Lesbian Bands, Hear Them Roar

Hear them roar. Many of today’s queer female bands are grappling with their riot grrrl legacy.

BY Ari Karpel

May 23 2012 4:00 AM ET

The Shondes (from left) Temim Fruchter, Fureigh, Louisa Rachel Solomon, and Elijah Oberman

When people hear the Shondes for the first time, they’re often struck by the Brooklyn-based punk band’s driving, Pat Benatar–reminiscent sound, and the violin, expertly wielded by one of the gender-tweaking foursome.

And then there’s the name: the Shondes. Shonde rhymes with Rhonda, and it’s a Yiddish term meaning disgrace.

That can leave some music fans scratching their heads. “People mispronounce the name and ask us what it means, but that’s par for the course,” says drummer Temim Fruchter. “We chose a name that’s in a language very few people speak.”

Their name might require some translation, but their hooks need no such interpretation. All four band members—bassist Louisa Rachel Solomon, violinist and trans man Elijah Oberman, Fruchter, and guitarist Fureigh—are Jewish, each with a different degree of religious observance. (Fruchter grew up Orthodox.) They’re all queer to varying degrees too. Fruchter explains, “We’re all queer-identified, but we’re certainly not a lesbian band,” she says. “I don’t know what a ‘pansexual band’ is,” she says, citing the label often applied to the Shondes. “But you don’t have control over what people perceive about you.”

So Fruchter and her band mates take the adoration they’ve gotten from regional LGBT press across the country for what it is: “Wonderful.”

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“It’s a good way for people in all parts of the queer community to connect to us,” she explains of the inevitability of being labeled that comes with media coverage. “It’s just a fine dance between being pigeonholed and misidentified and getting [celebrated by] niche outlets. Our identities are a part of what we all bring to the table. It’s there, but it’s not the point.”

Fruchter’s sentiment seems to capture the feeling of many musicians in the current surge of—excuse the blanket term—lesbian bands. Perhaps a bit more musically diverse than lesbian bands that came before such as, most recently, Tegan and Sara, Gossip, and Sleater-Kinney, they each have a deep ambivalence about being called “lesbian musicians.”

And yet they’d all have it no other way.

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