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Thieves, cancer and bloody knuckles are no match for The Shondes

Published: Friday, September 16, 2011

Updated: Monday, September 19, 2011 12:09

The Shondes

Will Haddad

The Shondes.

The Shondes have had quite a year. Their tour bus was stolen 18 days before they had to travel from Brooklyn to SXSW and their violinist Elijah Oberman was diagnosed with cancer. But the indie punk band known for mixing new sounds with traditional Jewish music has a new tour bus, Oberman survived the disease and they're taking a more positive approach with their album Searchlights, out September 20, than 2010's breakup angst on My Dear One.

"We wanted this album to feel like you could turn it up and drive to Coney Island or, you know, dance to it and you know how you feel when you listen to really excellent pop music that hooks onto your heart," drummer Temim Fruchter said. "We wanted this album to reflect this feeling of celebration about life, even when it's kind of crappy. You don't have to write mournful music just because life is crappy."

The story behind the band and its sound is often overshadowed by people playing up the members' political activism, views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Jewish heritage and queer identities.

"We're not in any way a religious or prosthelytizing band," Fruchter said. "It's more that our Jewish culture is a part of the palette we're creating with our music and celebrating. […] We're all sort of inclined to play these melodies that sound familiar to us from our grandparents' generation [and] to explore writing rock songs that can accommodate those melodies and make them sound cool."

The members all bring a different Jewish influence to the music. Fruchter was raised in a modern Orthodox family while some of the other members bring elements of Yiddish composition to the band. Oberman and singer Louisa Solomon are classically trained musicians while Fruchter, who comes from a musical family, had picked up and put down instruments throughout her life and actually became a member of the band before she even knew how to play drums.

Oberman and Solomon, who were both part of a recently split band called The Syndicate, met Fruchter through a protest affinity group. Fruchter, who was new to Brooklyn at the time of their meeting, couldn't wait to stretch her activist legs and was introduced to her future bandmates while discussing a protest of the National Republican Convention in 2004.

They clicked ideologically, became "instantly close" and Fruchter was asked to play drums in the band despite having never played them seriously before then.

"They called me one night and they were like, 'We were thinking about it, and we really, really think you should learn the drums. We're not joking,'" she said. 

Fruchter, who was 26 at the time and had come from a musical family, said she called her brother, rented a practice space and leapt into her role, which meant being good enough to tour with The Shondes a few months later. 

"My first tour, my fingers were bleeding and hurting constantly and I was doing things wrong," she said. 

She's since grown into her chops after a few years of cutting her teeth on the road. This record really shows her growth and that of the band's overall. 

"It's nice to feel proud of a record," she said, adding that her favorite track is "Ocean to Ocean," which she said reflects the exuberance of traveling in the darkness while careening down the dark highway with people you love, as well as the feeling of being alone beneath the stars. 

 

The Shondes, Trunk Space, Tuesday, September 20, 7:30 p.m., $6

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