Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.
Brooklyn four-piece the Shondes make bold, brassy lonely-heart rock with the snarl and swoon of classic ’90s Northwestern indie — all riot grrl bluster, K Records sentimentality, and a keening, wailing violin that’s more Nirvana Unplugged than Raincoats unhinged. Their debut album, My Dear One, due May 4 is one of the first records released by Fanatic Records, the label arm of the long-standing indie promo company. Separating themselves from Sleater-come-latelys, the Shondes have a little bit of steampunky clatter underneath their crunching riffs and a keen ear towards the Jewish music that raised each of its four members. “There are definitely moments in our music where you can tell we’ve been absorbing Jewish sounds our whole lives — in the spirit of the vocals and the violin especially,” says vocalist/bassist Louisa Solomon. “But it’s not something we are hyper-conscious of. It just happens because we write from the heart, and those old sounds live pretty deep inside us.” “Make It Beautiful” features Elijah Oberman’s violin swirling plaintively around the edges of a Jewish scale, while the rest of the band digs deep into a Cranberries-meets-Gossip alt-ruckus.
The Shondes vocalist/bassist Louisa Solomon on “Make It Beautiful”:
What is “Make It Beautiful” about?
“Make It Beautiful” is a very simple song. It’s about the incredible value of friendship and collaborative songwriting, particularly in those moments you’re not sure you’re going to be able to get through.
Is My Dear One an album about heartbreak?
Yes. Heartbreak, betrayal, survival. The truth is, I had no choice but to write a record about heartbreak, because I was heartbroken and severely depressed. The alternatives were to stop writing songs all together, or to adopt some persona and write ironic songs about nothing, and those weren’t viable alternatives for me.
How did this particular song come about?
Our new record came out of a really traumatic moment for me and the band. One night, immersed in all of that heartbreaking content, I was sitting with Eli, our violinist and one of my best friends in the whole world. We were thinking, shit, we need some sort of beacon of hope on this record! But it can’t be some fake, posi- shit. And the only sincerely hopeful thing we could think to write about was our collaborative songwriting process. Granted, songs about songs, meta songs, songs about songwriting — it’s all pretty overdone territory. But participating in a time-honored cliche was a risk we were willing to take, so long as we were expressing something honest and real. Lines like “I write songs to save my life” totally made us laugh at ourselves, but if you’ve ever found yourself choosing between songwriting and suicide, then you know it’s genuine.
How does traditional Jewish music fit into your music and your lives?
Well, we all come from different kinds of Jewish backgrounds, running the gamut from secular pinkos to Orthodox. At this point in our lives we all value Judaism in different, core ways, and have huge appreciation for Jewish music — traditional stuff you hear at synagogue, klezmer, Yiddish folk songs, new explorations like Girls In Trouble, etc. The influence it has on The Shondes’ music is hard to pin down. My zayde has said “Oh! I can hear the Jewish sound right there!” but I never know quite where he means. It’s subtle.
What’s your favorite place to eat in Brooklyn?
My current Yiddish motto — And yes, it rotates! Yiddish offers a lot of mottos! — is, “Tsores mit yoykh iz gringer vi tsores on yoykh,” which basically means, “Troubles with soup is better than troubles without soup.” So when it comes to eating in my neighborhood, I tend towards wherever I can reliably get hot soup to ease my troubles — my zayde would be proud. Zaytoon’s has delicious lentil soup with lemon, and Vegetarian Palate is my soup staple because their veg wonton heals most things.
The Shondes play the JDub Punk Purim at the Suffolk on Saturday, February 27, with Matt Elkin of the So So Glos, Can!!Can, a DJ set by Ultragrrrl, and something called Gangsta Rabbi.