Interview: Moriah Plaza

Genre-jumping Berlin-based quartet Moriah Plaza was founded by creative innovators Tamir Chen and Moosh Lahav. It has been almost ten years since they formed ‘Soda Fabric’, a shoegaze band conceived in Tel Aviv before relocating to Berlin. A passion for jazz, elevator muzak, film soundtracks and Brazilian music led them to form Moriah Plaza. Their kaleidoscope music combines these various strains to create their own sound.

While growing up in Tel Aviv during the nineties, they were exposed to vibrant Brazilian music through various local bands and tribute groups. After hearing Brazilian bossa nova and samba for the first time, Chen and Lahav fell in love.

Next month, the band’s self-titled debut album will be released via Batov Records. They recorded the album in close collaboration with two Brazilian artists and fellow Berlin residents: poet and singer Cecília Erisman, and singer-songwriter Flavia Annechini, whom they met through the local music scene in the city. The album sees them push the boundaries of Brazilian music while still honouring the genre’s traditional sounds. It’s a testament to their passion and commitment to the genre that they first fell in love with all those years ago.

The project opens with ‘Desendereçada’ – a dirty drum machine beats thud away under flutes, extraneous noises, and a spoken word commentary. The uniqueness and charm of the intro provide an ideal entrance into the realm of Moriah Plaza.

With the record on the way, we’re thrilled to chat with the band about their influences, how they came together, and, of course, the upcoming album.

Can you share the story of how Moriah Plaza came to be? What led to all of you coming together?

We (Tamir Chen and Moosh Lahav, Moriah Plaza co-founders) have been playing music together since the days of ‘Soda Fabric’, our former band, which was formed in Tel Aviv and relocated to Berlin almost 10 years ago. Our love for jazz, 60’s Lounge music and Brazilian music led us to form ‘Moriah Plaza’, initially as a studio project. We went on to write and record the album in close collaboration with two Brazilian artists and fellow Berlin residents: poet and singer Cecília Erisman, and singer-songwriter Flavia Annechini, whom we met through the local music scene in the city.

There’s an album with a clear Brazilian influence on the way, but how would you describe your sound?

The Brazilian influence is definitely a major one. What initially inspired us in this direction were some Israeli musicians from the 70s and 80s who were themselves heavily influenced by samba and bossa nova and combined it with fusion and jazz, such as Matti Caspi, Yehudit Ravitz, Sheshet, and more. This fascination with their music led us to develop a profound interest in Brazilian music. Other genres that have influenced our sound include elevator Muzak, Library music and old film soundtracks (especially Bourekas films soundtracks, definitely worth checking them out ).

Could you share with us the themes that you delve into on your debut LP?

The lyrical themes (written in Portuguese by Cecília and Flavia) derive from psychedelic cosmic motives in songs such as ‘Estelar’ to more everyday topics such as love and romance (which, if we think about it, are no less cosmic). A general theme in the concept of the album is trying to capture the dreamlike atmosphere of a hotel lobby, evoking the feeling of a summertime or summer holiday from times long gone.

The opening track has a beautifully oddball feel with dirty drum machine beats thudding away under flutes, extraneous noises, and a spoken word commentary. Can you tell us about how you begin composing your tracks? Do you prefer to improvise or concentrate on composition?

Nice description! We had different approaches to songwriting. Sometimes a song would develop out of a jam, for example, when we were working with Cecília. We would come up with a beat, some synth lines, and harmonies, and she would record takes of spoken word, including fragments from her own poems and improvisation. Other times, the songwriting process was more traditional, with one of us bringing a melody or lyrics idea to the group- like Flavia did on ‘Mais Amor’ and ‘Te Peço’.

What about your work in Moriah Plaza sets it apart from your previous work, such as in Soda Fabric?

Soda Fabric was a guitar-based shoegaze/post-punk 4- piece band that initially started as a live band before recording an album. Moriah Plaza started as a slowly evolving studio project and has a more conceptual and thematic approach to the music.

Can you share with us which track you are most proud of on the album?

We are very proud of ‘Mais Amor’. It has a feel-good vibe, and it’s very enjoyable to play live!  We love Flavia’s input and vocals on this one.

We are curious about the album cover. Can you provide some insights on the artwork?

The artwork for the album was created by photographer and artist Kami Bugnet, featuring a hotel in the middle of the desert near the Dead Sea (‘Moriah Plaza’ perhaps) This concept ties in with the general hotel theme of the album. Tamir’s mother worked in a hotel with elevator music and a pianist performing day-by-day in the lobby, which was also an early influence.

Can you share some insight about the current music scene in Berlin, where you are based?

The music scene in Berlin is diverse, with a heavy focus on electronic music and clubbing. If you’re a fan of techno or house music, the possibilities for partying and hearing good DJs are endless. But there’s also a thriving live music scene with plenty of great local bands. We particularly enjoy checking out underground venues like Loophole, Arkaoda and 8mm bar, where you can catch a nice gig or an interesting DJ set on any given night.

Do you have any final words for the Twistedsoul community?

We hope you will enjoy listening to our album. Have a wonderful day filled with music and good vibes!

CF Smith

Permeating your ears with good music.

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