New York-based singer-songwriter/guitarist R O N I was visiting Tel Aviv when a friend introduced her to producer FortyForty. It was a serendipitous encounter resulting in an impromptu recording that forms the basis of her new single “Stop Motion” and forthcoming EP, Crown.
At the time, R O N I was emerging from relationship. “My mind was all in there,” she says by phone from her home in Brooklyn. “I think that I would have never been able to let it out in that way if it wasn’t for that specific situation.” She estimates that about 85% of the improvised song remains in the version that would eventually be released. They even kept a lot of the original vocal takes. “There were just moments there that we knew were gold because there were no boundaries.”
The result is a reflection on a particular moment in the past relationship, related through powerful, melancholy vocals and set against a slow groove. “Even though we knew it was just not going to work, we would still walk down the street holding hands,” she says. She remembers wondering if onlookers would see the couple and not realize that things just weren’t good. “Even now, I see couples in the street sometimes and I stop and think to myself, I wonder if they’re dealing with a similar thing that I was dealing with,” she says.
“Stop Motion” is one of four songs to appear on Crown. A second single will be released on August 30, with the full EP set to drop on September 9 via Tel Aviv imprint InchPerSecond Records. On various dates in August, R O N I plans to release four music videos that, when played together, can be viewed like a short film. She worked with a friend to use astrology to select the release dates. “No release on any day is random for this record,” she says. “It’s all very intentional. All with the intention of helping the planet and helping humanity.”
Born and raised in Jerusalem, R O N I moved to New York a decade ago, after spending some time in Tel Aviv and London. “It’s probably the most mind-opening, mind-challenging place to be in the world,” she says of New York. Both her hometown and her adopted hometown have made an impact on her work.
“I think being born in Jerusalem and being raised in that city as well… my main agenda is to truly help bring peace into that area and at the end of the day,” she says. “There are different tools that we as humans can use to help those around us. I found that music to me is a really great tool that I want to bring people together.”
Meanwhile, she credits New York with opening her mind in many ways. “That is the place where I could meet and talk and befriend people that I never had the chance to do that with where I’m from, for many reasons that are beyond my control,” she says.
R O N I began playing guitar at the age of eight. A few years later, a teacher got her into playing jazz professionally and introduced her to classic bands like Pink Floyd (specifically, she says, David Gilmour) and Led Zeppelin. R O N I recognized that she didn’t have many guitar heroes who were women and says that was likely a big motivation for her to keep going. She spent six years in music school, focusing on guitar and, by her late teens, began studying voice on the sly. “I was just very proud of the guitar part and I didn’t want anyone to hear me sing at that point,” she says.
Later on, she would find inspiration in a new crop of artists, like James Blake, FKA Twigs and St. Vincent. She says that their songs “were simple and beautiful and could have been recorded with just a piano or a guitar, but this production around it was just bringing it to a whole other level for me.”
On that trip to Tel Aviv, where R O N I recorded the first draft of “Stop Motion,” she also began work on the rest of the Crown EP. Overall, though, the four-song release took about two years to complete, since she and FortyForty were collaborating remotely. R O N I recorded some of the vocals and guitars at her home in Brooklyn. She also recorded some parts in Los Angeles, when she was in town for a two-month stay and had brought her gear with her. Ultimately, she says, the “core” of that work done in Tel Aviv is still there on the EP. “Nothing went completely 180 degrees,” she says.
Conceptually, R O N I builds an arc on handling the end of a relationship, from the moments of missing someone, to self-destructive experiences, to finding a new beginning that lead to a sense of understanding and closure.
With “Stop Motion,” R O N I saw how important it was to incorporate these experiences into music. In the end, they are universal feelings. “It brings it to a point of unity, that you’re not alone and that a lot of people experience it in the same way,” she says. “In a way, it’s you’re-not-special, but, it’s okay to be where you need to be at the moment.”