Lola Marsh is a band of romantic contradictions. The name itself—the creation of founding members Yael Shoshana Cohen and Gil Landau—is said to blend the masculine and the feminine. When initially listening to Lola Marsh, you’ll find you can’t quite place their genre—which is beside the point of their music, anyway. Mouth whistles, booming drums, and “millennial whoops” accompany their profoundly intimate lyrics, leading us down the path of the Lumineers or Mumford & Sons. Additions of electronic ambience either snap the songs with energy or mellow them into soundtrack territory. But the charisma of the tracks lies in the voice of Yael Shoshana Cohen, and the band’s rare magnetism comes from the duo’s own.
When watching Lola Marsh perform, you cannot help but be drawn to the duo’s passion for what they do. Landau has a quiet poise as he plays, nodding along and content to let his harmonies take center stage. Cohen stands tall, arms outstretched to the music’s flow as joy lights up her face. With the addition of Rami Osservaser (Guitar, Keyboards), Mati Gilad (Bass), and Dekel Dvir (Drums and samplers), Lola Marsh is able to achieve the cinematic scope of their studio recordings. “Both Gil and I love to write songs and to imagine the different scenes behind them,” says Cohen. “We love to create cinematic scenery in our music with dramatic orchestral arrangements in a romantic-nostalgic feel.”
The band has played a multitude of venues since picking up speed, ranging from music festivals with thousands of attendees, to intimate rooftop recordings. Each performance has its own atmosphere, becomes its own version of the Lola Marsh story. “In the full band setting we try to bring the complete experience of Lola Marsh’s world. The atmosphere, the arrangements, and production are wider, and the songs can better reach their ‘full potential.’ In our acoustic sessions the songs are kind of naked, exposed, intimate—and the lyrics get more weight and attention.”
Those live sessions invigorate the studio versions of their songs, a rare quality in a “pop” band with heavy production on their side. Lyrics such as, “You are my lonely star / And I’m your wishing girl,” become saturated with longing and honesty. Landau’s fingerpicking is delicate and precise underneath Cohen’s unique mixture of rasp and warble. Cohen has a voice that sounds at once hardened, and like the crooners of early popular American music. Essentially, she has that husky, early-morning sound, mixed with the coos of a dove—a voice unlike any in pop music today. Many singer-songwriters play sad songs on their guitars in intimate settings, but the melancholy in Lola Marsh’s songs reverberates between its founding members.
Landau and Cohen met in Tel Aviv at Landau’s birthday party about seven years ago, beginning their collaboration by singing along to his old acoustic guitar. From there, the duo “went from being band members to a couple, to exes, to rivals, back to band members and friends again.” They were quickly signed to an indie label before their first single premiered in 2015. From there, they were already playing music festivals and amassing impressive stats on Spotify. In regard to global reach, Lola Marsh stresses how grateful they are that they can touch the hearts of so many people in places around the world. “Today with all the different platforms like YouTube and Spotify it all feels more reachable, and that eventually it is kind of a small world.”
But as they were gaining success, Landau and Cohen were constantly evolving and devolving in their relationship, sometimes drudging through songwriting together, sometimes being saved by it. In the video for “You’re Mine,” a deceptively cheerful bop, you can see the juxtapositions in their relationship. You’d think a song with this title and production wouldn’t contain lyrics such as “The wall is empty and so flat / The world around me is too large,” which speak of discontent. With the lines, “As I fall into a hole without an end / Until, suddenly, I look at you,” the song complicates, becoming more than a portrait of a good or bad relationship, or a good man or woman. It morphs into a desert landscape, with Cohen and Landau the only two people in sight. They don’t act especially grateful to be with one another, but matter-of-fact about their situation: Playing chess, pretending to shoot each other, and playing hand games, as if biding time in this solitude with each other before someone rescues them.
“Both of us feel that our songs sometimes are, in some way, a cure to all of those chaotic feelings we have for each other,” the band reflects. “Through them we can say what we don’t manage to say sometimes to each other.” Both Cohen and Landau feel lucky to have the tool of dealing with their problems, their tumultuous relationship, through art and music. “It’s still extremely hard sometimes,” they say.
Both Cohen and Landau believe that music is a universal language. Whether they play in front of thousands of people or just a few, the duo feels moved and grateful to bring the songs they write alone together to people around the world. Their own connection, and bridging their differences through music, now provides a connection between them and the people that love their music. Lola Marsh proves that this doesn’t have to be a fallacy belonging to previous generations; peace may be a romantic idea, but it doesn’t have to be unattainable.
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