The Best Queer, Jewish, Transgender Rock Band Ever
BY Diane Anderson-Minshall
March 13 2012 4:00 AM ET
There are so many ways that The Shondes have been described, with sexy, queer, transgender, feminist, radical, steampunky, Jewish rock band chief among the adjectives that separate the band from their contemporaries (the latter of whom are sometimes called “Sleater-come-latelys”). But The Village Voice in all its wisdom seems to have nailed why it is that this Brooklyn-based indie band is beloved by LGBT audiences around the globe: “Riot grrrl radicalism wed to classically structured songs, distortion pedals, clashing vocals, and powerful lyrics.”
Now The Shondes are hitting SXSW this week and then following it up with an American tour this spring and then their first European tour. Armed with their latest album, Searchlights, and a brand new music video released today for the second single off it, “Give Me What You've Got,” the band is ready to rock.
That means quite the show from the band that was founded in 2006 by queer lead singer and bassist Louisa Rachel Solomon and transgender violinist Elijah Oberman and — along with genderqueer drummer Temim Fruchter, 33, and guitarist Fureigh, 28 — has been perfecting their sound ever since. Solomon, now 30, and Oberman, 28, were in a band in their late teens called the Syndicate and “have really been through everything together,” she says. That includes Oberman’s battle with breast cancer in 2010 and some early band member drama (a guitarist that bailed in the middle of a national tour, “but that’s old news,” says Solomon. “And we're so much better for it in the end because Fureigh has been such a vital addition to our songwriting. Talk about a clutch player.”). A self-taught badass drummer, Fruchter herself has become something of a sexy queer icon, our own John Bonham if you will.
We caught up with Fruchter and Solomon — this week at SXSW and opening for Leisha Hailey’s band Uh Huh Her in Gainesville, Fla. on March 26 — to talk about touring Europe as Jews, transforming SXSW, and why Conway, Arkansas might rock even more than your hometown.
The tour sounds exciting. You’re going to some spots we don’t always think of as being progressive towns like Conway, Arkansas and Lexington, Kentucky. What was the draw to those cities?
Fruchter: We're super excited about the tour, yes. We like to play all kinds of cities — we try to make stops in any city we can where we have at least a couple of fans, sometimes cities where bands don't tour all that often. I definitely think it's important to remember that there are all kinds of communities all over the country; there's plenty of awesome progressive stuff — and all kinds of stuff — happening all over the country, and not just in major urban centers. Actually sometimes it's the small towns and cities and places we haven't been before where we get some of the warmest welcomes and encounter some of the awesomest activism and art. Though obviously we're excited about the big cities too. There's plenty of excitement to go around.
How often have you toured before as a band?
Fruchter: We actually tour a lot. We started the band in 2006 and within two months of our existence we'd booked ourselves a massive eight-week tour. We have this spring tour coming up and then we're touring Europe this fall, which I'm beside myself excited about. But touring is great, and really important to us in terms of keeping up momentum, connecting with fans and other artists and musicians, and just getting to try out material — old and new — in all kinds of contexts.
You make it sound rather poetic.
Fruchter: Touring can definitely be kind of grueling sometimes. You sit in a van for 10 hours on end and you feel like you've morphed into the upholstery sometimes. And personal space and exercise and things like that can be a little harder to find than usual. But I certainly love it, and I think we as a band really enjoy it. Part of that has been about making sure that we have some of the things we love and that sustain us — good meals, ways to get exercise, time to explore new places and get some sunshine, hydration, excellent mixtapes — even when we're not in New York. Quality of life on tour can be pretty important, and we're pretty lucky to get to travel so much, so we like to make it kind of an adventure. And we've definitely gotten better at that over the years.