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Exclusive interview with The GAG Quartet, the Israeli band behind the latest YouTube sensation

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Making it in the music biz used to follow a pretty simple formula: Make a record, sell albums, play concerts, and make money.

Well, used to.

The formula changed after the Internet entered our lives. With reams of music freely available online, it takes more than just good music to make money.After all, we live in the Bieber era, where every YouTube view counts. If you can grab people’s attention, even a horrible music video — I’m talking to you Rebecca Black — can be a money maker if it goes viral. How to create a viral hit – or meme, an idea spread by the Internet? How about create a video that has pretty much every meme out there?

The band that seems to have figured this out is The GAG Quartet, an Israeli trio composed of Gilad Chehover, Guy Bernfeld and Or Paz. Their new video, “le Internet Medley,” is basically a tribute to every silly video your friends ever sent or posted on your Facebook wall.

On GAG’s YouTube page, the band claims there are over 40 meme references, from the cat playing keyboard, to the Numa Numa kid and even Rick Astley. If you don’t know what or who these things are, you are probably not distracted enough at work.

There is even a guest appearance by Bibi Netanyahu and his famous Gilad Shalit photo-bombing meme, which is the only Israeli reference in the clip other than a Hebrew sticker on the drums.

When three of my friends posted the video on my wall, aware of my personal fascination for memes, I was disappointed that I could find only 20. But I loved it nonetheless.

And I was not the only one.

In less than, the video already has almost 4 million hits and has been featured on websites such as HuffingtonPostMashable and KnowYourMeme.
“To be honest, we didn’t really think the video would be this successful,” Paz, the band’s guitar player, told JTA. “We assumed people all over the web would enjoy it, but we didn’t think it would evolve to these proportions. It makes us really happy and well worth the time.”

According to Paz, it took the band about a month to do the filming, recording and post production, with help from music and animation professionals. The idea behind the project came from the video’s animator, Tom Trager. Trager had worked on online videos with Paz, including the YouTube-turned-television series “Ahmed and Salim,” a comedy about two nerdy Palestinian terrorists who would rather play Guitar Hero than practice their Jihad ways.

“We all love memes and are pretty much Internet geeks, except our drummer, Gilad, who actually leaves his house and sometimes even enjoys himself,” Paz said. “He’s a weird guy.”

According to Paz, The GAG Quartet is named after one of the band member’s cat. The cat’s name: “The.” GAG has been around for about a year and this was their first actual project. “We are all from Herzliya and we have been playing all different kinds of music, from salsa to heavy metal, but since we are pretty broke, it took us some time to make this debut video happen.”

After finding out about the band’s poor financial situation, I couldn’t help but asking Paz if there is an ulterior motive behind the creation of the mother of all memes.

“Of course,” Paz admits. “The idea behind making the video was in fact to get as many hits as possible, so we could buy a yacht with all the money we make, since we all know that YouTube pays you a million dollars for every million hits.”

Busted.

But to Paz, a yacht is not enough. “We are planning on getting rid of the yacht the moment we get it, and then get another yacht.”

And while in his dreams, Paz is already riding the Nyan Cat’s rainbow trail all the way to viral glory, maybe his fantasy is not so far-fetched. After watching “le Internet Medley” he made with his Israeli peers, people owe him something almost priceless — all the time they are saving by only watching a four-minute video instead of over forty different ones.

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