The Shondes talk about their new album and upward momentum.
When you put on The Shondes’ new album, Brighton, you’re immediately greeted by all the things that make the band special. Bright, stadium-worthy, buoyant music propelled by Elijah Oberman’s violin and Louisa Solomon’s tremendous vocals, complex melodies and emotions, progressive politics, spirituality and, best of all, the clear sense that the band has found its joy. Songs like “Everything Good” practically scream it out, while other songs, such as “True North” detail the complexity of searching for (and finding) morals, value and a sense of rightness through lyrics like this: “I can’t take comfort in absolutes the way I used to / I’ve been taking stock of everyone that I’ve lost / I’ve been staring up.”
Things have not always been easy for The Shondes, from shifts in the band’s lineup that resulted in their breakup album, My Dear One, to a cancer diagnosis for one of the band’s founding members in 2010. But their newest album shows a band that’s come through everything with their art thriving. Some of their most recent success includes being featured in Rolling Stone, touring with Against Me! in 2014, and SPIN premiering their new single. Oberman says none of this success has changed much of how the band works, but they’re incredibly grateful for the chance to share their work with an ever-growing audience.
Other causes for happiness are written all over the album, too. Solomon’s marriage to poet Miller Oberman (Elijah’s brother) in 2015 and the birth of their daughter have clearly influenced many of the songs on Brighton.
When I spoke to Solomon about the differences between writing Brighton and My Dear One, she said, “I actually think that writing joy and writing heartbreak aren’t as different as they seem. The despair I’ve felt about failed, painful relationships in the past is a huge part of what makes happiness meaningful now. When I write songs, I’m always trying to express a feeling in as transparent a way as possible, to make it relatable, to express a dynamic range of emotions, transformation. And all of that applies equally to songs of heartbreak and songs of gratitude. My gratitude so directly corresponds to what I’ve lost or never had before. So for me, the only challenge I really faced in writing happiness was the fear that it would come off sounding trite or vacuous or whatever — or, to be honest, the fear that fans and reviewers would be dismissive of it.”
Fortunately, that has proven to be an unfounded worry. SPIN’s Maya Lewis said of the new album, “Having a reputation for producing anthems can be a bit of a heavy burden, but somehow The Shondes, one of Brooklyn’s finest feminist punk bands, always delivers.”
The Shondes’ most recent tour featuring Brighton gained them at least one new, tiny fan. Solomon was pregnant while touring for the new album, an experience she enjoyed. “I loved doing the thing that feels the most full of life to me, while growing a life inside,” Solomon says. Her new daughter, Rosie, is “super-receptive to music, including the songs she heard every night on tour in utero.”
Even the band’s setbacks seem to have helped them grow in many ways. A few years ago, they were invited, then disinvited, to play the DC Jewish Community Center based on their politics around the Israel/Palestine conflict. While it seems to have been a hurtful experience, Oberman described it in terms of how much positivity he ended up taking away from it.
“The support we got was really, really heartening to me, and often from people I wouldn’t have expected it from.”
From their early days as college students who did community organizing together, to their current successes, The Shondes have come a long way toward their “True North.” While Solomon is taking a bit of time to bask in her new role as a mom, The Shondes appeared at SXSW last month.