Yoav’s album ‘Charmed and Strange’ is said to mix the leftfield sound of Beck and Radiohead, with a funk/pop feel reminiscent of Justin Timberlake. This one-man music machine creates every noise you hear through his guitar, be that simply playing chords or setting the rhythm that drives his songs forward.

Growing up amidst the cultural boycott of apartheid-era South Africa with an architect father and an opera singer mother, where only classical music and opera were allowed in the family home, Yoav could only access modern music by sneaking to a neighbour’s house.

As we get to know this unique talent, he tells us about growing up in South Africa, and the music that eventually shaped the person he has become, how U2 left a lasting impact on him in 1998, and the unexpected moment he joined Crowded House on stage.

R13: Could you describe your music for those who may not have heard it yet?
Y: Left-of-centre pop music channeled through an acoustic guitar, but inspired by hip-hop, electronica and trip hop.

R13: Everything is played on or through your guitar, how does this translate into a live show, and do you perform on your own?
Y: I do perform on my own with my guitar and couple of effects. Sometimes I create beats and overlay them live, like DJing on a guitar, by banging , scratching and attacking my instrument. Sometimes I sing to a beat that I am playing live. The live show is quite faithful to the record.

R13: What inspires you as a lyricist?
Y: Unfortunately, not happiness and bliss…usually heartache and frustration and a sense that many things in society are really fucked up underneath, and obviously above, the surface. My own addictions and character flaws and the way they mess with my life and my relationships.

R13: How much has growing up in South Africa and the changes that country has undergone in the past couple of decades shaped the kind of artist you are?
Y: I grew up in a liberal English-speaking town during apartheid and was fortunate to go to a mixed race private school, but it was very interesting as a child seeing history books and the media bias change almost overnight. I suppose that has taught me to think for myself and to never just do what I am told.

R13: Your mum would only allow classical and opera in the house, was this simply just her being a general disapproving parent or was there more to it than that?
Y: Actually my father was more hardcore about that rule. It didn’t really have to do with being a disapproving parent-My father didn’t/doesn’t understand pop music, or rather equated all pop music with the lowest common denominator bubblegum pop music. He is rather oldschool, being born in Rumania in the 30s, and saw it all as a negative influence that might poison my creative brain. I think my folks fancied me as a concert pianist or something one day. I have since played him some stuff like Radiohead and Bjork that has surprised him by its musicality.

R13: Who were the artists that first made you decide you wanted to try and become a professional musician?
Y: Probably something embarrassing like Wham, lost in my memory haze and the mists of time, but the first songwriters that really got me going were Paul Simon, Lennon/McCartney and Sting.

R13: What was the first really great gig you remember going to?
Y: During the apartheid era, the cultural boycott was in full effect, so we didn’t get many great artists coming through. In 1998, U2 came and toured with the ‘Pop’ tour. I was right in front and left feeling like I had been hit by a freight train…in the best possible way.

R13: What prompted you to record a Pixies cover?
Y: It’s one of a small number of tunes that describes a period of my life where I would sneak out and sneak into clubs underage to hear all manner of alternative music that I would never hear on our rather limited radio stations. So it’s a song that’s all tied up with my initial wonder and excitement for beautiful and strange pop music. ‘Where is my mind?’ is a question I continually ask myself.

R13: How is 2008 shaping up for you?
Y: Daunting and thrilling. Just finished this amazing tour opening for Tori Amos across the US which has opened up a bunch of doors like my own US tour and Coachella. I am opening for Underworld at the Roundhouse and my first proper large London show sold out 3 weeks before it happened and had a thunderous response. A number one record in Denmark from a track that a DJ snatched off my myspace, touring Europe, Japan and a number of even more exciting things that I can’t talk about just yet.

R13: Do you have any great claim to fame/name drop stories you can share with us?
Y: Several that I won’t share just yet, but I will mention this one. When I was about 15 years old, Crowded House came to Cape Town to play 2 shows. At the second show, I was near the front, about 15,000 folks in the crowd, when Neil Finn asked anyone if they thought they could sing, before I registered what was going on, I was being shoved onto the stage where I proceeded to perform the one Crowded House song I knew well enough to sing in front of 15,000 people, ‘Into Temptation’, flawlessly I might add- there was no time to get nervous. The crowd went wild and the South African media had a field day claiming it was all a setup and I had been planted in the crowd to help pump them up and that I was a secret member of the band. Oddly enough, a few years later, just out of school, I got my first big break to go to New York and play for the A&R department of Columbia Records, from which I was given a development deal that got me out of South Africa and into the business. On my way up to the 24th floor I was waiting for the lift to go to my showcase, guitar in hand. The lift opened and out walked Neil Finn, in walked me.

R13: If we spoke again in a year’s time, what would you really like to be able to have achieved/experienced?
Y: Well, I seem to be experiencing things at such a pace now that it’s impossible to digest. People seem to love this record and the word of mouth is spreading like wildfire. Obviously as much success as is humanly possible to enjoy without becoming a fame casualty freak of nature would be much appreciated. Personally, I would like to take the live show to the next place: a continuous live performance of my tunes interwoven with instrumental DJ-guitar pieces that takes the audience on a 2-hour trip. Make ‘em dance just with my guitar-I mean really dance.

Check out
Yoav’s Myspace to hear what he sounds like and find out more.