The Solomon Brothers are keeping up the family tradition by blazing their own trail in the form of bluegrass rock
To say that the Solomon Brothers came from a musical family would be an understatement. Mandolin player Sruli (28), guitar player and lead vocalist Nachman (30) and bass player Yosef (37) grew up on Moshav Modi’in, in a family that is something of Jewish music royalty. With seven brothers altogether, in bands such as Moshav Band and Soulfarm, and a father whose Diaspora Yeshiva Band helped shape modern Jewish rock, the Solomon Brothers are blazing their own trail with a sound that is like someone threw kerosene on bluegrass and lit a match. Their debut album, Song of Life, was released earlier this month. The musical trio will be playing tonight (doors open at 8 p.m.) at Yes Planet in Jerusalem. Nachman Solomon sat down with The Jerusalem Post to talk about his musical heritage, the reality show that brought them together, and Pearl Jam.
What was it like growing up in such a musical family?
Our father was a musician also, so music was always there as long as I can remember, mostly at the Shabbos table, singing. We’re from the younger brothers, so when I was growing up, my older brothers were already singing. We naturally took it on; it was never forced on us or anything. Music was just always there. My father graduated Berklee School of Music; he studied music history. He had a band called the Diaspora Yeshiva Band, which started Jewish rock ‘n’ roll. They were the founders. They wrote huge Jewish hits like “Pitchu Li” and a lot of songs that became mainstream songs in the Jewish world afterwards. My father would use us on albums that he recorded, so I was doing that from the age of five years old.
Did you ever think of going in a completely different direction, since the rest of your family are all musicians?
Music was always my passion, but I wasn’t sure until after high school that I was going to do it professionally. Music was always there. Once I started getting gigs, after I had some summer jobs, I realized how much I don’t like office jobs.
Before you started the Solomon Brothers, you had a band called Hamakor. How did that dissipate?
I started Hamakor with a few friends. We recorded an album together, and then two of the guys in the band had to join the army, and the drummer got married and his wife wanted to live in Canada. I didn’t break up the band yet, but a band has a certain kind of chemistry so trying to find replacements can sometimes kill the band. Hamakor had a certain amount of success. After our first album, we were signed by a record label and we were touring all over Europe and America. But then after all that happened and I lost those three members, the band still existed for another year or two, but it just wasn’t the same. It kind of died out after that. Then I got an email from Teddy Productions, which is one of Channel 2’s production companies and it said that they were doing a reality show about musical families. I thought that it could be cool to play with my brothers. We entered the show two years ago and made it all the way to the finals. We decided to continue after that.
Why didn’t you play with your brothers before?
Growing up, we had very different styles of music. First of all, Yosef lived in Los Angeles for a while and played in Moshav Band with our other brother. He’s seven years older than me. I was very into grunge music growing up, like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. Sruli was into bluegrass. So our tastes in music didn’t allow us to ever think about trying to play in a band together. But over the years, my taste has changed. I always kind of liked bluegrass, but I guess I was in a different phase back then. After we played together on that TV show, we realized that it could work together.
You recently released your debut album, ‘Song of Life.’ Can you talk about that?
We released it about two weeks ago, and released the single, “Im Ain Ani Li.” We started recording the album about a year ago, so it was a long process. It was all recorded in Jerusalem at a studio called Sach Hakol. We still have different styles and influences, so Yosef, Sruli and I individually would come up with songs and rehearse it and arrange it together. There were some arguments over how to put the songs together, but that’s to be expected. The songwriting itself was done individually and then all the arranging was done together, except for one. We collaborated with Mendy Portnoy from the Portnoy Brothers. He played keyboard and piano on the album. We had a trumpet player, Avi Or, on the album. We have a violin player who we work with a lot, Nimrod Nol. He plays in a band called Sum Sum. They play gypsy music; they’re pretty well known in Israel.
Do you have plans to tour outside of Israel?
We were just in Austria for a show, and before that in South Africa. We were in London in May. We have plans to play in the US and possibly Argentina for a couple of shows. But our focus right now is in Israel. Our music doesn’t necessarily fall into the Jewish category. We have love songs and our message is very universal, but not necessarily religious, even though we are religious ourselves. Our songs are not necessarily specifically Jewish.
Does that help your or hurt you in terms of the Israeli audience?
We’re gearing for mainstream. We’re very blessed to have this Anglo following that we know we can count on to fill up a venue. That’s a big bonus and it’s probably partly because of our family name. Fans of Diaspora Yeshiva Band, Soulfarm, or Moshav Band support us and we’re lucky to have that Jewish following. But our music has been well received by secular Israelis as well. But whoever loves our music, we’re more than happy. I don’t think we have anything on the album that would turn off religious people. Even if it’s a love song about a girl, we’re not using any F-words.
If you had a genie, who could give you three dream collaborations. Who would they be?
I would really love to collaborate with Mumford and Sons, Pearl Jam and Avicii.
‘OUR MUSIC doesn’t necessarily fall into the Jewish category. We have love songs and our message is very universal, but not necessarily religious, even though we are religious ourselves,” says musician Nachman Solomon (center) seen here with his...