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It’s no surprise that Los Angeles rock band Palms Station has a spiritual quality to their music: multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Hillel Tigay is also a cantor and musical director at IKAR, one of the largest and most influential progressive synagogues in Southern California. Palms Station closed out 2022 by sharing two music videos that featured singer Torii Wolf: “Alive” and “Blue Skies Black”. The Big Takeover had the honor of interviewing Hillel Tigay all about these releases, which can be read below.
How and when did your musical journey begin, and what led you to taking your music making more seriously?
Up until age 10 I was obsessed by visual arts, spending most of my time drawing and painting, and convinced that would be the course of my life. But in fifth grade, somebody brought in a copy of the Beatles’ Abbey Road. Something about the artwork compelled me, and after taking several lessons, I agreed with some friends to be in a talent show three weeks down the line. I had to quickly buy a guitar and learn how to play, as “Across the Universe” was our target song. I stood on the stage and by coincidence the microphone was near me… So that was the birth of me as a singer.
In what ways do your experiences as a cantor and musical director at IKAR shape your music? How is it reflected in your recent releases, “Alive” and “Blue Skies Back”?
Being a Cantor and spiritual director influences all of my music. Years ago when I was solely a pop artist, I used to focus on trying to be clever and hooky… But now I am forever focused on lifting the spirit, giving people a transcendent experience. When people say they get a religious experience from bands like Peter Gabriel and U2, too, they mean the secular incarnation of the feeling of spirituality. Having been in a setting where the text is also liturgical and spiritual, it really gives that musical vibe an extra boost. Also being able to debut my music in front of our congregation on a weekly basis and see what gets people to close their eyes, sway, and sing-along is an incredible way to see if the music has a powerful spiritual effect. That was the genesis of “Alive.” I wrote it, and a few weeks later, sang in front of the congregation, and halfway through the second chorus, they all sang along, and never stopped.
What was your inspiration behind “Alive” as well as “Blue Skies Back”? How are these songs similar and different to one another?
“Alive” was written when I was considering having my teenage daughter sing an entire album’s worth of material. I was trying to see the world through her eyes, and since she was going through a rough patch, struggling with issues many people at that age face, it was written, with me envisioning her, putting her head on my wife, her mother’s shoulder, being redeemed and uplifted. Everybody needs something to give them that feeling… Whether it’s a relation, a partner, a friend or a higher power. The meaning of life is man’s search for meaning.
“Blue Skies Back” was me literally singing about my yearning for sun and blue skies, since I have seasonal affective disorder and I’m most uplifted in life by such things… And also, written during a period of angst and hopelessness that the Trump administration brought to many of us… a wistful song yearning for better times.
What are the stories and/or messages intended to be heard when listening to each of these singles? Why do these themes resonate with you?
I think most of my songs are zoom-out songs, rather than zoom-in songs… I’m trying to lift people above the mundane in their lives to feel something transcendent – that is what unifies both songs. I’m also never trying to literally make an argument, but rather convey a feeling… I’m less interested in the stories and small details, and more interested in universal themes of yearning hope uplift redemption.
What was it like recording and working with Torii Wolf for “Alive” and “Blue Skies Back”? How did both of your musical strengths come into play while going through the creative process from beginning to end?
Working with Torii was fantastic… Our mutual publicity person connected us. It was supposed to be for one song but we enjoyed it so much we wound up recording six together. I have to say is good as the musical collaboration was… We both made each other laugh a lot and the recording atmosphere was always fun, goofy, and something we both look forward to… Also, Torii brings a lot of beauty, intensity, and professionalism… She broke my relaxed work ethic and forced me to work much harder than usual to get things done quickly and effectively.
How do the “Alive” and “Blue Skies Back” music videos best showcase Palms Station and both of these exceptional singles to their fullest capacity?
The videos were born out of necessity, as the budget was very small. I teamed up with two friends, Adam Peltier and Connor Linnerooth who had worked on a little comedy short with me… Again, we laughed so hard that we were just excited to do anything together. Also, they heard about my Warner Brother band MOT, Members Of the Tribe, a Jewish rap band (or hebe-hop band – Yo Vey!) and we’re begging for a chance to try to make a little movie about that… I suggested we start with some regular pop music videos… Sometimes when you limit yourself financially, you are forced to rely on a strong idea, and that’s what we did with those videos. “Blue Skies Back” was initially me going around Europe and some other parts of the world filming me under stormy skies. I happened to be there anyway, so I bought a selfie stick… We then filmed additional footage in Los Angeles around the lake near Santa Clarita that looks almost like a colony on the moon… The theme was a little model airplane, turning into a dove like in the biblical story, searching for the end of the pandemic…
The initial inspiration behind “Alive” was the Godly and Crème video for “Cry”… But we got one take with Torii that was so great, we rethought things and wanted it to be more like Sinead O’Connor’s version of nothing compares to you. Ultimately Connor and Adam overlaid some great fast motion, shots of flowers and other cool, psychedelic stuff which really gave the song a feeling of triumphant transcendence at the end.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and here invention was the child of necessity!
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