At her 2004 bat mitzvah, musician Allison Becker completely forgot to dance the hora. Having deprived herself of an all-important “Hava Nagila” chairlift moment, she cried the whole car ride home. Now, Allison is reclaiming her bat mitzvah — adding both the hora and her adult chosen family — thanks to her band Wetsuit and their new single, “Local Celebrity.”
The music video for “Local Celebrity,” which debuted late last month, takes VHS footage from Allison’s original Jewish coming-of-age ceremony and splices it with shots from a bat mitzvah party Allison recently threw for herself. The result is a music video which deliciously blends early 2000s bat mitzvah nostalgia with dreamy rock.
“You were the star player on my team / Turns out you’re just a washed up local celebrity,” Allison trills about the heartbreak and humiliation of a past relationship, while the video cuts between clips of her past and present selves as bat mitzvah girl/woman, both adorned in glowstick necklaces.
Allison recently chatted with Hey Alma via email about using her bat mitzvah footage for a music video and finally getting the hora chairlift she’s always wanted.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Tell me about your Jewish identity and background.
I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri where my family belonged to a Reform Jewish synagogue. I went there for preschool, day camp, Hebrew school, Sunday school and spent summers at a Jewish sleepaway camp in the Lake of the Ozarks.
My Jewish identity revolves around the St. Louis Reform Jewish community, my family, our traditions, music and of course, food. I’ve lived in NYC for 13 years now so technically I can call myself a New York Jew, but I’ll always be a midwestern Jew at heart.
How did Wetsuit come to be?
Wetsuit started in the summer of 2020 on the floor of my childhood bedroom. I spent the first four months of COVID quarantine at my parent’s house in St. Louis feeling like a 30-year-old teenager. Seeking some emotional release, I started taking guitar lessons over Zoom after many failed attempts to learn when I was an actual teenager. Harnessing all the feelings of regression bubbling up from living with my parents again, I armed myself with my old poetry and the goal of making my limited guitar knowledge a superpower rather than a limitation. I went from having never written a song before to writing a new song every day.
When I finally got back to Brooklyn, I assembled a band consisting of my partner/guitarist Anders Nils, bassist Paul DeSilva and drummer Stephen Cadieux. We began playing local shows, honing our sound and falling in love with the incredibly supportive Brooklyn indie music scene.
Why did you want to use your original bat mitzvah footage for the “Local Celebrity” music video? And why did you want to reclaim your bat mitzvah for the music video?
At my bat mitzvah we completely forgot to dance the hora. I was heartbroken at the time because I’d been dreaming of that moment since I was little, and of course you only get one bat mitzvah. Then I thought, who says you only get one bat mitzvah? What if I threw my own bat mitzvah party as an adult?
I wanted the music video for “Local Celebrity” to honor the childhood bedroom origins of Wetsuit, which is where I got the idea to use my original bat mitzvah footage that my mom recently digitized. I got a group of friends together, and with our director Paul DeSilva, we set out to recreate scenes from my original bat mitzvah video, only this time I got the climactic ending I always wanted.
How did it feel to reclaim your bat mitzvah?
I mostly felt gratitude. Seeing the 2023 and 2004 footage side-by-side made me feel grateful for all the ways I’ve grown and all the ways I’m still like my 13-year-old self. It made me grateful for my autonomy and self-determination as an adult. But mostly, I’m grateful for my parents who, despite forgetting “Hava Nagila” (OK, it was probably the DJ’s fault) threw a damn good party.
And how did it feel to finally get lifted in the chair during “Hava Nagila”?
Finally being lifted up in the chair was thrilling but honestly a bit terrifying. The ceiling was really low and my chair didn’t have handles which was definitely a rookie mistake. If you look closely in the “Local Celebrity” music video you can see me mouthing a lot of curse words.
What upcoming projects does Wetsuit have?
“Local Celebrity” is the lead single off our debut album, “Sugar, I’m Tired” which comes out August 17 via Substitute Scene Records, a NYC-based female/queer run label. You can pre-order the vinyl on Bandcamp.
This weekend we are playing Rogue Music Festival which is a three-day event organized by an amazing team of NYC-based female musicians. Our set is at The Sultan Room in Brooklyn on Saturday, July 8 at 4 p.m. We’re also going on a Midwest tour this summer!
Follow @wetsuitnyc on Instagram for tour date announcements, more singles, music videos and NYC shows.