It’s doubtful anyone has ever accused Brooklyn-based duo Hank & Cupcakes of playing it safe.
The Israeli husband and wife duo of Ariel Scherbakovsky (husband) and Sagit Shir moved to New York from their native Israel in 2008 after studying music in Cuba and a detour to Australia. Armed with their savings, his bass guitar and effects pedals, her drums and powerhouse voice and a knack for high energy, dance-inducing art-pop, the pair made a name for themselves as an in-demand live act.
They financed their first album, “Naked,” through a publishing deal with BMG, but when the label sat on the album too long H&C opted for the independent route releasing their second album, “Ca$h 4 Gold” on their own. Instead of relying on a producer and studio as they did with “Naked,” which was recorded in the same Berlin studio as “Achtung Baby,” Hank & Cupcakes took a year off from performing to focus on learning to record and engineer the record on their own.
“We’ve never had time to explore and experiment,” says Shir, calling from a tour stop in Asheville. “When you don’t have a lot of time you just have to take the safe way, but legendary music is always created by breaking the rules.”
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For the songs “Countdown” and “Cocaina” the duo recorded vocals in the subway late at night.
“We tried recording outside at Central Park. That didn’t work out... We tried the Natural History Museum,” she says. “It was good to be in an environment where it’s exciting to record. You kind of have an audience in the subway. It added energy and excitement to the performance. I think it’s getting much closer to how we want things to sound.”
Energy and excitement seem to come naturally to Hank & Cupcakes. Whether opening for Placebo at a festival in Israel or playing for 10 people on a week night in a quiet suburb, Shir and Sherbakovsky are committed performers reveling in their own music.
“I’m a person that has a lot of tension built up,” Shir says. “Being on stage is like a cleansing process. I wasn’t always able to get up on stage and feel such a release. It doesn’t come completely naturally.”
The winkingly named “Ca$h 4 Gold” is a stylistic collision that traces H&C’s journey through an eclectic mix of Latin rhythms, hip-hop, rock, disco, pop, and points in between.
“I don’t know if it’s a result of (where we lived). There’s some Middle Eastern grooves; the chorus in ‘Cocaina’ is a Cuban rhythm; and influences from the cultures in our lives,” Shir says. “We were a little worried it was too eclectic or not consistent enough in its style. We did get thrown in all different kinds of directions. We actually thought it was too much.”