Story + Photos/MAEGHAN DONOHUE
Sometimes you want to go where nobody knows your name. When I met with Ninet Tayeb, I got the impression that this is a sentiment to which she can relate. As we strolled the crowded streets of Austin during SXSW looking for a quiet spot for portraits, she commented how nice it was not to be followed as is incessantly the case in her native Israel, and also mentioned how much she is now enjoying living in “peaceful Los Angeles.”
This struck me as strange for a couple of reasons. First, I’ve never heard even those who love the city refer to L.A. as peaceful. Beautiful, maybe, when describing the weather or beaches. But not peaceful. Secondly, craving even a sliver of peace and anonymity as a musician is not only unusual, but counterintuitive in an industry where success now hinges on shameless self-promotion, notoriety, social media followers, and the number of tour dates booked on the calendar more than it does record sales. But the sanctuary she’s found in L.A. all made sense after I asked an Israeli friend of mine if he’d heard of Ninet. “Uhh…,” he said rolling his eyes at my American ignorance, “She’s like…the Beyoncé of Israel. She can’t do anything without the whole country noticing.” I thought perhaps this was hyperbole, but turns out his comparison was spot on—at least in the sense that Ninet is a household name in her homeland as a musician and as an actress. And yet, celebrity hasn’t appeared to corrupt her as it does to so many. The artist I met was gracious, humble, and completely without pretense.
Ninet’s fifth record, Paper Parachute, dropped this past February. Remaining committed to her distinct sound, which she describes as a melding of the New York, L.A., Berlin, and Tel Aviv music scenes, her songs hearken back to an era when the words rock and alternative hadn’t yet become inextricably intertwined with pop. Despite a dark vulnerability woven into many of her lyrics, belting lines like “Walk like you left nothing behind/Walk like you left nothing behind,” as she does on her track, “Elinor,” speaks to a special brand of rage and high-voltage empowerment.
Manifestly invigorating, Ninet’s songs inspire me to dance and scream along in my bedroom on even my most lethargic of days. If her recorded output is this vitalizing, I can’t wait to see the impact of her live performances.
Rock out with Ninet in Los Angeles during her residency at Hotel Cafe on June 14th, July 12th, and August 9th!
Where is your band based?
We’re originally from Israel, but we’re now based in L.A.— have lived there for almost a year. I moved to L.A. but initially I was supposed to move to New York.
Yeah, yeah. It’s the biggest move I’ve ever done in my life. I miss my family and my friends and the vibe in Israel, in Tel Aviv.
How would you describe your sound?
My sound? I love to say that, I mean, I love to think that my sound is like as if you were taking New York, Berlin, Tel Aviv and L.A.— it’s really hard to explain—when you hear music, I mean you do feel something, but it’s really hard for me to define, because I want each and every person to take whatever they want to take.
I like where you are locating your inspiration… the Berlin music scene, for instance, is so dark and exciting.
That’s it. Berlin is like very dark and hard, it’s hardcore, it’s a hardcore city. New York is kind of more like free and you can do whatever you want and you have your space, and L.A. is like sun and happiness. It’s all together, and Tel Aviv is actually kind of a combination of Berlin, L.A. and New York. Tel Aviv has its spice, you know what I mean? I like to think that my music sounds like all of that.
I love how edgy your music is, I think that a lot of American artists can’t get away with channeling that darkness…everything is kind of whitewashed here now, and so even rock music mingles with pop. You know, like alternative, what they play on alternative radio…
Yes! Just today driving here I’m like, “Can you please put something else on the radio?” I mean…I can’t. I can’t. I’m sorry, but it’s like too much of the same all the time. Too polished.
Right there with you! On that note, what bands and/or musicians inspire you?
So many. Oh my god. I’m inspired by so many… okay, so first of all, there’s PJ Harvey, of course. She’s like, she’s my queen basically. There’s Jeff Buckley. Jeff-
Yeah, the voice, and basically he’s everything. Jeff, actually he’s the one that taught me how to write and play guitar. I decided to play guitar when I was 24, so it’s kind of late. Something about his playing and his whole being just inspired me so much, and he’s the one that pushed me to do it on my own. I mean, from above, you know.
Who outside of music inspires you?
Oh, so many. Marina Abramović…I adore this woman. She’s so honest, and she always chose to go the hard way, but not because it’s the hard way, because it’s the right way for her. She’s like, for me she’s so many things, I mean. She’s a very, very, very powerful woman. Her energy.
I read that you have a daughter. How old is she?
She’s two years old. She and my husband are right outside actually.
That adds an interesting dynamic to what you’re doing, yeah? Do you take her on tour with you?
Always. Yeah, she’s here. She’s right here. With us all of the time.
How is that, do you find it inspiring on the road or a distraction?
No, of course it’s inspiring. She’s such a rock and roll girl. She’s fucking awesome, really. She’s a free spirit. It’s fun. It’s not easy, but we have a lot of help…the people from the band and we have a nanny, so it’s okay. We’re cool.
Does your husband come on tour with you, too?
He’s my guitarist and the producer of the album that you heard. He’s very cool.
That’s amazing. It’s extra special, your whole project. Very personal. What is the hardest challenge you face in the music industry?
I mean between me and myself it’s the … I need to rephrase it right, because it’s really a good question. It’s like you’re walking a thin line between a strong belief that you’re going to make it and the music…a lot of people are going to hear the music and relate to it. Then on the dark side you have this, “What the fuck am I doing?” Between me and myself, you know? “There are millions like you. Why you?” The voices in my head. It’s all like inner wars between me and myself. You just have to pick yourself up from the floor and just believe, and that’s the hardest part.
Since you moved to the U.S. do you feel that you still have control over your own image?
Always. Yeah. Because I’m coming from, in Israel I’m like, I’m in this, I have had a career for 14 years now, and I’ve learned so much. One thing I promised to myself is to never ever do something that I don’t feel is me, like 100% me. I don’t care who is asking, I don’t care. If it’s not me, if it’s not something I want to say, if it’s not something I want to do, if it’s not something that is related to my artistic truth…I’m a warrior. I am, seriously.
If you could change one thing about the world today, what would it be?
Wow. Well everything that’s related to women. I just wrote about it a few days ago, that when you have days like Women’s Day… I think that we’re strong enough and we don’t have to prove anything. I’d like to change all the time being in a position where we have to prove. There isn’t such a day for men…no Men’s Day. Why? Because they don’t have to prove anything. You know what I mean?
Right, every day is Men’s Day.
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