Homeschool of Rock
When Yuda Piamenta was 15, he skipped a day of school. His father, legendary Israeli guitarist Yossi Piamenta, punished his son in somewhat unusual fashion: He picked up a guitar, handed another one to Yuda and instructed him to start playing. Yossi then played a series of dissonant chords over Yuda’s melody. The cacophony might have prompted little more than an earache for some, but for Yuda it was effective reproach: He never skipped school again.
The younger Piamenta’s new band, Rock of David, hasn’t yet reached its first birthday, but it is, nonetheless, enjoying successes usually reserved for more seasoned acts. The band has played at a number of high-profile New York venues and has piqued the interest of a record label.
Rock of David (www.myspace.com/rockofdavid) owes at least some of its success to a pair of musical family trees. Like Piamenta, 19, brothers Yechiel (vocals) and Israel (drums) Bitton hail from musical aristocracy. Their father, Isaac Bitton, drummed for Les Variations, a French rock band that opened for such groups as Kiss, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream and Aerosmith in the 1970s.
The band mates are not shy about discussing their musical legacies.
“Obviously, we’re majorly influenced by our parents,” said Yechiel, who, along with his brother, runs the advertising firm Yodi.
In addition to musical inheritances, Yechiel said, each member has his individual taste. Bassist Nachum Bloom has a particular affinity for heavy metal, Piamenta prefers hip hop and Yechiel is partial to rhythm and blues.
“Everybody sort of brings their own flavor, and that’s what meshes together in the sound,” Yechiel said.
It’s a sound that varies from song to song. “Get Down” is a West Coast-tinged ska number, while “Castaway” is straightaway punk. “My Rock” is a ballad, and “Yotzer Miyado,” Rock of David’s only Hebrew-language song, is in the Piamenta vein: rock ’n’ roll colored with a Middle Eastern inflection.
“I feel like we combine my father’s style, their father’s style and punk, and each song is different,” Piamenta said.
“For the most part, it’s our own thing,” Yechiel added. “I think the kind of songs that we’re writing have nothing to do with what our fathers would write. It’s not even the same kind of music, but you can hear their influence.”
Rock of David is working on getting on the bill for an August show with the popular Sublime tribute band Badfish and is planning a college tour in September, with stops at schools throughout the Northeast.
The hope is that touring will help yield a record contract. “What we’re working on now is just kind of a demo, but recording [a full album] is something we don’t want to do via the independent route,” said Yechiel, 29, the second oldest of 12 Bitton children. “We want to do it with a proper budget.”
Although the Bitton brothers and Piamenta come from prodigious roots, each traveled a unique path to Rock of David. Yechiel said that he did not even realize he could sing until he was 16, and didn’t pursue vocals in earnest until he turned 25; Rock of David is his first band. Israel, who is 24, has been playing for years, and by sheer chronology he beat his older brother to the rock band punch.
Piamenta, meanwhile, estimates that he began playing guitar before his first birthday. He owned his first guitar at age 1, could pick out “Happy Birthday” at 2 and was playing weddings with his father at 9.
“All my musical talent I owe to my father and God,” Piamenta said. “And Hendrix.”
Joseph Leichman is a freelance journalist and musician. He blogs at www.verbalcalorie.com.