Listening to folky pop duo Lola Marsh may bring a tinge of Laurel Canyon AM Gold sound to mind; of ocean breezes wistfully sweeping nostalgic melodies over palm-lined hills. Gil Landau and Yael Shoshana Cohen have never lived in Los Angeles, or anywhere else in the U.S., however.
The Israeli musicians grew up with Anglo music and movies, however, and it obviously had an effect. At the same time, both grew up in Israel, a country in many ways different from this one. Located in one of the world’s most politically volatile regions, Israel is a place often in conflict. Every teen is obligated to serve in the country’s armed forces, for instance.
Cohen was in the army band. Landau was a combat soldier. The military commitment for men is three years. For women, it’s two. It’s not difficult to spot young soldiers with machine guns in larger cities like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, where Lola Marsh is based.
“You go to the army when you are 18 years old here; you’re a kid,” Cohen said in a call from Tel Aviv two days after Christmas. “It’s surreal for me to think about today—that I was in the army.”
Landau, who’s also fluent in English, only struggles with his words when describing his own experience.
“I think about it very often. It was a significant time,” he said. “I was in the army for three years. It’s fucking a lot. It’s everything, man. [It’s like asking] ‘How is college?’ It’s fun, it’s difficult, it’s everything. Armies are complicated. You’re carrying a gun…”
Lola Marsh doesn’t write political songs. Instead, its songs are a sort of break from the matters of Israel on the global stage.
Said Landau: “Growing up in Israel, you—”
“—You get used to the situation,” Cohen finishes his thought.
“I had times in my life, and I’m sure Yaeli also [did], that we were super-aware and super-into all the political situation, read a lot of newspapers. In my mid-20s, I started being in the studio all day, writing music. I put kind of a block to all the newspapers. Only in the last two years, it came back to me—the awareness of the situation. It comes and goes for me.”
For Cohen, her and Landau’s songs are like medicine. The duo’s forthcoming sophomore album, Someday Tomorrow Maybe, out Jan. 24, is no exception.
The duo combines American folk and Americana with poppy production and nostalgia-tinged vocals about love, loss and experiences gained. Cohen was raised on country and Western music, as well as cinema.
The two met in 2011 after she ended up at his birthday party, uninvited. They ended up playing a song or two that day. It turned out both were looking for other people to write music.
“The chemistry was really magical. We were really serious about it,” Cohen said. “We met like five times a week to write music. We didn’t really know each other so it was a bit awkward at the beginning. After a while, we wrote our first songs and it felt so good. It felt so right.”
Together the two connected over a shared love of vocal harmonies in the music of Fleet Foxes and Crosby, Stills & Nash—and their cinematic feel.
“The strings and the orchestral parts of the sound… That was our immediate connection,” Landau said.
Afterward, the two listened to MGMT, LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire and Tame Impala. Both are also huge Foo Fighters fans, and at one of their first practices they sat around, and played as many Foo songs as they could together.
They wrote songs in English simply because of the timing. They could have just as easily been in Hebrew, but at the time they met, thy were only listening to musicians who sang in English.
“We didn’t speak about it, even. It just happened,” Landau said. “It wasn’t a decision that we took; to write in English.”
Though both speak English well, neither one has spent extended time in the U.S. or other English-speaking countries. Landau has a brother in Boston who he’s visited several times, while Cohen has traveled to the States, but it was with Lola Marsh that the two got to see the country a bit.
As the sound grew, the duo expanded the size of the touring band to include a bassist, keyboardist and drummer.
“We were inspired by many types of music, but it took us a while to find our sound … and what we wanted to say,” Cohen said. “We performed as a duo for almost two years, and when we wrote the songs we really felt that we needed a wider production and that the potential was bigger. That’s why we started searching for other band members. We found them, and suddenly the songs got wider and more rich production.”
Lola Marsh scored indie hits with early singles “Sirens” and “You’re Mine,” racking up several million streams, and followed those up with an EP in 2016 and debut album Remember Roses in 2017. The following year, their cover of Frank Sinatra’s “Something Stupid” was selected to score a pivotal scene on AMC show “Better Call Saul.”
While the debut album took four years of work, Cohen and Landau recorded Someday Tomorrow Maybe in just about six months in 2019. Cohen said this was a purposeful decision to not overthink or get stuck in a rut.
They’ve since released several cuts from the record: Throwback guitar meditation “Only For a Moment,” Western-tinged “Echoes” and dual-harmony-led folk tune “What I Am.”
Each song stands on its own, but Landau said a theme runs through all of them, at least to him.
“At the time we wrote this album, we worked on capturing the moment and being in the moment … how to deal with difficult moments or happy moments. How to deal with being in love or being apart,” he said. “Part of being alive is [having] these noises in your head and to be insecure or to be afraid of stuff—and to just say ‘fuck it, I’m just doing this and I’m trying not to listen to these noises and fears.’”
Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.