Friday, April 10, 2009

Hebrew School is now in session

As a member of the klezmer rock band Golem, and the leader of Hebrew School, a indie rock band that pulls from hymns you might have sung preparing for your Bar or Bat Mitzvah, David Griffin is busy. He still has find to blog about the music goings-on in Brooklyn, though, and document his newest project.

"There lots of talk about what it's like to live in Sunset Park, the goings on and culture in Boroklyn, too," says Griffin, who's preparing for a CD release this April 14 at Public Assembly (see article after the jump).

Recent posts talk about Passover and friends Las Rubias del Norte, and, of course, his album release party.

Hebrew School calls this rockin' class to order

By Meredith Deliso

(Published in the 4.16.09 issue of 24/Seven)

As a freelance musician, jumping from the klezmer punk band Golem to The Murrays, as well as having played in the faux French pop band Nous Non Plus, David Griffin hasn’t had a project to call his own, until now.

Last year, a grant from the Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists enabled the musician to create Hebrew School, an indie rock band that takes inspiration from the sings Griffin grew up learning in, you guessed it, Hebrew school.

“I was always the guy who was in the band who would be told to show up at this time,” says Griffin. “My goal in getting the fellowship was to get my solo career off the ground.”

A partnership of Avoda Arts, JDub Records, and the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, the two-year grant enabled Griffin to get what was an idea – a mix of low-fi multi-instrumental indie rock, experimental music with contemporary and traditional Jewish covers – to a reality, putting a band together (comprised of Griffin on guitar, keyboard, vocals, trumpet, Taylor Bergren-Chrisman on bass, Timothy Monaghan on drums, Giancarlo Vulcano on guitar, and Julia Barry on vocals), do research and going into a studio to record an album.

Ironically, growing up in Malden, Mass, Hebrew School was the last place Griffin wanted to be.

“I would always call my mom and tell her I suddenly got sick at 3 o’clock,” says Griffin. “It actually worked out that I appreciate it later in life.”

As a musician, Griffin works out most of his music by ear, and the Hebrew songs he learned as a pre-teen have remained ingrained in his subconscious decades after needing to recite them, reincarnated today for the nostalgia factor rather than the religious.

“The band is definitely secular,” says Griffin. “I think that what we try to do is bring in these religious elements as fodder for creative containers for this kind of music.”

Pulling from popular Hebrew hymns, other musical influences coming of age in the early 90s, including Air Miami and Uncle Wiggly, and current sources of indie inspiration, such as Animal Collective and Camera Obscura, Griffin has created a ‘60s psych-esque album that, when listened closely, will reveal its sources to other Hebrew school graduates. The Shabbat hymn “Hinei Ma Tov” becomes a leisurely, loungey tune, while another popular hymn, “Adir Hu,” is reincarnated as the melancholy, subdued “Ancillary Devices (Adir Hu),” which hardly makes a peep compared to more robust performances of the hymn until the horns come in midway.

When the 10-track album drops April 14, Hebrew School celebrate with a release party at Public Assembly. After a “coming out” party at Park Slope’s Union Hall earlier this year, near Griffin’s Sunset Park neighborhood, the band wanted to branch out into another Brooklyn area, choosing the Williamsburg venue for the show.

“My goal here is to expand my reach into other parts of the city,” says Griffin, who will be joined on the bill by Will Daily, Mappa Mundi and the solo project of Hebrew School vocalist Julia Barry.

Buoyed by the opportunities the fellowship has granted, Griffin looks to use it as a springboard for his solo career, involving Jewish themes or otherwise.

“I see Hebrew School doing more for sure,” says Griffin. “I need some other sort of song project that’s separate from Hebrew School but shares some of the musical elements.”

With enough material for a second Hebrew School album, that may be in the music scene’s near future, when Griffin’s not bouncing around from one band to the next.

“I took some nice things from the other music projects I work on,” says Griffin. “I think Golem is a good example of that – we’re taking material that is thought of as serious and making it into something where hipsters go to rock club and let themselves go and dance, and maybe even smile.”

Hebrew School celebrate the release of their CD April 14 at Public Assembly (70 North 6th St.) at 9 p.m. Joining them on the bill are Julia Barry, Will Dailey and Mappa Mundi.


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