Lady & Jo
Carlie and Yosi, Musicians, Kerem Maharal
Interview: Johanna Friedman
Photography: Itai Aviran
Life has its ways of showing us when to slow down and just be in the moment. The day I visited Carlie and Yosi in their beautiful home in Kerem Maharal was one of those days of just running from one task to another. On my way, calling Carlie from the car, I realized that I was an hour late, but the moment I stepped into their beautiful garden and saw their welcoming smiles, I could immediately let go and relax. The smell of freshly baked bread filled the house, enveloping it like a warm blanket. Hot tea, cookies and a cake were waiting for us.
Carlie from Australia and Yosi from Israel are a power couple. I became a big fan of their music, since I first heard them in Akko a few years ago. Their connection is immediate, intimate, powerful; their performance is unique and comes straight from their hearts. Combining the worlds of calm, folk music and dark tribal electronic sounds, they performed for us spontaneously in their backyard, barefoot under the palm trees, surrounded by succulents. Their daughter Yemaya joined us to share tea and cake. Sitting in that picturesque garden, listening to the music and singing felt like being in a gypsy-Greek settlement.
Last year Carlie and Yosi moved back to Israel from Byron Bay, and they are making their way back to performing in Israel and releasing a new, studio album.
Let’s start at the beginning. How did you arrive in Israel, Carlie?
C: I had this very strong feeling that there was something here for me. I remember a special moment when I walked into a café in India and everyone was singing a song by Ariel Zilber. It touched my heart in the deepest ways, so I asked an Israeli guy to teach me the song.
That song took me on a journey through India for almost a year. We performed it somewhere in a concert with Israeli and Indian musicians, and it was recorded and passed around. So everywhere I went in India it was playing. At that time I just had a feeling that I had to go to Israel.
I didn’t know anything about Israel. I told my mom, that I was going to live there, and she thought I was crazy. Then I booked a one-way ticket to a few places, including Israel, came here for a couple of months, and met Yosi in Beit Zera. Actually, we had seen each other before, during Boom Festival in Portugal, but had never spoken. There were 40 thousand people there… What are the chances that we would meet again in a kibbutz?
Later I went to India for 6 months, and when I had no money left, it was either Israel or home. I felt that I had to come back and stand on this land again. So I came back and started to sing on the streets. Living in Israel still feels like an adventure to me and maybe it always will.
Were you singing before that?
C: I’m a primary school teacher, but every time I went travelling, I was singing, and every time I returned from my travels I would go back to teaching, because it was good money. Only when I went on my world trip, did I start busking in a few places and it turned out how I dreamed it would be.
How does the travel-nomad lifestyle influence your work?
C: I always write more songs when I’m on the road and more in Israel than in Australia. I have to be here to let it flow.
Yosi, were you already making music when you met?
Y: Yes, but not professionally. I started experimenting in my home studio, but only after I studied sound engineering. That’s why I moved near the Kinnereth.
Where does your inspiration come from?
C: I love Joni Mitchell. She is a beautiful storyteller, and I feel that I am telling my stories too.
Y: I grew up in the suburbs of Haifa. I remember, as a teenager, playing music with a friend in the industrial area, on a factory rooftop, watching smoke come out of the oil refinery chimneys. It was a dark scene where I grew up, so I like dark, industrial, deep, electronic music.
How did you find the music that is actually yours? What was your process of combining your worlds?
C: After finding out that I was pregnant, we decided to stay in the north and make music together. We took my folky music and songs and Yosi just played with them. It still works like that. I write an acoustic version, and we build on it. Now I play the synthesizer and Yosi plays didgeridoo and guitar. We are still trying to figure out which genre we are creating, it is a mix of several worlds, and it is changing all the time.
Are all your songs in English?
Y: Carlie writes complex lyrics and mostly sings in English, but in every show we have at least one song in Hebrew. The vibe suddenly changes when she sings in Hebrew. People open up and connect to us on a different level.
Your daughter appears in many of your songs. How did becoming a mother affect you as a performer?
C: I think it deepened my writing. Being a mother is the most beautiful and challenging thing ever; it is just like opening a door inside you that you never knew was there, and there is this massive world that you are now a part of.
We started performing again when she was three months old, which was amazing and terrifying at the same time. I remember the first show we did. My mom was here visiting and it was the first time we left Yemaya alone with someone. For me it was amazing to feel that the musical part of me didn’t die when I became a mom. I was scared that I wouldn’t know who I am anymore as just Carlie. It was great to have a few hours for ourselves, to do what we love. At the time we were beyond exhausted, and we fought a lot. We had to find the energy to rehearse at night, after the baby went to sleep, and that was really tough.
Yemaya learned very quickly to sleep with music. Now she is five and still loves it - festivals and parties, dancing with people and just having fun. It definitely changed everything, becoming parents.
How is living and performing in Australia different as opposed to Israel?
C: Since I had Yemaya I had a very strong longing to go home to Australia for a while; I wanted to be closer to my parents; I missed them so much. In Australia I went back to working as a primary school teacher. The music side didn’t work out for us there; we felt stuck.
In Israel it is the opposite. Part of the reason that we came back is the Israeli audience. People open up to us with such beautiful warmth and connection that it feels like an injection of love. Since we came back to Israel, we have started to write new songs and have recorded a new album.
Any dreams for the future?
C: A little touring overseas.
Y: I really wish that we could make music and have a simple life, close to nature. If we could combine music and water, that would be the perfect life for me.