Yonotan earlier and he said you don’t play there any more.

Ami: No, we don’t any more.

TPG: Would you want to play there again?

Ami: Neh. I don’t think so.

Haggai: It’s more embarrassing.

TPG: Why?

Haggai: (bashful) Cause it’s home. Hehe.

Ami: You have to see these people tomorrow when you wake up. (laughs)

TPG: Well one last question. Why do you play on the ground?

Haggai: We are a band of the people. We want to play at the same level as them. That’s why we play on the ground.

TPG: No stages, no masters.

Haggai: (laughs) Yes! No stages, no masters!

TPG: Well, it sounds like next band [The Young Maths] is setting up. Whaddya say we go check ‘em out?

Ami: Yes!

Haggai: Yeah let’s go!

Not Yet is out on Drag City Records January 25th of next year.

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