Recently, Charlotte Richardson Andrews was lucky enough to get
an interview with The Shondes, a Springsteen-lovin' Brooklyn-based
band of Jewish queers currently on tour in the UK. Here's what they
DIVA: Tell us a little bit about The Shondes. Who are
you, when did you get together and where do you hail
TEMIM: Well, we are all Brooklyn residents who share a love for
good bagels, good pizza and making music. We all live in New York
now, but hail originally from Maryland, Virginia, upstate New York
and San Francisco. Eli and Louisa went to college together
and were in another band together, The Syndicate. When that band
broke up, I was just getting to know them through activism and
decided to take up the drums and start a new band with them. We
joined forces with Fureigh in 2008.
We've heard that your nom du rock comes from a Yiddish
word meaning "disgrace" or "shame". Is this true?
FUREIGH: It's true! People get accused of being shondes for
all kinds of things that aren't actually shameful - including for
being queer, transgender, or Jews who actively oppose Zionism and
the occupation of Palestine - so the band's name is a reclamation
and celebration in the face of that.
What do The Shondes sound like?
TEMIM: I like to think we sound exuberant! We put a lot of
pure rock energy into our playing and into our music, and I think
the sound that that creates is pretty full. We're heavy on
the violin and it's fun to build the layers of a song around that
and the lead vocal to create something a little surprising-sounding
that still rocks at its core. We all always talk about how
the music we each love the most is music that makes us genuinely
feel something -- and my hope is that our music does that for
How do you express your collective Jewish identity
ELI: Well we all come from different backgrounds and
experiences musically, but I do think that the violin adds some of
the sweet melancholy of various kinds of Jewish music. I don't
think I intend to make it sound Jewish but many people tell me they
can hear that influence.
Can you tell us a little bit about how your identity/ies
as a Jew and lesbian/queer intersect/merge/clash, and how you
TEMIM: Well, I identify as queer, and I'd say that my Jewishness
and my queerness are pretty closely connected. Queerness, to
me, isn't only about identity, but also about having a critical
lens on the world and on my relationship to it. When I
started exploring queer identity, I think I also started to develop
a more complex and critical relationship to Judaism, especially
with regard to my relationship to Israel --realizing how important
it was for me as a Jew to speak out against Israel's actions, and
to really get in touch with Judaism's rich and long social justice
traditions. And generally I think being super-engaged with
these identities is exciting to me -- they're ever-changing in what
they look and feel like and I really enjoy that evolution.
What kind of issues do your songs engage with? We hear
you're something of a politicized bunch.
TEMIM: Yep, that's definitely true. This band formed through
activism and we're each individually pretty politically engaged, so
that organically makes its way into our music, whether that's in
terms of content (we've certainly written some explicitly political
songs) or in terms of what's behind the songs -- collaborative
writing, conversations about how things like love and relationships
--also themes in a bunch of our songs -- can be political.
This last album, Searchlights, feels in some ways like a
growing up album to me. It's about how things in life can be
incredibly difficult and also incredibly beautiful and at some
point, you just hold both.
We're hear you're big fans of The Boss (Bruce
Springsteen). Is this true? Do you ever do any covers?
ELI: We are huge Boss fans! I love the drama,
excitement, joy, urgency, tragedy, and integrity of his music.
Anything that has the emotional breadth to allow me to motivate and
clean my house and also bawl my eyes out (often to the same song)
is doing something very, very right. As a musician, I also have an
enormous amount of respect for, and am inspired by the longevity
and continued evolution and relevance of his work.
We saw a picture of The Shondes on a Berlin train with
queer hero Judith Butler recently. Are ya'll pals? How did you
LOUISA: We took the train to synagogue with Judith in Berlin for
Rosh Hashanah. It was our first meeting, sadly (it really should
have happened sooner!) and I would be honored to consider her a
pal! We are certainly allies, I'd say, and had an animated and
awesome evening together.
What are the best and worst things about
FUREIGH: One of my favorite aspects of touring is that it
brings us face-to-face with people who care about our music and
with other bands and musicians whose work has been important to us.
Meeting Judith Butler, getting a post-show high-five from Kaia
Wilson, being invited to sing with John Cameron Mitchell, meeting
people who read about us in a magazine or heard us on Pandora or a
college radio station and who tell us about how our music has
gotten them through hard times, enjoying coffee and good food
(vegan brunch feasts! amazing!) with new friends in new places -
those are all honors.
As for the worst things... being on the road brings a certain
cumulative exhaustion, and never being quite sure when you'll next
be able to get a decent cup of coffee (clearly I'm addicted to
caffeine) or a solid night's sleep can wear on you. Maslow's
hierarchy of needs gets somewhat inverted. You just have to
surrender control over lots of things that you might usually be
able to provide for yourself.
Are you all spoken for, or can your UK fans hope for a
little on-the-road romance when you visit us?
LOUISA: I'm pretty sure each Shonde speaks for themself!
Will this be your first UK tour? And if so, what are you
looking forward to seeing/doing over here?
FUREIGH: Yep, this will be our first UK tour. In fact, it's
part of our first-ever European tour, and for most of us it's our
first time being in the UK at all! I studied and performed a lot of
Shakespearean plays as a teenager, so I'm looking forward to
trying to see the Globe Theater and sending my grandma a postcard
from London, her favorite city in the world. I'm also looking
forward to seeing the cities that raised so many musicians who've
been important to me, and finally meeting and playing for fans that
we've been corresponding with for so long. Part of my family is
from Ireland and Scotland, so I'm excited that we'll be playing
major cities there as well.
What's next for The Shondes?
ELI: Well, I'm not sure actually! We've been playing a whole lot
of new material on this tour, so when we get back we'll be editing
and hoping to record our next album soon - but a lot of that is up
in the air.
The Shondes are set to play a headline date at The
Lexington, London on Sunday 21 October before flying off to Paris
Ladyfest on 27th Oct.
Tour dates are up on facebook.com/theshondes
The Shondes latest album, Searchlights, can be purchased
Follow Charlotte on Twitter: @_choobacca