ICONIC QUEER JEWISH PUNK ROCKERS are a rare lot. In fact, with the exception of Phranc (in her pre-Folksinger Los Angeles hardcore days), the field was wide open when the Shondes burst on the scene in 2006.
The Brooklyn, N.Y., quartet--some of whom are transgender, three of whom are Jewish--come from varied backgrounds, ranging from the do-it-yourself spirit of riot grrrl to the rigorous discipline of classical music. Yet they combine these disparate strains to explosive effect in their live shows and on their debut full-length, The Red Sea.
"For all of us, it was really important to figure out how to be political artists and live a life that embodies social justice," says drummer Temim Fruchter. In fact, the foursome, which also includes bassist Louisa Solomon, guitarist Ian Brannigan, and Elijah Oberman on violin, met while protesting the 2004 Republican National Convention.
Deriving their moniker from the Yiddish word for shame or disgrace, the Shondes fashion original songs--such as the album centerpiece "I Watched the Temple Fall"--that integrate politics and poetry with passionate, unconventional settings. "We all share the desire to make dramatic music that makes people feel," adds Fruchter. "We wanted our first record to feel and look cinematic, to tell a compelling story."
To spread their message, the Shondes have been on live bills with varied artists, including Electrelane, Erase Errata, Sarah Dougher, the Indigo Girls' Amy Ray, and Lesbians on Ecstasy. "It is important to us to work really hard on building a fan base," she emphasizes. "And bring out other people, from different communities, who might be interested in what we're doing." The Shondes know their history too well to be put in a ghetto.--Kurt B. Reighley
PHOTO BY MEGHAN PETERSEN.
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LOS SUPER ELEGANTES
ONSTAGE WITH THEIR BAND Los Super Elegantes, singers Martiniano Lopez Crozet and Milena Musquiz have so much chemistry that "people either think that we're lovers or siblings," Lopez Crozet moans. Maybe that's why no gay magazine has eves- sniffed out the suave front man before (Lopez Crozet is gay, Musquiz straight), though male groupies tend to have better luck. "If somebody's trying to pick up on me, Lopez Crozet says with a smile "flow is anything going to get in my way?"
The duo's music is every bit as playful. A wild mix of pop and punk sung in several different languages, the sound of Los Super Elegantes sound is as intercontinental as their fan base, (Actor Alessandro Nivola flew them to London to play at his wedding.) As is fitting for a duo that met at art school, Musquiz and Lopez Crozet often stage their concerts like an installation, combining scripted material, unconventional blocking, and experimental films. It's a recipe that's gotten the band invited to prestigious events at Frieze Art Fair in London and the Whitney Biennial, even if it's sometimes led to confused concertgoers. "We've done risky performances where people come to us after and say, "Thank you for making the audience nervous--nobody does that anymore,'" says Lopez Crozet.
Coming this summer: their third album, titled Nothing Really Matters, "which is the theme of the record too," says the Argentinean-born singer. Despite the international itinerary, Lopez Crozet says the band still keeps a sort of cult profile that allows them to take chances. "We don't have power, and the effect is that you're completely independent and have the freedom to do anything you want."--Kyle Buchanan
PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER DIBBLE.
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BALLADEERS DON'T COME MUCH MORE SENSITIVE THAN JAKE WALDEN--and he's the first to admit it. …