Over the years, Brooklyn-based, The Shondesâand its three quarter transgender, three quarter Jewish quartet (drummer Temim Fruchter, bassist Louisa Solomon, violinist Elijah Oberman and guitarist Ian Brannigan)âhave been the object of much finger wagging. And theyâre proud of it.
In Yiddish, âshondeâ means a disgrace or an outrage, and is used to describe something completely abhorrent and shameful. In choosing their name, the band embraced their disgracefulness and musically discredits those who shamed them. Drummer, Fruchter believes that their unique style is chancing the shape of music.
âWhat weâre doing tries to both subvert and celebrate the musical traditions we all come from. We mix feminist punk with Jewish melodies and elements of classical music. We do a lot of vocal interplay. [We] like the sound of two vocals both singing lead together, so that the vocals and the lyrics are in conversation with one another. We write collaboratively andâŠmake sure that each instrumentâŠhas a unique voice.â
Despite heralding from different musical heritages, Fruchter says that the band infuses their individual politics into their music and identify as part of the queercore musical genre: âWe all identify in different ways and are a part of various queer communities, but as a band, [queercore] is the most important identification to us.â
Bassist Solomon says that band memberâs gender identities significantly impact The Shondes (www.shondes.com) music.
âGender impacts every moment of our lives, certainly, including our music. Weâre all people who have had difficult experiences living with hegemonic conceptions of gender, and the ever-oppressive gender binary,â she says. âWe all...have in common the need to talk about our experiences and frustrations. Itâs very important to us to address gender in a complicated way though our work as a band, so itâs not surprising that many of our trans, genderqueer, [and] queer audiences are the ones most grateful for and affected by our music.â
Activism is also a central part of their lives and musicâand much of it focuses on putting an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. âWe are all supporters of peace through justice in Israel [and] Palestine and oppose Israeli military actions in Palestine and Lebanon,â Solomon explains. In fact, Fruchter, Solomon and Oberman are all members of the organizaiton Jews Against the Occupation, where, Solomon says, they are doing Palestine solidarity work and trying to change Jewish communal understanding of the conflict.
âI think all four of us, in very different ways, see working for justice in our communities as a really integral part of our lives,â Fruchter explains. âWe all try our best to be involved with and support some of the incredible organizing for justice thatâs constantly happening in [New York City].â Fruchter describes one of the bandâs goals as, âconveying to many communitiesâthe queer and LGBT communities includedâthat being Jewish does not necessarily mean being Zionist.â
Â During their tour, âDisgracing Ourselves Across America,â Fruchter says, âWe played so many shows in places with big queer communities where Jewish people were doing kick ass anti-occupation and Palestine solidarity organizing. We always invite organizers and activists to talk aboutâŠtheir work at our shows. We want to share [the stage] with people whose anti-occupation messages are erased so often by the media.â
Fruchter says, âWe hope that we can continue to make the connections between being queer, being Jewish, and being anti-occupation with all the different communities we encounter as a band.â
While that radical Jewish community makes up a big part of The Shondes, audience base, Solomon acknowledges that the larger Jewish community isnât always supportive.
Â âThe more mainstream, Zionist Jewish community obviously doesnât approve of what we do at allâŠ[But] I think the most exciting and common reaction weâve had from Jews is: âWow, queer anti-occupation Jews. I thought I was the only one.â And we love that.â
Contact trans writer Jacob Anderson-Minshall at firstname.lastname@example.org. Blind Curves, the queer mystery he co-authored will be available from Bold Strokes Books in March 2007.