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Following the release of his third album, Blood Vine, Yoav spoke to Helen Herimbi about songs, suip and signs …
‘We had lots of wine,” he laughs after putting the emphasis on the word lots. “It was quite wild.” Israeli-born South African singer-songwriter Yoav Sadan is sitting on a rug with an aztec-like pattern. His white pants crumple at the knee that he’s drawn up to his chest as he reminisces on the creation of his third and most recent album, Blood Vine.
Following a 2008 breakthrough debut album, Charmed and Strange, and a critically acclaimed follow-up, A Foolproof Escape Plan (2010), Yoav – who goes by one name like Madonna and Prince – thinks Blood Vine is his best album to date.
“As far as making a record, this has definitely been the most rock ’n’ roll that I’ve ever done it,” he explains. “I wanted to create a party atmosphere because if you enjoyed yourself while making the record then that comes through in the music. It was pretty much a year of sustained self-damage.”
This damage that preceded Yoav’s new healthier regimen took place in one of the most beautiful places in the country: a studio in the middle of vineyards in Constantia.
Aside from the vineyards being “five minutes from where I grew up”, the artist who opened for Tori Amos in 93 shows took a particular liking to recording an album that is part indie-electro-pop with tinges of trip-hop there.
After recording Charmed and Strange in LA and A Foolproof Escape Plan in Radiohead’s Oxfordshire studio, “[Just Music’s founder] Karl Anderson hooked me up with this studio just to demo some songs and produce myself late last year and I said let’s continue and see how things go”.
“LA was quite glamourous and the UK was its own thing, but to come back home and do it where I grew up was beautiful because I’ve been able to do things from my point of view and push myself creatively and come home and pass out for 24 hours.”
His travels were a huge inspiration for his songwriting. Yoav, who was born to an architect father and an opera singer mother, says he “spent the last few years working on the songwriting process”.
“I really travelled to find the songs because they were created in different parts of the world,” he continues. “With the exception of a song called Blink which happened really quickly, most songs came into their own bit by bit.
“For instance, I wrote the guitar part of Know More while I was in the mountains of Transylvania. I specifically remember that there was a thunderstorm and I’d been in this dodgy bar in a random town and I was there on my own, writing more than anything.
“They played some old songs on the jukebox and I heard a guitar riff that I liked and I went back to my room and did this thing. There are bits that happened in Berlin and Paris, but I rarely sit down and write a song in one go.”
Yoav is the kind of muso who has plenty of anecdotes that are tied to his music-making. From the story of the Jack Russell at the vineyard who only hung around for the biltong to vodka-and-water bottles behind his guitar case on stage, he is quick to share most of them.
Like the one about how Shiver #7, a song about sex that he wrote at just 19 years old, made it on to his third album. With nine songs already approved for Blood Vine, this collector of unique stones really just wanted one more.
After a call from a friend suggesting he revisit Shiver, or as Yoav puts it “the first good song I ever wrote”, Yoav took his guitar to the beach on a rainy day.
“There was a 15-minute period where the sun came out,” he says excitedly. “I took my guitar out of the case and decided to try Shiver in this key. As I strummed the chord, a dolphin popped out of a wave and jumped into the air.
“In my weird world of symbols and coincidences, that counts as a very clear sign that this is something I was meant to do. I think this is the seventh time I’ve recorded the song.” I could say something cheesy akin to Blood Vine’s songs get better with time just like fine wine. But the truth is, they are good on the first listen.
The “Vine” in Blood Vine is simple to understand, but the second half of the title is because Yoav likes “the idea of bringing something from nothing but that will cost you blood”.
Judging from the music, the blood is worth it.
• Yoav’s album Blood Vine is now available in music stores.