Yoni Bloch is a well-known Israeli musician, and he’s also making it big in interactive digital technology
By MORDECAI SPECKTOR
When Israeli rocker and interactive digital video entrepreneur Yoni Bloch called the Jewish World recently, he was stuck in Tel Aviv traffic.
He’s from Be’er Sheva, and when I expressed the desire to visit the Capital of the Negev, Bloch tersely responded, “Don’t go.”
And he expanded on this bit of advice: “Don’t go to Be’er Sheva, it’s the most boring city in the world.”
Bloch probably isn’t in line to head the Negev regional tourist bureau.
When I mentioned that you can visit the desert home of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, at Kibbutz Sde Boker, a ways south of Be’er Sheva, the 33-year-old musician quoted Ben-Gurion’s statement in Hebrew, then translated: “We will flourish the desert.”
Israel will make the desert bloom.
“There’s a lot of dreams about Be’er Sheva one day becoming a very important area; but those dreams are only dreams,” Bloch concluded.
The popular Israeli singer-songwriter will appear 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 3 at the Sabes JCC in St. Louis Park, as part of Culture Blvd IV, the series sponsored by the Israel Center of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation.
The American Jewish World is a media sponsor of the event.
The Culture Blvd series have brought some of Israel’s most acclaimed authors and filmmakers to Minnesota. Past events in the series have featured authors Etgar Keret, Meir Shalev, Sayed Kashua, and filmmakers Dror Moreh and Noemi Schory, among others.
Bloch has had hit songs on the radio, recorded several albums, and produced numerous albums for Israeli musicians, including Miri Mesika — “She’s a huge diva here.” (Bloch later added, apropos my story about seeing the popular Israeli singer Rita in a Tel Aviv restaurant many years ago, that Mesika “is like the younger version of Rita.”)
He also was a judge for the Israeli version of American Idol.
Since 2009, Bloch’s focus has been Interlude, a company he founded that produces interactive videos for companies like Old Navy and Nokia, and for musicians including Bob Dylan and Coldplay.
“We just did a video with Wiz Khalifa,” he pointed out.
Bloch and members of his band have contributed their skills to Interlude. The company’s subsidiary, Treehouse, provides digital tools so the masses can create videos, Web sites and all kinds of high tech wizardry.
Interlude got significant funding from Sequoia Capital, a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley.
“To fund the trip [to California, for the meeting with Sequoia], we did two shows in Palo Alto, in the JCC,” Bloch recalled. “It was funny that the music paid for the travel, because in Israel it’s very hard to make money from music.”
Bloch said that Interlude now has more than 50 employees, with offices in Tel Aviv and New York City. “We’re just now starting an office in Los Angeles, as well.”
The bigger office is in Tel Aviv, “and all the developers are here,” he commented.
You can go on the Web (interlude.fm) and see how the interactive videos work. In the Dylan video for “Like a Rolling Stone,” for example, you can flip through various “TV channels” and see folks from various shows lip-synching to the song.
The digital technology is being exploited as a marketing tool by some big firms.
“Imagine in an Old Navy commercial, a woman can choose from several different outfits,” Bloch told Israel 21c. “First of all, it’s good advertising, but it also provides valuable data — Old Navy gets to see which clothes get chosen more often.”
A story about Bloch and Interlude in Bloomberg News stated, “In Israel, tech entrepreneurs are the new rock stars.”
“Not just in Israel, I think,” Bloch replied. “In Israel, it’s just accelerated. I’ve been thinking about it: Do you remember the movie, The Social Network? … Hollywood decided to do a blockbuster where the star of the movie was a geeky tech entrepreneur.”
Bloch noted that music and digital technology have merged in the production of “big wow” marketing shows for Apple and other corporations.
“Most high-tech entrepreneurs are geeky people that would have loved to be a rock star,” Bloch said. “I grew up geeky… and I was into classical piano and programming.”
Yoni Bloch will speak on “Shaping the Future of Storytelling — The Israeli Way” 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 3 at the Sabes JCC, 4330 Cedar Lake Rd., St. Louis Park. For tickets ($12 advance, $14 at door), call 952-381-3499, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to: sabesjcc.org/whats-happening.php. For information, call Eilat Harel at 952-417-2321, or e-mail: email@example.com. (American Jewish World, 11.21.14)
Since 1912 the AJW has served as an important news resource for the Jewish community. The Jewish World unites the main Jewish communities in St. Paul and Minneapolis, as well as those in Duluth, Rochester and smaller cities, and bridges the divides between the various Jewish religious streams.