The Shondes bring collectivist queercore to Plush on Thursday
Brooklyn-based quartet practice what they preach
In Yiddish, a "shonde" is a harm, a shame, a disgrace. In indie rock, The Shondes are a queer folk/punk quartet from Park Slope, Brooklyn, and their imminent second full-length effort, "My Dear One," (Fanatic Records) is nothing to be ashamed of.
The Shondes play Plush on Thursday with two local openers who, in a way, couldn't be more different: indie folksters Seashell Radio and outre punkers Monster Pussy. But arguably, these two Tucson bands speak to the divergent influences of The Shondes, who lean heavily on their queercore roots, but add to their musical olio a vaudevillian, Yiddish theater flair and soaring vocals.
Often compared to 90s antecedents Sleater-Kinney, for some musical similarity, but more, for the sociopolitical stance and collective practices of the band.
In a promotional video for the May 4 release of "My Dear One," the band describes its process, which sounds more like a raison d'etre than the usual band description of how they make records. According to bassist/vocalist Louisa Rachel Solomon, "It was important to us that collectivist political principles be operative when we were making music together."
Drummer Temim Fruchter adds some detail as to how such principles are born out in The Shondes' practice. "Since our inception, collaboration has been huge. We would all bring in texts, like Eli [Obermann, violin/vocals] had a poem, and I had this liturgical melody I wanted, and Louisa wrote lyrics, and I wrote a melody, and of course, we all wrote parts, and it was a lot."
The band began when the rest of the members, all of whom studied at New York's New School, met drummer Fruchter while protesting at 2004's Republican National Convention.
By 2006, the quartet was performing as The Shondes. Three of the four are Jewish and gender queer, and much early attention for The Shondes came from stellar sets at Canada's North by Northeast and Olympia's Homo A Go Go festival.
Their debut recording, tracked by Pere Ubu's Tony Maimone in Brooklyn, was released in 2008. "The Red Sea" was full of promise, but it is on "My Dear One" that the band has fully defined and honed its hybrid sound, combining postpunk anthemic rock with a unique sense of melody that is both more experimental and prettier than previous efforts.
And much to the relief of fans of indie music who have tired of lyrical navel-gazing, The Shondes use a much broader palette of subject matter than many bands. Their songs, even love songs like "My Dear One," carry the urgency of their historical moment, and bear the weight of the nature of being in a love that is still, to many, a shonde itself.