Sim­chah song re­unites band

Bar­mitz­vah song paved the way for a mu­si­cal re­union af­ter al­most two decades apart

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY LEE HARPIN

EIGH­TEEN YEARS ago, with a lu­cra­tive deal with Lon­don Records, cousins Jonny Gor­don and Bradley Ruben­stein ap­peared on the verge of star­dom.

Their band, Lisp, had just pro­duced a first al­bum, Cy­cles, at the fa­mous Bri­tan­nia Row Stu­dios to ac­claim from the likes of NME and Dazed And Con­fused.

Com­par­isons were even be­ing made with top-sell­ing groups such as Mas­sive At­tack and The Smiths.

But in a crowded mar­ket they never achieved their rise to fame.

For vo­cal­ist Jonny and gui­tarist and pro­ducer Bradley — who both sub­se­quently em­braced com­mu­nal life in Bark­ing­side and Gants Hill — the de­ci­sion to fi­nally call it a day was taken af­ter they lost their record deal.

“I couldn’t ac­tu­ally lis­ten to mu­sic af­ter that for years,” Jonny told the JC. “I’d turn off pro­grammes like the Jools Hol­land Show be­cause I was think­ing, ‘Were we good, or were we rub­bish?’

“I couldn’t bring my­self to even lis­ten to the al­bum. I started a new life run­ning a gar­den­ing busi­ness, dig­ging holes and get­ting cov­ered in mud — but at least I felt in con­trol of my life again.”

For Bradley, it was time to prop­erly im­merse him­self in his Jewish stud­ies. Both men had been reg­u­lar shul-go­ers while grow­ing up. But af­ter be­com­ing a war­den at Red­bridge shul, and then be­com­ing shomer Shab­bat, it was Bradley who de­vel­oped an am­bi­tion to go even fur­ther and pos­si­bly be­come a com­mu­nal rabbi one day.

“When I was go­ing to shul on a Fri­day night I was con­nect­ing with Jewish melodies even as a kid,” he says of the link be­tween his love of mu­sic and Ju­daism.

“Some of the songs I wrote for Lisp were in­spired by Jewish melody, which in­trigu­ingly has both ma­jor and mi­nor notes. It is very much like life. You can go to a lev­oyah in the morn­ing and a wed­ding in the evening. Life can be an emo­tional roller-coaster and Jewish melody is like that.”

With the de­mands of Lisp be­hind him, and no longer wor­ry­ing about turn­ing down gigs on Shab­bat, Bradley took his wife and two young chil­dren to a yeshiva in Is­rael in an ef­fort to pur­sue his rab­bini­cal dreams.

And while his re­li­gion kept him there, he also de­vel­oped his mu­si­cal and pro­duc­tion skills with other mu­si­cians at the Beit Tzvi Morn­ing Kol­lel yeshiva, where he still lives. Within two years, he was back — with a suc­cess­ful Is­raeli rap-rock band called Shtar. Un­til then, a re­turn to mu­sic was the last thing he would con­sider. That was, un­til he planned his son Sasha’s bar­mitz­vah last year.

A fa­mil­iar face at Bron­des­bury Park sy­n­a­gogue, near to where he now lives with his wife Na­dine, Jonny said he had al­most “pre-empted” Rabbi Baruch Levin’s re­quest to leyn on his son’s big day.

“I knew I could sing, but I hadn’t sung in front of any­one for over 16 years,” he said. “But I thought, ‘I’ve got to do this’.

“As I was learning my piece I be­gan to re­live my ex­pe­ri­ences again. I knew I could do it.

“Peo­ple in shul didn’t re­ally know my back­ground and just knew me as ‘Jonny the gar­dener’.

“But this was my chance to per­form again in front of 300 fam­ily and friends.

“Af­ter­wards, peo­ple ap­proached me say­ing, ‘I didn’t know you could sing’.”

With his con­fi­dence back, Bradley urged Jonny to con­sider mak­ing mu­sic again. Bradley said: “For so many years we had skirted around the whole mu­sic thing when­ever Jonny and I spoke.”

But now Jonny felt con­fi­dent enough to play the al­bum they had recorded 18 years ear­lier.

His wife cried and his son told him: “That’s quite cool, Dad.”

The al­bum was re-re­leased — this time via the dig­i­tal stream­ing ser­vice, Spo­tify.

It went down well with fans — old and new — and Jonny now says he sees it as “quite beau­ti­ful and melodic” and “per­haps more rel­e­vant now than it was 20 years ago”.

Now the pair have de­cided to re­lease new songs, and some of the vast back­log of tracks they never recorded prop­erly dur­ing their Lisp days.

When Bradley flew back from Is­rael last month to visit his fam­ily, the pair recorded a new track, Sparkle, with a video that has re­ceived 150,000 views.

A six-track EP, Bet­ter Day, has met with fur­ther ec­static re­views from a grow­ing fan base across the globe.

“You could say we both want to make mu­sic that is ob­vi­ously heav­ily in­spired by our Jewish back­grounds,” said Jonny. “But at the same time we want to make mu­sic that is uni­ver­sally ap­pre­ci­ated. Who knows where it will take us this time around? But the best, and most im­por­tant thing , is that I can say ‘we ex­ist’.”

For years, I couldn’t even lis­ten to our al­bum’

To lis­ten to Lisp you can visit www.face­book.com/Lis­pTheBand

The Bet­ter Day EP is also avail­able on Spo­tify and iTunes

Young guns: Bradley and Jonny in 1991

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