London calling

When you’re a band from a small country, you’ve pretty much toured your album after three or four shows. And when you’re an Israeli metal band who sing in English, you’re even more limited. Tel Aviv’s Laid 8 thought their music should be heard by a larger audience so they made a big move – literally. finds out more  

“We’re in frickin’ London!” says Laid 8’s 25-year-old singer Tal Itay, recalling what she thought at the first rehearsal in their new home. The band’s two-year-old plan to live in the UK became a reality earlier this year and they’re still coming to terms with it. “This is not a tour, it’s actually relocating, moving our lives and starting over,” she says. Having already played a London gig – with one tomorrow and a third in July – they are ecstatic to be here at last. “It’s like another planet,” says guitarist Dave G; although the band were used to being fish out of water.  

Laid 8 felt “suffocated” in their native Israel. The music scene there is relatively small and the metal scene even more so. For the acts who sing in English rather than Hebrew it’s a tiny space, but the band had their reasons for going against the norm. “Metal doesn’t really go well with Hebrew, it’s not angry enough,” says bassist Uri Ofir. “In English you can say whatever you want and it sounds more natural. Also the music we listen to is in English.” Tal adds: “Maybe subconsciously we were thinking about making it out of Israel and that’s what we did eventually.”

Their decision to leave was quick and easy. The move itself, however, was quite an upheaval – and a worry. For starters, settling in an expensive city like London meant it was cheaper for Laid 8 to ship their equipment over. Uri remembers waiting for his amp to arrive, the one he bought after months of research and treated like a pet. “Each and every hour that goes by you log on to the [DHL] site and press refresh all the time,” he laughs, with a serious undertone. “‘Where is it right now? Oh, it’s in Italy, oh it’s in Amsterdam. What the hell’s it doing in Amsterdam?!’”

All in all this was a brave step for a group who had found their feet, albeit in a niche market. After gigging everywhere and playing small festivals, the release of their self-titled debut EP was a turning point. “We went from five people in the pub to 100 people in the club,” says Dave G. “We built our fanbase brick by brick. We shook every hand, kissed every baby, answered every fanmail!” And they got a typically loyal Israeli metal following. Tal says: “When they do like you, they love you and they show their love. Maybe it is more distant [in the UK], so we’re trying to find a way to get that strong fanbase the way that we had in Israel.”

Being new in town has obviously thrown up some cultural differences. “People are shocked by how intense we can be,” says Tal. “We need to be a bit more mellow.” And as an unknown band, Laid 8 are adjusting to life on square one again. Every promoter knew them in Israel, so booking shows was a breeze. Uri says: “When you go to a promoter here and say, ‘Hi, we’re a band from Israel, we play this and that’, you’re actually one cog in the wheel of all London venues. You get the feeling when you’re new no one is rooting for you.”  

Laid 8’s goal is simply to be heard. The band – completed by drummer Oded Grosz – formed in 2007 to create a unique sound from their range of influences: jazz, prog rock and metal, grunge and Mr Bungle. Originally a five-piece, with male and female lead vocals, they decided Tal’s “unconventional” style would set them apart on its own so “built something interesting around it”. Now three men and one woman doing metal, they realise this may come with an expectation. “We can’t say that we don’t want to be labelled as female-fronted as that was a conscious decision to have just one female,” says Tal.

However, she takes exception to the reviewers who have likened them to Evanescene. (They're nothing like Evanescene.) “Amy Lee is super talented, but we’re really trying to make something that’s unique,” she says. “I guess we’re a mix of all our influences, and not really trying to be like something that already exists. If we do, it’s really by chance. As long as someone finds something they like in us, that’s fine by me. We’re not offended or annoyed by it, but we really are trying to get the response of, ‘Wow, what a unique sound.’”

Laid 8 play Camden’s Dublin Castle on 26 June and 229 in London on 13 July

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Stream debut album These Faded Lines here