Shemspeed Founder Moves to L.A. (Interview)
This article hit today in the Los Angeles Blue Print, interview by Alan Zietlin.
The Beastie Boys helped make themselves famous with “No Sleep Till Brooklyn,” and it looks like Erez Safar will get little sleep now that he’s moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. The 33-year-old Shemspeed founder will likely gain more fame as he expands his empire, adding on another label, bringing a festival to a major city, and launching two new companies.
One major feat he’s looking forward to is bringing the Sephardic Music Festival to Southern California. “I’m really excited to finally bring it out here, as people have been begging for it for years,” he said in a phone interview from Los Angeles. “Honestly, L.A. lacks a Jewish music festival like the ones we produce in New York, Boston, Washington, Atlanta and other cities. It will bring to L.A. audiences and particularly younger Jews, a multifaceted Sephardic Music Festival modeled on the one we have produced in New York for the past seven years – with art, scholarship, fashion, and food as well as a wide range of music that transforms perceptions of what it means to be Jewish. This approach to changing perceptions of Jewish identity through music, food, learning social events and fashion is unique.”
Safar will be opening up a studio and become heavily involved in film and television licensing for Shemspeed’s music. Safar started Shemspeed in 2007. Now, he has more than 18 musical acts, produced more than 15 music videos and has started a rock imprint called Soul Snack Records, with newly signed Max Jared. The soul/rock label will also release Dov Rosenblatt’s upcoming Hebrew album. In addition, the Bancs label promotes a sexy and more edgy vibe and on the site wearebancs.com, you can find some wildly inventive remixes. One of Shemspeed’s best videos is “The Takeover,” which can be found on Youtube. There’s an infectious beat by Safar (Diwon), stellar by Y-Love and Tj Di Hitmaker and a real surprise with Andy Milonakis rapping with a serious swagger.
In reflecting on the progress and growth of Shemspeed, Safar said the goal is to give audiences music that was easy to swallow and could be a vehicle for pride. “I wanted to create a movement of positive unique music that everyone could listen to,” he said. “Hip hop heads, hipsters Jews, music fans…I’m passionate about music that is universal but speaks on different levels. Jazz could be appreciated in general but if you understand music, you appreciate it on a deeper level. So too, with Shemspeed music. You could just love the rhymes and the beats or if you know something about Judaism then you might understand and relate to it on a deeper level but we don’t really put out klezmer or super super-niche Jewish music… stuff that you really need a reference to appreciate on any level.”
Safar said he’s wanted to move to L.A. for years, partly for the great weather. “I’m a military brat,” he said. “Having grown up moving from city to city and country to country every few years of my life, I guess I was just itching to move.”
Safar has garnered press from the likes of The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. He sparked some controversy with the Israeli keffiyeh, made by Baruch Chertok. Some thought it was insult to Arab culture, though Safar maintains that was not his intention. A new garb they’re sporting is fringes known as tsitsit, in red or purple.
Safar, who performs under the moniker of “Diwon” will also be releasing his own EP. He’s also launched two new companies: Design and Code Creative, a graphic design company and Music PR Co., a public relations company for artists. The Shemspeed website is also selling skinny ties. About the only thing Safar doesn’t do is make his own instruments.
Safar credits the musicians on his labels for working well collaboratively and making the sound fresh. He said his goal was to have music that is inspired by Judaism while being universal enough for music lovers. Aside from the Y-Love documentary and the upcoming video “Famous” there will be another CD out for this year’s Sephardic Music Festival.
With so many artists, new albums and ventures on tap, as well as a son who has learned to play a pretty mean synth, Safar said he is happy to be in L.A. And he’ll will take some relaxation in the sun when he can find the time.