Şatellites are at one and the same time a brilliant Tel Aviv Turkish-psyche cover band – and much more than that. Some of their catchiest songs are originals, like the first track “Big Baglama” an impossibly groovy number, with low slung, bağlama lines, augmented with some cosmic retro Roland synth work shooting off into the ether. The homage to Turkish psyche extends beyond nods to Andadolu psyche from the seventies, to modern-day Turkish purveyors of the genre like Baba Zula (see the last track “Cecom”, which gives a tip of the hat to that memorable Bosporus jam session tying up Fatih Akin’s Istanbul music docu Crossing the Bridge). While wallowing in Turkish retro sounds, Şatellites are also the products of a distinctly Tel Aviv milieu, picking up on the same local Oriental harmonies that inform such acts as Boom Pam and Dudu Tassa. The Altın Gün comparison is perhaps inevitable. Like Altın Gün, Şatellites also appear, on first glance, to be fronted by a female vocalist, and yet are in essence a rather faceless Oriental rock band, supplying terrifically catchy grooves, yet lacking the charismatic frontman personality replete with over-the-top stage antics characteristic of a classic seventies Western style rock band. “Here the narrative is more like: ‘I’ll tell you about my suffering so you can be sad with me, and only then, when we get close we can be really happy together,'” says bağlama player Itamar Klüger.
Obviously the first thing that comes to mind is Altın Gün.
Itamar Klüger: Yeah, of course.
Did you take your inspiration from what they were doing and wanted to do something along those lines?
I’ve been listening to Turkish folk and pop and psyche rock for around ten years. And I’m really digging this genre. I was very familiar with this genre before Altın Gün. When I heard Altın Gün I thought that’s super great. Like, someone had to do it. But I knew the songs, knew that they were cover songs. And a year after they published their album – I play bağlama, or saz – I met the bass player and the drummer. And they said, “Hey, we saw you. You play saz. We want to make a band. We want to sound like Altın Gün.”
You met them in Israel.
In Israel, yeah. They are professional jazz players. And I told them, “Oh, that’s cool. You know, that’s all cover songs. I know those songs.” Some of them are originals by artists from the seventies. Some are just folk songs which have been there forever. So, they were kind of shocked. But after this shock I said I could bring many references, and we could do it ourselves, this thing. So, in a way Altın Gün were an inspiration to do that. But I was inspired by this genre way before.
What song was it that sparked your interest in this kind of music?
I guess the first song from this genre was Selda Bağcan, “Yaz”. You know this song?
Yeah, that’s a good one.
It’s so intriguing – this synthesizer line. Waaaa. It’s so exciting. This whole genre is such a special point of fusion in my ears. Something so unique. Because, obviously you hear all the Oriental roots from those artists. There are musical motifs that go way back to history – to Ottomanic music. And the quartertones, the bağlama, and the whole aesthetic. And it meets the regular Western – I don’t know if its Western – groove. The bassline and drums and it was so special for me. There is something really welcoming, because when you hear music, I think those points of fusion are really special and important. Because, you want to feel comfortable. You want to feel at home, and you know some things and such things. Some things should be new and special and intriguing. So this combination and the whole eastern attempt to do a groove in the seventies and even sixties and eighties is so special. Cuz’ you can hear The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. You can hear that. And yet they have their own inspirations. And for me it was really amazing and really unique.
And you mentioned Selda Bağcan. Did this have something to do with the fact that Boom Pam was working together with her?
I’ve known Uri for years. I don’t know how they got to play together. Like now he’s basically their band. Like, Boom Pam is pretty much Selda Bağcan’s band. That’s what I know. It’s cool. Uri heard this genre a lot.
You guys are not Satellites, but Şatellites.
Yeah, it’s something in between. It’s with that Turkish accent.
Is that a play on words? Or is it just aesthetic?
It’s for aesthetic reasons. It’s a kind of hipster gag, or something like that. The Ş is a “sh”. Sometimes we are Satellites, sometimes we are Şatellites.
Any other details about how you met up? What’s the female vocalist’s name?
What’s her story?
The three of us began to play for three months, and then she arrived. She was like, “I heard you were doing Turkish psyche, and I really like this genre and I want to sing with you.” And we were like, “Yeah”. She has such a sweet and intriguing voice. We were like, “Yeah, please do.” We gave her also a small synthesizer. It was only the four of us in the beginning. We performed for a year in a restaurant in the Jaffa flea market – a Turkish restaurant. We were saving money month after month for recording. It was really organic. It arose really organically. It was like, “Let’s put all of our money together and invest in an album.” We saved day by day and when we had enough we recorded the album. It was really the classical way. A classical band. It was a full democracy. Now things have changed a little bit. We’re six, and the drummer left. And the drummer left and we have a new drummer. And a new percussionist and a new keyboard player.
And then you approached Batov?
Yeah, actually I met a guy the year before when Corona started, in 2019. And he said, “You know this guy? He might like you guys.” He gave me Kobayashi’s phone. And I was, like, “Yeah, I should send him some stuff.” But I didn’t have time. And we worked hard and everything. And suddenly the pandemic started and I had free time. And I thought maybe now is a good time to send him some stuff. And then I sent him stuff, and to make a long story short, he was first interested in an album I made myself. Like an edits album with some kind of remixes. But after that he had heard Şatellites. It was out already. And he was, like, “I’m taking this.” So, thanks to Corona virus I guess it helped.
You spoke about the Turkish sound, what about something indigenous to Tel Aviv? Is there anything like that in there?
Um, yes, but I don’t know if I can tell you. Music, when it runs through a person, changes. Our attempt to do Turkish music is different from anyone else. Those sounds, those Oriental sounds, are something you hear around here a lot. In the local scene you have the more eastern bands. Then it’s traditional and Oriental. For them we are bit too pop, too Western. And for the rock and funk bands we are sometimes too much – how can I call it – too hafla. Uppy and like this Eastern thing. We are really on the border. The scene here shapes us in its own way. I don’t know how to tell you how exactly. Those sounds are pretty familiar here. It has something to do with this Mediterranean thing – sound – it makes us feel at home, a way.
The first track, “Big Baglama”, very catchy. It kicks off in a big way. You have the bağlama and a strong bass line and what is that synth thing going on?
That is n eighties Roland synth. The dude, we recorded at his place, he’s really into synths. And yeah, he shaped it for hours. That’s actually an original song. Some songs on the album are original.
That’s the catchiest track.
Oh, thanks. Also the third track, “Disko Arabesque”, is ours.
“Zuhtu” – I’m trying to figure out where I heard that first. It’s a song that’s been around for ages.
Yeah, that’s an old standard.
Do you know who was the first to do it?
I know it, and my favorite version is by Esin Afşar.
“Olumur Dersin”, is a Turkish…
That’s one of those songs that has various versions. It was Turkish versions and Greek versions. Once someone said that it is rooted in Thessaloniki, in Greece. But many songs in this area they have a Greek version and a Turkish version.
Who is Vicky Ashkenazi?
She’s our friend. Her origins are from Turkey. She heard the language from her dad. She was singing and we just invited her to sing with us.
“Seni Sen Olduğun İçin Sevdim”?
That’s our second single. It’s one of our favorites. Maybe because it’s a little bit faster. The groove is jungle, drum and bassy. We really like that one.
The one that really struck me was the last track, “Cecom”, which is a Baba Zula song. It reminds me of the last scene in the “Crossing the Bridge” documentary, by Fatih Akin.
Yeah. That’s where it’s from. Our small homage for that moment. We also saw that movie and we were really touched by the whole thing. We didn’t know about putting it in the album, but we were like, “Yeah let’s put it in.”
Yeah, it’s a great way to tie it up.
What do you think about Baba Zula?
I love Baba Zula. I really respect them. Really special. They really continue that wave, in a way, truly. Their research of that psychedelic sound with some repetitive tribal thing they have going on is like an ongoing ceremony in many ways. Very tribal. I really like that. I love Baba Zula. They came to Israel twice. I went to see them.
What’s in store for the future?
We really hope that people will like this album. We would really like to come to Europe and to perform. And we really want to record and work on some new stuff because we have been playing for three years now, and now we sound better. So I really hope we can make a second album. I think it will be something more experimental.
Also Altın Gün, their last stuff is more synth oriented.
…and disco. But I want to go more into the psychedelic. Those amorphic periods. Yeah. I hope so.
Well, thanks very much for the interview.
Pre-order the new album on vinyl or digital now @ https://satellites-tlv.bandcamp.com/album/atellites