You’ll have just read our write up of Palms Station’s new single, ‘I Don’t Know The Way To Your Heart’. Now check out our interview with Hillel Tigay, frontman of the band himself.
Thanks for speaking to us today! First up – how have you been enjoying the wild LA weather? Did you get any snow?
No…not enjoying the weather. No matter how many times people say we should be happy with the rain because of the drought, (notwithstanding, the fact that I love gardening) I don’t feel like jumping for joy and dancing naked in the streets. I grew up in Philadelphia and would be happy to never see another rainy day for the rest of my life. I’m not the “cup of tea, hang, snuggle with a cat” kind of guy. I actually have seasonal affective disorder so when it’s sunny, I’m happy almost no matter what, and when it’s gray and rainy out it’s hard for me to get my mojo going.
We’ve written about your music before, your singles ‘Blue Skies Back’ and ‘Alive’. You’ve got a very retro sound, and it’s very evident in your new track, ‘I Don’t Know The Way To Your Heart’. You remind us of Tears For Fears, but who inspires you musically?
Yes, I suppose you can say I have a retro sound, but I think it’s more in the song structures and the focus on the melody and lyric, and I try to have the production bridge the gap with the current era. I feel like a lot of current music is focused on sounds and mood rather than melody and lyrics, so I try to include the best of both worlds.
In the pop world, I do love Tears for Fears and other British alternative bands like The Smiths, Depeche Mode, The Cure, and XTC. Of the more current bands, I love Arcade Fire, MGMT, and Tame Impala. But my biggest influences are Beatles and Beach Boys, more classic art rock. I also am heavily into world music and ethno-music and play lots of exotic instruments like the oud, the Turkish cumbus, and the renaissance lute. I love listening to classical Arabic music and Ottoman and Sufi spiritual music. It really lifts one to a transcendent place. Also, I studied classical music and composition, so I listen to a lot of Bach, Debussy, Fauret, Tchaikovsky, Satie, and renaissance motets. I love Bach, because you never know whether to laugh or cry… it’s the perfect combination of bittersweet, which I try to bring to my music.
Likewise, who inspires you in your life?
In life, as far as what stimulates my creativity, I am more inspired by nature than by people. A beautiful, sunny day, ocean, flowers blooming in spring, new exotic locations around the world, leaves on trees… This all gets my juices going. But in the film world, I’m a big fan of Wes Anderson. I love comedy and comedians like Tim Robinson, Woody Allen, Dimitri Martin, Mitch Hedberg. Also, I’m a sucker for Ernest Hemingway, though I get seasick on boats, would never dream of hunting, and I look awful in turtlenecks and with a beard, and I get drunk after one drink. And the only fights I ever get into are with AT&T customer service reps, never bulls, boxers, or assholes in bars.
How do you balance your commercial music career with your vocation as a music director at IKAR?
I am always most productive when I am busy. The fact that I lead spiritual music in a temple during the week forces me to use my remaining time effectively rather than walk around dreaming all day, which is something that would be easy for me to do. But, moreover, learning how to lift people into a place of spiritual ecstasy and transcendence has been invaluable as I circle back to pop music and try to infuse it with these ingredients that have the same effect on people. I didn’t think it would be something I would be so inspired and moved by, but I have learned as I get older that as long as I am being creative, I can be productive and bring love and joy to what I do, even if it’s not in the genre I initially thought was my one and only outlet.
Tell us something about ‘I Don’t Know The Way To Your Heart’. What is the meaning behind it, and how did you come up with it? Similarly, who came up with the concept for the music video? Where was it made?
‘I Don’t Know the Way to Your Heart’ was a revelation. It’s the first time a song came to me nearly in its entirety without me having to do work. I was on a rooftop overlooking the ocean one dark night in Ensenada, Mexico… It was just kind of lonely and spooky, and I was far from home for a while and those feelings drove the song. I turned on the phone recorder and within about an hour I had four songs written, including another track on the album called “I Can’t Find You.” They just segued one into the other. And the whole time I was writing, I felt like I was looking down at myself – just saying “look at him go” to myself – it was kind of an out of body experience… just being a lightning rod, receiving. No frontal lobe thinking… it just came out like that. I’m forever chasing that high. The video was inspired by a movie called Waltz with Bashir. It is an animated war movie, and I loved how they used the animation to create a surreal noir feel which was drawn frame by frame from green screen live footage they filmed. It was a visual and aesthetic I wanted to recreate, and with the new technology available, it was possible for us to do something approximating it far faster at an affordable budget. It’s just a song about loneliness and being forlorn and the further we are away from things we are, the more that absence makes us yearn for them and feel they are unreachable and all-consuming in our minds. It was me playing the role of the seeker, which is something I think I see crop up and many of my songs. Always seeking and yearning for something and then as you get close or even arrive feeling like you haven’t found what you wanted and start searching for something else.
Who are the top 3 artists that you always go back to, and why?
The Beatles, the Beach Boys, and Tears for Fears in the pop world… with Peter Gabriel coming close.
The Beatles are just so darn catchy and inventive… But Tears for Fears and Brian Wilson have a pained beauty to them… That aforementioned thing with light and darkness both hitting you at once. I love how in every Tears for Fears song, every single part is a hook and belongs… No one is just jamming along mindlessly. and Peter Gabriel has lyrical gravitas and that amazing tribal thing where he really combines the best in western art pop with great eastern sounds, and rhythms. Tribal and visceral.
Finally, what question do you wish someone would ask you in an interview, but nobody ever does? And what is the answer to that question?
No one’s ever asked me if I feel successful. And I think I’m in a phase of my life when success has a new definition. Before, the metric was based on popularity, sales, etc. which is a target I never really landed on. But now it’s changed. I feel successful when I am able to articulate the music that I want to write and do it with regularity and at a high-level. I feel like I’ve hit a sweet spot. I know these things don’t last forever. I feel like I’ve had a good run and I’m still in the middle of it.