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The Shondes: Punk-Rock’s Little Jem

There are very few music artists and bands that I am captivated by with only listening to a song or two. Such artist/bands include Bloc Party, The XX, Elvis Presley, Adele and only a small handful more. After listening “You Ought To Be Ashamed” by The Shondes I can honestly say I was hooked. I listened to the rest of their songs and realized that I have found my new favorite band. Their music is a hypnotizing fusion of punk and pop-rock with Jewish influences and political messages.

The Shondes hail from Brooklyn, New York. Violinist Elijah Oberman and bassist/lead vocalist Louisa Rachel Soloman formed the band in early 2006 while recruiting guitarist Ian Brannigan and drummer Temim Fruchter. Their music comes from the heart and soul, combining love, hate, happiness, and rage. You’re definitely missing out on something amazing if you have yet to hear a song from The Shondes.

Louisa, the lead singer, took time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions, via email, on behalf of the band. Read the interview below to get to know the band, check out their new album, Searchlights, and go see their show on Sunday, October 9 at The Hideout.

The L Stop: Is everyone originally from Brooklyn? If not, then from where?
Louisa: Actually NONE of us are originally from Brooklyn, though we have all made our homes there for quite some time now. I’m originally from upstate New York, with my lovely grandparents living in the Catskills after their parents moved up from NYC. I guess I’m the reversal of that trajectory! Eli’s originally from Long Island, then was raised in Charlottesville, VA; Temim’s from the suburbs of DC and Fureigh’s from the Bay Area. Did you really want all that info? We love New York though, and this band is very much a product of building community and home there.

TLS: How did The Shondes come together?
Louisa: After my and Eli’s (the violinist) last band broke up, we were ready to pull in close, trusted friends/collaborators to do something huge. So, back in 2005 we got together and tried to envision what we wanted this band to be — and fast-tracked ourselves to get there. It’s still a work in progress, but I think we’ve at least succeeded at building a career based on passionate, political music-making.

TLS: Who are some musical influences of the band?
Louisa: Speaking for myself — I feel influenced by all the music that’s made me want to scream or cry, and really pay attention to it. That means everything from soul music to pop music to klezmer and of course, feminist punk. I started making punk music because of Riot Grrrl and its forbearers, after a childhood of classical and jazz training. So I am greatly indebted to bands like Bikini Kill and the X-Ray Spex. But the sound of this band is largely due to the diversity of our individual influences, and how we bring together the feeling and energy of those and create something all our own.

TLS: Who writes the lyrics and who writes the music? Where does the inspiration come from?
Louisa: Where does inspiration come from? Who can really say! It’s different each time, but as the principal songwriter and lead singer, more often than not I have the seed of a new song, and bring it to the band to do our collaborative magic to it! We write the music together, working off one another’s ideas, and sometimes we even collaborate on lyrics,
especially on Searchlights (our new record).

TLS: What is an interesting fact about The Shondes that not many fans would know about?
Louisa: We’re Jewish! That’s a joke… everyone knows we’re Jewish. Maybe that Eli comes from a long line of violinists, fiddling their way across the old country; and, Temim’s grandparents lived in the same duplex as the Presleys in Memphis (there’s actually a photo of Temim’s dad as a baby, with Elvis!)

TLS: What sets the new album, Searchlights, apart from the previous albums?
Louisa: I think Searchlights is the first record we’ve made that begins to capture our live energy — one of the band’s trademarks — which is very exciting for us. Unlike previous efforts, it feels solidly in the tradition of short, punchy rock albums that (hopefully) have high re-play value! It’s not a broody record, even though we were grappling with some very difficult and sad themes. It’s a survival and perseverance record and I think that really shows.

TLS: How are The Shondes different from other punk/rock bands out there?
Louisa: There are a lot of great bands out there, so I like to think we’re a part of a grand tradition, but doing it our own way. I think what sets us apart is the way we take all our influences and channel them into this intense, but accessible music that people are moved by, but can also sing along to.

Photo by Chris Becker

TLS: What do you love most about performing live?
Louisa: Everything! When we get on stage all of our energy and all the work we’ve put in come together and we get to share it with the crowd. That experience is basically the essence of being in a band for me. There’s nothing I love more than seeing people cheering for the songs they know and singing along, and then so excited about learning our new material. Getting that kind of energy back from the audience makes it all worthwhile.

TLS: For someone who has never seen you perform live, or is just learning about the band from this interview, what can they expect at the concert? For instance, why see The Shondes live?
Louisa: When we play live we channel all our rage, sadness and joy into our performance. We are really physical on stage and interact with one another a lot, so I often hear from audiences that it’s moving and even “fun” to watch us play. People say it’s really apparent how much we love each other and doing this together. We’ll make you dance and make you cry!

TLS: If there is anything else you would like me to add in the interview?
Louisa: Check out our amazing record label, Exotic Fever and pick up our new album, Searchlights!

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About Erica

Growing up Erica knew she’d be one of two things: 1. A lesbian 2. A writer. Lucky for her, she turned out to be both! After graduating from the University of Central Florida with a degree in Creative Writing, she moved back to the Midwest. In Chicago she found a community, a home, and her wonderful wife. Besides writing for The L Stop, Erica spends her time script writing. She hopes to, one day, write and produce good quality films and plays. If you ever see Erica around, feel free to say hi. She loves meeting new faces.

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