Former IDF member rocks out with Bay Area band

Back in the early ’90s, Keren Gaiser served in the Israel Defense Forces just like every other Israeli high school grad. But rather than follow her dad’s path to a military career, she followed her husband to the Bay Area, where she now finds herself as the front woman for the Passive Aggressives, a rising alternative rock band.

The East Bay-based group released a sampler in 2007 and is about to issue its debut album, “Conflict Resolution,” with a CD release show at San Francisco’s Broadway Studios on July 11.

For Gaiser, 34, it’s an unlikely outcome for more reasons than one.

“I came to America [in 1994], didn’t know English very well, went to some schools, tried to find bands [to sing with] … and to improve my [songwriting] in English,” she says of her early years in the United States in the mid-’90s.

She went on to make music as a solo artist, including a collaboration with Israeli producers on songs that were promoted in Europe.

“It was very different [from what I’m doing now],” she said. “People compared me to Dido and Alanis [Morissette] with the voice of Celine Dion … I never did rock, I was always a much more ballad-y girl, much more delicate.”

Meanwhile, the guys from the Passive Aggressives had lost their lead vocalist, also a female, only about a year into their existence and were playing briefly as a trio. They connected with Gaiser through a Craigslist ad in early 2007.

“It was very interesting and different … and my husband convinced me to go,” says Gaiser. She says mixing the softness of her energy with the band’s harder-edged sound “worked like magic.”

Bassist Damian Lynch says the band at first hesitated to bring Gaiser in, wondering if she would be able to deliver the necessary rock attitude in her vocals. But he says her audition was one of the most mind-bending moments he’s experienced in music.

“She came in looking all sweet and pretty, but when she started singing, the minute the drums started rolling, she mutated into this rock ‘n’ roll hellcat,” says Lynch. “It was like, where did this rock goddess come from? So it was pretty cool.”

Gaiser grew up in Kfar Saba, a city of about 80,000 near Tel Aviv, with a father who had a career in the IDF and a mother who worked as a secretary. Her father was also a drummer and her grandfather a well-known singer, so music ran in the family.

During her childhood, Gaiser says, it was a different time for Israel.

“One thing I remember is I was free … Kids in Israel back then could do whatever they wanted — roam the streets, play in the playground until mom will yell ‘dinner is ready,'” recalls Gaiser.

Gaiser says she sang before she could talk but didn’t get serious about singing until high school. She served her two years in the IDF from 1992 to 1994, doing work she says was somewhat secretive but had to do with computers. After her military service she married her high school sweetheart, and they moved to the United States in 1994 when her husband got a job opportunity in the Bay Area. They currently reside in El Sobrante with their 7-year-old daughter.

What about balancing her life as a rocker while also being a mother?

“As my daughter says, I cannot do anything else but sing all the time,” Gaiser says. “And my husband says, ‘You are glowing when you make music and not happy when you don’t.'”

The Passive Aggressives play 8:30 p.m. July 11 at Broadway Studios, 435 Broadway St., S.F., in “A Night of San Francisco’s Best Fem Fatalent,” with

Castles in Spain and Lick. Tickets: $10 in advance, $15 at the door. For more information, visit