Yoni Leviatan
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Yoni Leviatan

Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv, Israel | SELF

Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv, Israel | SELF
Solo Rock Pop

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"Do-It-Yourself-Pop"

Do-It-Yourself Pop
Skip the tour-bus grind, singer/songwriter Yoni says. There's gold in the new media.
By Jonathan Cunningham


Most single-name musicians are too egotistical for their own good. Singers like Cher, Madonna, and Prince — yes, that type of single-name musician — can be remarkably talented and full of charisma on stage, but when not performing, they're known stinkers. Sting won't give you the time of day if you meet him in person, and there's a long list of other one-name performers, from Akon to Usher, who are reputedly the same — conceited and self-involved. But there's one exception to the sorry assessment of those with memorably simple noms de theatre: local singer/songwriter Yoni, who's as far away from ego and braggadocio as it gets.

With good looks, a slick sound, and a career trajectory that's finally on its way up, Yoni could choose to puff his chest out, but instead, he's humble and looks you in the eye with the earnestness of a man who wholeheartedly believes in the songs he creates and the messages they convey.

His cred among the Gen-Y college crowd is already solid. Says the music blog sonicbids.com, Yoni is "boldly giving voice to the frustration of his peers, ambitious and restless college grads, eager to conquer the world but running into roadblocks and hairpin curves along the way."

The Plantation-based singer and guitar player is only beginning to make a name for himself as a live performer — he played his first solo gig last October. But with a debut album dropping this week and a catchy lead single, "Twentysomething," developing a life of its own, Yoni hopes his chance at stardom is within reach. As an independent artist, he knows he doesn't have the funds or resources to compete with major acts, but he's cutting corners and finding ways to get his music heard in DIY fashion. He's got a bevy of websites handling online distribution for his four-song EP, Ready for More, which was released last year, and the same applies to his stellar debut album, Extra Credit. Unlike a lot of upstart rock musicians, especially those of the single-name variety, Yoni actually isn't looking for a record deal and says he's comfortable keeping things as low-budget and hands-on as possible.

"The label thing is totally not in my sights right now," Yoni says during a recent interview. "I'm very happy doing the indie thing. I want to go out and get film and TV licensing. I want to build things up on my own strategically, just the way that I envision it all coming together."

At the age of 29, Yoni is older and arguably wiser than most rock/pop performers getting their careers off the ground. Born Yoni Laviatan in London to Israeli immigrant parents, he earned a degree from the University of Florida in criminology and law, not music.

His diversity of experience is probably why he knows better than to waste his time pining for a major recording contract, as most record companies like to "discover" talent at a considerably younger age. But what he concedes in a few gray hairs, he's able to make up tenfold from his time spent cleverly plotting his venture into the pop world. Rather than hopping in a van and playing dive bars around the country, hoping for a miracle, Yoni puts his faith in opportunities offered by the new media.

"I have three TV placements [on MTV, PBS, and the Oxygen Network] already and a lot of opportunities online as well," Yoni says. The licensing means that his music can be used as background or accompaniment for shows produced for those networks, while the Internet provides lucrative merchandising opportunities.

"Television is starting to break bands," Yoni says. "It's like the new radio. Bands are breaking because their songs find the right audience on the right show. It's all about placement. To get on commercial radio, you pretty much got to be on a major label. But to be on TV, the doors are a lot more open. You can get traffic on MySpace... people see the song here, they hear it there, and it's just about working all the angles."

If MySpace has become the ultimate determiner for how popular a new song is within the online community, then Yoni's "Twentysomething" is off to a good start. Based on the downloads of individual audio files, it's been played more than 6,800 times on his MySpace site. It's the clear standout on Extra Credit, a coming-of-age track that steps on the innocent dreams of recent college grads and seeks to alert them about how life really is.

"I think that song turned out so powerful because anyone over 20 can relate to it," Yoni explains. "When you're fresh out of college or whatever school you go to, a part of you still thinks that things are just going to be handed to you — and that's not the case."

The song poignantly conveys the disillusionment of young people finding themselves whisked into the world of sputtering careers and media-driven success: "Somewhere down the line I realized/No one cares about my hungry eyes/Hungry for the world to identify/Who I am as more than just a passerby."

While the song has yet to run on a television show, both MTV and the Oxygen Network have expressed interest.

Television licensing is so far an obscure route to gaining exposure, but with the poppy production, strong guitar work, and lyrics that speak to the plight of post-college angst, "Twentysomething" is perfect for MTV and television in general.

Despite the potential windfall, Yoni knows the odds are stacked against him.

"Most people start their music careers much earlier," Yoni concedes. "But I didn't start to play out until last year. Still, I knew what direction I was going in, businesswise, and that makes a difference. If I started five years ago, I might be in the same place."

He also wouldn't have lived through the grind of being 20-something in America, an experience that seems to be draped all over the 11 songs on Extra Credit. It's an impressive album, striking a responsive chord with its melancholy debunking of the idea that coming of age with a college degree is a one-way ticket to success. Although many of the songs on the album were composed shortly after Yoni graduated from college, the conviction comes from the heart of a man who has already lived through his 20s and has important messages to share before moving on into the next age bracket.

Extra Credit is full of positive reminders for young people to stay focused on their dreams regardless of the obstacles. A song like "Consider This" is a bit macabre, with its brooding keyboard accompaniment, but its lyrics remind us that negative situations aren't as bad as they seem. In "The Fight Goes On," Yoni offers this stirring recipe prescription: "No, we should not need anyone/To tell us what must be done/We live in times of burning towers falling to the ground, even now/The fight goes on/Don't back down, the fight goes on."

There are no true love songs here or lyrics about broken hearts or hypersexual relations, like a lot of pop-rock material on the radio today. Instead, the album rolls along like a giant pep talk; the sheer corniness of it works.
"The songs are all my stories," Yoni explains. "The general theme is just, 'Take charge of what you want to do, and just go for it.' While you're in your 20s, you grow up, discover who you want to be, and learn not to be confined in whatever people think you should do."

Despite flirting with a career as an attorney, Yoni followed his heart and kept his guitar handy. Since graduating, he has worked as a project coordinator for Warner Bros. Publishing, both full-time and freelance, for the better part of six years, but he has kept music at the forefront. When he's not gearing up for an album release, Yoni also teaches a garage-band class at the newly minted Conservatory Prep High School in Davie, where students learn the ins and outs of the music business, and he teaches guitar privately on the side. In a sense, Extra Credit is a living testament to the fact that dreams come true — a notion that Yoni just may be able to breathe and enjoy while he's still 20-something.

- New Times


"Songs of Yoni - Extra Credit"

“Extra Credit,” from Songs of Yoni, is an album from a Florida-based singer/songwriter that allows listeners into the intimate world of the artist and notes exactly what he is thinking. Past songs by Yoni were heard on MTV’s “Road Rules,” and “Real World,” series as well as on the Oxygen Networks’ “Bad Girls Club.” His consuming timbre will immediately hook listeners in and make them want to listen keenly to each lyric this musician utters.

The first song begins with rhythmic percussion play then guitar is melded in later on. Yoni seems to be reminiscing about a precise time in his life and listeners might remember the same chapter in their lives as he croons lines such as, “I remember 21, fresh out of school, thinkin’ I was done…I’m still waiting for someone to tell where I go to get my millions. Somewhere down the line I realized no one cares about my hungry eyes. Hungry for the world to identify who I am…Tomorrow might not be so fun.” This song might remind some of a time when their fate was yet to be revealed and the possibilities were endless.

The second song has wicked fast guitar work acutely followed by powerful drum play. Yoni again plays with the advance of time as he invites listeners to take a mental musical foray with him back in time. “Close your eyes and come for a ride. As I take you back in time to an age in every boys life when you feel like a man and it all seems right…Take my advice when you want to escape go back in your mind…Look outside what do you see? Me and my friends being 13…A trip to the mall and maybe a fight.”

On the third song specific guitar chords open up the intro. On this track, he seems to be vocalizing internal questions about himself and if he has overstepped the boundaries of society with his language. “Sometimes it occurs to me…Do you know yourself…Then you have reality…Should I turn the sensor off. What if I said too much…And then it occurs to me…Tossin’ round and round in bed.” Yoni seems to be disturbed at the thought he might have offended people, and he is trying to assess in song what his next step should be.

Songs of Yoni’s “Extra Credit” is a peek inside the mind of this singer/songwriter who poses voluminous queries to listeners about the past, present and the future. Many of the tracks on the record will remind listeners of events that have taken place in their own existences and make them ponder the choices they have made in contrast to Yoni’s.

Reviewer: Sari N. Kent
Reviewer's Rating: 9
Reader's Rating: 10.00
- The Celebrity Cafe


"Showtime"

School's back in session for Yoni. The musician is seeking an "A" from listeners with his first CD, the aptly titled Extra Credit.

A debut party for the disc is set July 28 at the downtown Fort Lauderdale nightclub Revolution, 200 W. Broward Blvd. The full-length effort is a first for Yoni, a Plantation resident who penned all of the album's 11 tracks.

The idea for the CD evolved from Yoni's college days. He began writing songs while earning a bachelor's degree in criminology and law at the University of Florida.

"My degree wasn't in music," Yoni said. "I never felt fulfilled. I feel like making this album is my own personal extra credit. I've come full circle, doing the kind of project I've always wanted to do."

Getting the disc made follows Yoni's stint as a production coordinator with a major sheet music publishing company. He believed it was time to get his own music career going last year. He began doing solo gigs and now performs with a four-piece backup band featuring guitarist Olaf Andersen, drummer Brett Segal, keyboardist Jon Goode and a rotating lineup of bass players.

Yoni, who also plays guitar on Extra Credit, describes the CD's songs as mainstream rock-pop with the kind of catchy hooks and lyrics that get into people's heads.

"A lot of my songs are my stories, but I try to write in a way that other people can relate to it," he said. "Musically, I want it to be a record that someone can put on wherever and enjoy it from beginning to end."

The CD's lead single is Twentysomething, a coming-of-age song about making the transition from college into the real world. The tune was released in October has already been licensed for future use as background music for episodes of shows on cable TV networks, Yoni said.

The Extra Credit release party starts at 8 p.m. Call the nightclub at 954-727-0950, or jointherevolution.net. Also visit songsofyoni.com and myspace.com/songsofyoni.
- Sun-Sentinel


"Interview"

Music Interview: Yoni
By: Isaac Joseph Davis Junior
(Juniorscave.com)

Yoni is an awesome musician. What I really am enjoying about his sounds is the force of his music with its pulsating rock sounds. For me, when I listen to Yoni, he commands my utmost attention. What’s more—he uses a mixture of different sounds to give the audience some catchy and fun tunes. Check out this recent online interview Yoni took the time to do with the magazine.

Music Now: When and how did you first become interested in music? How long have you been playing music?

Yoni: I've always been into music. Even as a baby my parents said I loved hearing music. They got me a toy guitar when I was 3 and said I was always banging away on it and started nagging them for lessons. So they got me started at age 4 and I've been playing ever since.

Music Now: What are your musical influences?

Yoni: I listen to everything from pop and rock to blues, jazz, funk, and anything else worth listening to. I've got so many influences but a couple of the main ones are the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer, Gabe Dixon Band, Joe Pass, Robben Ford, Van Halen and Green Day.

Music Now: Does anyone in your family play music?

Yoni: My grandfather was a conductor of a local orchestra and my great-grandfather was a well respected violinist in his community.

Music Now: When you are making music, describe how you are feeling?

Yoni: I don't know that I feel any different necessarily. I mean certainly there are times you feel more inspired than others but I've been doing music long enough that it just feels like what I do.

Music Now: Why did you write or decide to play any of your songs?

Yoni: Like most people I originally started writing just for myself and the pure fun of making music. But once I saw other people were enjoying the songs I discovered it’s even more fun to write for you with the thought that someone else might get something out of it.

Music Now: Why did you choose to play this kind of music?

Yoni: It's a pretty natural outcome of my influences. Not to sound too cliché but it's what comes out of me.

Music Now: What do you feel is missing in the music industry today?

Yoni: Hmm, good question... I think the industry is getting better every day with the amount of opportunities that are out there for independent musicians. But there is still a certain glass ceiling that is occupied by the major labels and you can't get to that highest level until you sign with one of them. I'm just waiting for the first totally independent artist to break it and then the whole house of cards will fall. I don't think it will be too much longer.

Music Now: Do you feel like you are a role model to others?

Yoni: Maybe to younger people but aren't we all?

Music Now: What keeps you going even when times you feel like giving up?

Yoni: Every job has its ups and downs but there's not another field I'd rather be working in. As long as you keep that in mind and wait for the next upswing, you can usually stay on the path.

Music Now: What are some of the big projects you are working on?

Yoni: I'm in the middle of recording my full length CD debut which should be out by June 2007.

Music Now: What can we expect from you in the next several years?

Yoni: Big things I hope! But more specifically I'd just like to get out there touring to a wider base and growing my audience. The great thing about this business is you really don't know how one day will lead to the next but things always seem to get better and better.

Music Now: Any new releases, updates, or anything else you would like to tell our audience?

Yoni: Yes, see 2 questions above!! And go to my website (which is about to have a total overhaul) to sign up for the mailing list and keep in touch. I'd love to hear from you...

Music Now: Thanks for this great Spotlight

Yoni's website:
http://www.songsofyoni.com/
- Junior's Cave


"Extra Credit Album Review"

Artists making smart pop-rock are almost everywhere you look these days; so much so, that a lucky break is needed to give one a leg up on the competition. Such a boost was given to Florida-based singer-songwriter Yoni Leviatan’s career when his song “Twentysomething” was used by MTV as theme music on a couple of their shows. That kind of publicity doesn’t come along everyday, and the exposure helped raise Yoni’s profile immeasurably.

Which leads us to his debut album Extra Credit, a collection of--what else?--smart pop rock that also boasts some funk and ska influences. Upon initial listening, the album’s grooves evoke the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Primus, but unlike those bands Yoni isn’t just making music to shake your booty to; he’s got something to say about the world around us, which is fitting for a guy who graduated from college with a degree in criminology and law. A re-mastered version of “Twentysomething” kicks off the proceedings, and it’s by far the best song here: a rockin’ rumination on the trials and tribulations of being young in this day and age. From there we get songs about psychology (“A Lesson in Freud”), the usual love politics (“Maybe This Time”), political apathy (“Fate of the Union”), and contemporary college life (“Tales of Higher Learning”), all delivered with pile-driving funk oriented grooves and lots of electric guitars. When Yoni gets quieter, as on “Morning”, he reminds of any number of people from Dave Matthews to Ben Harper, but he’s sincere and that’s what counts.

Extra Credit isn’t the most original album sounding album in the world--it does need that little extra something to make it stand out from the pack--but Yoni does have a spark about him that makes me want to root for him in the long term. So I guess the verdict is a B for Yoni’s Extra Credit, with one eye on future endeavors.

Written By: Gina Morris
- Evolution of Media


Discography

4 Singles - Released 2013/2014

Extra Credit - Released July 2007
Single - "Twentysomething"

Ready For More EP - Released September 2006

Photos

Bio

Yoni Leviatan is an American-Israeli singer/songwriter/guitarist who first made a name for himself when his debut album Extra Credit had a burst of activity and caught the attention of many in the South Florida area:

 

-       Songs were licensed to major TV networks such as MTV, CNN, ESPN, PBS and Lifetime.

-       The album was played on over 200 college radio stations nationwide.

-       Yoni was featured locally on the cover of the Broward-Palm Beach New Times and the popular entertainment show Deco Drive.

-       The single Twentysomething was named one of the Top 25 MP3s of 2007 by Indie-music.com and won Broadjams College Credit CD compilation contest.

-       The song Let the Devil Know was licensed to for the final scene/end credits of the spoof comedy film One-Eyed Monster starring Ron Jeremy.

-       Yoni was a semi-finalist for the 2006 Florida Grammy Showcase.

-       Yoni was named 1st Runner-up from the USA in the Best Male Artist Category of the 2006 International Music Aid Awards and 3rd Runner-up for Best Songwriter.

-       In 2008, Yoni accompanied award-winning singer/songwriter Ellen Bukstel at a rally for then-Democratic Candidate for President, Barack Obama.  

 

In 2009, Yoni immigrated to the state of Israel, where his writing has gone from themes about post-college life and the arduous transition to the real world, to songs ranging from the realities of love and the benefits of getting older to the age-old hope for peace in the Middle East the topic of his latest single Days of Change.



Band Members