When we picture live music around the world, many of us conjure images of exotic instruments and strange rhythms, skinny string-laden music makers and drums of all sizes. Very rarely do we picture an electro-funk jam ensemble of smiling faces, but that’s exactly what you get with the Israeli import G-Nome Project. The boys from the Middle East are back on their third U.S. tour in two years, with some of the most sizzling livetronica you’ll see on either side of the ocean. Comprised of Yakir Hyman, Zechariah Reich, Chemy Soibelman, and Eyal Salomon, four of Israel’s more talented musicians, G-Nome project has been making waves in their home country as well as the U.S.A. since their founding in September of 2012. Their big break can easily be traced to last years Great North Music & Arts Festival (2014), where they played a remarkable set that amassed a huge crowd, hearing the G-Nome sound for the first time. With a style all their own called “Grilled Cheese Funk”, the project is one heavily focused on improvisation. During the course of their two sets at Mainely Brews in Waterville, ME (August 8th, 2015), it seemed as if they had a psychic stream of musical consciousness between the four of them as they flowed seamlessly between elements of funk, electronica, and dance music. With a repertoire that includes both originals and covers (including a particularly memorable version of the Sesame Street Theme Song), a G-Nome Project show will never fail to get an audience moving.
Lost in Sound caught up with the band after their show in Waterville, Maine. Despite the late hour, we were ushered onto their RV, the words “BRAVE” emblazoned on the side inspiring the name “The Brave Little Toaster”. We sat down round-table style with the band to ask them about their U.S. tour, Great North 2015, and what exactly is “Grilled Cheese Funk?”. The best thing about this group is they’re always smiling. Despite their undeniably in-sync performance style, each member of the band is as unique as they come. Balancing wholesome intentions and renegade style, in varying proportions, the group played off each other during our conversation equally as well as they do on stage.
It’s great to see you guys back in the USA for the third time! How’s tour life treating you?
Zechariah –So far so good!
Eyal-We’ve had some bumps starting out. Now we’re on our long journey, 12 shows in 14 days. So, yea, were in the heart of that.
Chemy- WHAT?! we have 12 shows in 14 days?!
You guys are a long way from home! What’s different about performing in the U.S.A. versus home in Israel?
Eyal- Talking to the people after the shows. We meet a lot of different characters. I mean, in Israel I meet Israeli characters, people I’m used to every day. Here in the US I meet just the most wacky people. I mean, they’re wacky to me, but I’m wacky to them, you know what I mean?
Zach- It’s playing livetronica music to a livetronica crowd, which is really awesome. We almost had it concentrated with the Baltimore, Philly, New York run, because those were all really big crowds, and really big scenes, who are super familiar with this type of music. They can pick out little things like “oh you did this cover” or “you teased this band there”.
Eyal- Yea, you tease the Biscuts in Israel and no one gets it. Here, everyone gets it.
Zach- Americans in Israel would get it, but no one else does.
Yakir- People actually get what were doing (in the USA). In Israel were almost building the community, which has its own sense of meaningfulness, but it’s challenging.
You have an RV this year! Definitely an improvement on the van (a 10 passenger van the band toured in summer 2014). Have there been any funny tour stories to come out of the Grilled Cheese Funk Tour’s “Brave Little Toaster” RV yet?
Chemy-How funny do you wanna get? Have you ever taken a piss at 75 miles an hour? It’s a challenge.
Yakir- If you jump in the RV when it’s moving, it moves underneath you.
Zach- Not recommended.
Yakir- When we’re moving I’ll jump, and I’ll end up flying towards the back and land (on the bed). I think the funny thing about the RV is learning all there is to know about it, like asking people at RV parks for help emptying this tank or attaching that hose. (laughs)
You guys play “Grilled Cheese Funk”…..what is “Grilled Cheese Funk” to those who aren’t familiar?
Yakir- It’s pretty simple. Eyal and I have similar experiences with the whole festival scene, and the jam band scene. One of my favorite parts, back in the day before I started keeping stricter Kosher laws, was the grilled cheese. You could get garlic grilled cheese, or pesto grilled cheese, whatever you wanted. And there’s always this sound that it makes when the bread hits the griddle. They slap on the bread and the cheese, and you hear this *Sizzle* sound. Back when we were a trio, with Eyal on drums, we only had two tonal instruments. Our sound was much dirtier, sort of more garageband-y funk. It had this really gritty sound to it, which we thought was reminiscent of when the grilled cheese hits the griddle.
Zach- See, in my head it always played off the idea of melting people’s faces, like melted grilled cheese.
How do you feel your sound has evolved since the original days of Grilled Cheese?
Eyal-It’s totally different.
Zach- It’s interesting. We sounded like a garage band, but a really good garage band, I guess. People liked coming and dancing to our music. Then Chemy saw us play at a festival outside of Jerusalem. He had somehow heard about us through a mutual friend, and he came up to us before the show and was like “I’m gonna play drums for you guys”. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but long story short, we have Chemy on drums. Now, Eyal switches back to keys, his original instrument. Once you bring in the keys, thats the electronic in electronica. Thats all Eyal with his Nord and VSynth. And Chemy is just a LITTLE better at drums then Eyal.
Eyal-Just a little bit…if I’m amazing, Chemy is amazing plus.
Zach- And once we brought in the trance drums our sound just went to a totally different level.
Your stage presence as a group is incredible to watch! You guys orchestrate some seriously complicated rhythmic changes just by looking at eachother. How long did it take to develop this “Jam band esp”?
Yakir- Until Now…
Eyal- I mean, it used to be much more complex on stage. It used to be me yelling these huge long sentences to the band, and they’re yelling them back at me, or yelling them between each other. It just got quieter and quieter. We just mentioned this in the car a couple days ago, where it got to the point that we, like, just look at eachother, and we know what cue were talking about. Zach and I have this great connection because we handle a lot of chord changes, and Yakir will be soloing over it. It used to be that we had to get each others attention before we moved into the next chord change, now we just feel it coming and look at eachother and smile.
Zach- Sometimes you can just hear it. I’ll wanna do a key change, so I’ll start playing a certain note and Eyal will pick up on it, and start playing like “Oh this is what were doing now”.
Eyal- And then Yakir will communicate to me cuz he can’t speak to Chemy. Chemy and I, it depends on the show, because sometimes were so close we’ll have full conversations while we play. He’ll ask me whats going on and I’ll literally explain it to him as were playing. Now we’ve gotten to the point where we cue, and we know when to cue the next cue. Communication has just become much easier on stage. It’s different for us than a lot of other bands because we don’t stop. Other bands have even just 5 seconds of quiet where they can quickly orchestrate what’s going on. But with us, there needs to be orchestration (on the fly) because we won’t stop playing for an hour and we have to figure out a way to communicate. We’ve used talk-back mics, but it didn’t work. It didn’t feel the same.
You’re partially through the tour at this point, what’s been your favorite new experience this time around?
Eyal- Probably going to see Phish in Atlanta, that was my favorite experience so far.
Zach –I wasn’t there so I would have to say….
Chemy – All I have to say is Phish lot is really cool, and then there’s two things called Undermined and Tweezer, and other than that I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Eyal-The Baltimore studio was actually amazing. We went to Wrightway studios in Baltimore. Stephen Wright is the engineer and he is a genius. We walked in and he made us feel at home. We were there for two days, and had an amazing time. His gear is just UNBELIEVABLE, he had a synth room.
Chemy-When we knew we were coming to the studio, we had heard Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and some big bands, a lot of really great bands had been there. Now, I really hate studios. But people told me they hated studios too, and their experience (at Wrightway Studios) was amazing. I was like “Don’t lie to me. I’ve been to so many studios, and it’s bull. I’m gonna hate this.” I walked in, and in the first ten minutes this engineer was something else. He was great.
Zach-So good. Super nice. He knew how to give really good feedback. If it was great he would tell you it was great. If not, “Maybe do it again”.
Eyal-He was like, “That was awesome! Do it again!” He gave you confidence in your bad take! I recorded a track on a grand piano. It was falling apart, like 100 years old, and it just sounded UNBELIEVABLE. The first time I played, I was rusty, haven’t played a grand piano in years. He said, “Ok, it was rusty. Keep trying. Do it again.” He motivates you to want to do better.
Yakir-Aside from the studio itself, everything surrounding the studio was great. Some of our good friends came up, and introduced us to a friend who had a house in Baltimore. She was so hospitable. We all had beds. She made us breakfast and dinner daily. Everything surrounding the studio was taken care of and that helped the studio become the great experience that it was.
Eyal- We had a BBQ after our Baltimore show! We show up, at 3 AM and there’s a pile of steaks, burgers, hot dogs, all Kosher. The steaks were SO GOOD!!!
Chemy-This woman, a single mother with a 7 year old, took us in, took care of us, she woke up at 7 in the morning to make us a literal feast every day.
What are you most looking forward to on this tour?
Chemy- We’re looking forward to an amazing tour, where the music keeps growing, god willing.
Eyal- I’m looking forward to everything BUT Great North (laughs).
Zach- Boston! I’m looking forward to Boston for sure!
Yakir- My wife is flying in for great north, so im really looking forward to that. I miss my family a lot when I’m away from home.
You end your tour at Great North Music and Arts Festival 2015, an event that was a huge success for G-Nome last year. What do audiences have to look forward to, aside from seeing your smiling faces on stage again
Zach- More awesome grilled cheese funk!
Chemy-A lot of new energy. A lot of surprises.
Eyal- A lot of music we didn’t play at Great North last year.
Zach –We’ll probably camp out at least one night.
Chemy-There’s something in Yiddish, “gatkes” or long johns. We’ll be using those a lot.
How many sets are you guys playing at Great North?
Eyal – 4 sets! the G-North Project! One’s for Thursday early entry only, which is going to be our best set. We plan to start strong.
If you have time between your many performances, who are you most excited to catch on the Great North lineup?
Eyal – Joe Russo!
Eyal –The New Deal, Soul Monde…
Zach – And Lettuce! Reggie Watts! I love Reggie Watts. He’s the funniest person ever.
Yakir – Soule Monde I’m really excited for because Russ Lawton and Ray Paczkowski are fantastic.
Eyal- And the (Great North Orchestra)super jam! If it’s going to be what we talked about, I’m really excited for that!
What do we have to look forward to in the future of G-Nome Project?
Eyal- MSG (Madison Square Garden) next New Years! Kidding! We want to focus our time in Israel to make these tours the best they can. Spring 2016 will be our next time in the US. We love coming here!
G-Nome project will be making stops all over the U.S.A. through August, and will finish up at Great North Music & Arts Festival (Sept 4-6 in Norridgewock, ME). Catch them at the Middle East in Cambridge on August 27th for the Road to Great North pre-show, where they’ll be giving away a ticket to the festival to one lucky attendee!
G-Nome Project On Tour: http://www.g-nomeproject.net/