The Shondes: Anthems for Your Inner Outsider

TheShondes-TheGarden-albumCoverSince they started making waves with their 2008 debut album, “The Red Sea,” Brooklyn’s homegrown rock band, The Shondes, have lived up to their Yiddish-inspired name. Providing anthems for everyone’s inner outsider, they’ve been shaking up the music scene with influences from Riot Grrrl, traditional klezmer music, and feminist punk rock, all wrapped into one package.

Back in 2011, I interviewed the band before the release of their third album, “Searchlights.” Now, as they spiral down from the nationwide tour of their fourth full-length album, “The Garden,” I caught up with The Shondes’ front-woman, Louisa Solomon, to learn more about writing songs for radical organizing and what it means to never give up on The Garden.

AW: Was there a Biblical influence for the song and album title, “The Garden”?

LS: In the sense that the garden of Eden is an unavoidable cultural frame for thinking about growing up, loss, disillusionment, and all of that. It’s common ground in a way for getting into all the interesting stuff inside it. But really we were thinking of a non-specific imagined garden, as a kind of holding place for parts of yourself, precious things you’ve given up but know are still out there in some form, somewhere. It begs all the questions that go along with pain and loss and growth: where does stuff go when we cast it off, and what’s it like if we try to retrieve it? It’s just an interesting landscape to spend some time in.

AW: Who are you most inspired by, musically or otherwise?

LS: I am really inspired by people who find ways to make stuff happen, against the odds, against the flow. 

I am definitely inspired by my sister Claire, who, in addition to being a creative and brilliant academic and educator, is a completely genius fiction writer. Her novels read like nothing else. She is so adept at playing with form that the story never suffers for its own subversions and explorations. I think about that a lot when writing songs — how to keep experimentation in service of the song. 

My musical inspirations are varied, but united by their ability to make me feel big feelings: soul, punk, some pop (though I’m picky), and anthemic rock. That’s most of what I listen to these days. I’m a sucker for a well-written song. 

I’m inspired by musicians/friends in Brooklyn who are working hard like we are to write solid songs and share them with people, while making rent in an amazing city. Leda, Chris McFarland, and Laura Stevenson are all good examples. 

And of course my love, New York itself, is an ever-present source of inspiration.