First-ever Israeli-Palestinian boy band wants to be 'humanitarian' not 'political'
The band members share their unique story
(Web Desk) - AS1ONE, a new musical act hailing from the region where the Israel-Hamas war rages on, landed in Los Angeles to record new music on Oct. 6, a day before the war.
The group includes six guys in their early 20s picked out from thousands of auditioners, Billboard's digital cover story reports.
Four of them are Israeli while two are Palestinian. As the news of the war began to trickle in from their friends and family back home, they clung to each other for support.
"Niv lives not far from where that rave was, so he undoubtedly would have been there," shared music executive and the group's producer James Diener, adding that a woman that singer Niv Lin had just started dating was killed in the attack.
"How crazy is it to get hugs from Palestinian friends when my Israeli friends died?" said Lin. "That's our story."
Lin sings in the group alongside Sadik Dogosh, Neta Rozenblat and Nadav Philips, while Ohad Attia offers vocals and guitar with Christian Aseel Farah as the group's designated rapper.
In fact, Philips and Lin said they had never spoken with a Palestinian person until they joined the group.
After the news of the attacks that killed some 1,200 Israelis, AS1ONE "decided to stay" in LA and record rather than fly back to the region.
"In the beginning, we really felt bad that we couldn't do anything, that we couldn't help our families and friends in Israel," said Attia.
"But then when you think about it, you really realize we're on a mission and that we can be helpful. We can show the world."
On Oct. 8, AS1ONE recorded with songwriters behind BTS tracks, "Butter" and "Permission to Dance."
"The toughest moments were during the sessions," Rozenblat reflected. "I was told about two friends that were killed, Niv was told about friends of his that were killed — a lot of us found out about really awful stuff during that session, not to mention that now there's a whole war going on."
Philips agreed: "There's no way to describe how bad you feel. Your first instinct is to go back and be with your friends and family.
Then a few days later, you realize there's no better service to the world than what we're doing, and it just gives us a bigger purpose."
One of the unreleased songs they recorded is certainly colored by the tragedy.
"What if we just stopped the world," read the lyrics. "Hold the phone/Faced the hurt/Take me home/We're not built for this/We're built for more/Forget the score/Show me what it's like when we stop the world."
However, the group seems determined to have a universal message and stay out of the gritty details of the conflict. "We don't want to be political," said Farah. "We just want to be ¬humanitarian."
AS1ONE has not released a debut song just yet, but they've already faced strong criticism and roadblocks since their inception over the past two years.
Billboard describes one meeting where "a potential Palestinian talent scout was so opposed to the idea of a mixed band that she flicked her cigarette ashes at" the group's producers.
"But as the two explained their history in the business and their vision for the group, the scout uncrossed her arms and listened — and, shortly thereafter, joined the team.
Such unlikely changes of heart happened again and again at meetings throughout the country."
Diener believes the skeptics "felt our sincerity," adding, "They didn’t feel like this was in any way a gimmick or a pretext."
The group's music is on the way, alongside a five-episode docuseries produced by James Carroll.