Di Nigunim's Forest Borie
Last month, I interviewed Forest Borie, a Jewish vegan who plays accordion for San Diego klezmer-punk band Di Nigunim. Although snippets were included in Tuesday's "10 More Jewish Punk Bands I've Never Written About" post, Forest and I both thought that the interview deserved extra attention.
Di Nigunim seems to have found a magical middle ground between klezmer and punk. They definitely have a punk foundation and punk instruments, unlike some punk-edged contemporary klezmer acts. And unlike some kitschy Jewish punk bands, their klezmer slant isn't mere shtick. Check out their debut EP, Balagan, or the songs on their MySpace page and you'll realize that the two genres legitimately gel together in Di Nigunim's music. The band's MySpace page also features dates for Di Nigunim's August tour of California, Oregon, and Washington.
Here is Forest Borie in his own words.
Is Di Nigunim a punk band with a klezmer slant or the other way around?
Di Nigunim is definitely a punk band with a klezmer slant and not the other way around. We try to make up in furious dance energy what we lose in musicianship. Our band has some amateurs, like myself, but also some superb true talent, like our singer/guitarist, Ben, and our trumpet player, Sean.
When did the band form, where do you play most of your shows, and how many members are there?
This band came together about 2 years and a few months ago, but the idea and some songs were conceived much earlier by Ben. We try to play house shows and radical benefits first, and then with bands we really like. Somehow we end up playing a lot of 21+ gigs; often they're at the Soda Bar or another local place. As far as venues go, I love the Che Café; it's just a solid place with plenty of room for dancing, rafters to swing from, and the garden out there is a fine place to kick it before shows. One dream is to play a show at the MultiKulti; for me, Tijuana is still the place to be.
Right now, I think we have about 13 members. It's the most we've ever had, and we've played with as few as 7.
Is everyone in the band Jewish? What do your bubbes think of your music?
I think we have 3 Jewish members. I think that makes us not a Jewish band, just people playing very Jewish music. My bubbes don't really understand our music yet because they still haven't caught a live gig. Our E.P. doesn't capture our energy like a sweaty wall-smashing house show. If I were a baseball player, my mom and grams would never miss a game ... but they're all really happy for me; they know I'm doing something positive and having fun.
[A friend from San Diego] mentioned that you're vegetarian or vegan. Do you make a Jewish connection to your diet?
Yeah, I'm vegan. I don't really make a Jewish connection with this, though.
Recently I bought a red plaid coffee container from a thrift store. I was enjoying my first dark roast with my rabbi, and I told him that I really like this container. He responded that he would not use it, because he didn't know its history. It could have harbored a hot stew made with cream and meat. This didn't matter at all to me; I'd much rather buy just about anything from a thrift store than some chain store milking the human wage discrepancies of various nation-states. To me, being vegan is something I felt compelled to do for so many reasons. If I had to put a few at the top ... well, I'm not a fan of detached reality. If I'm going to eat something that was thinking, emotional, and made friends, I want to either raise it and slaughter it, or at least know who did and where it came from. I guess the same goes for any product, but it's especially disgusting to make animals into food machines. And it's terrible for the environment. I happen to like this planet a lot. It's also sad that cows eat much more than they themselves can feed. Priorities of societies can be pretty ugly. We all know I could go on.
I am, however, often inclined to approach political questions with a Jewish connection. For example, my brain tells me, "As a Jew, I want to be kind and considerate and so I hope that we can put an end to expansionist settlements. As a Jew ..."
Do you remember the old Yahoo commercial where aliens abducted pop, rock, country, and rap musicians but incinerated an accordionist? How does this make you feel?
So I'd never seen that commercial but I did just watch it. The aliens were taking really terrible music, and so by the time they got to the accordion dude and scorched him, it really seemed like they were targeting him because he was German. I'm joking, but yeah, I would never want what they were selling. I found it typical and stupid to attempt humor by making fun of a culture that's not really our own to make fun of. I don't want to sound hypersensitive, but really, Yahoo has been sickening in their persistence of yelling "yahooooo" in their advertisements. It's a crime that they worked that into my life's permanent memory storage. I must say, though, that I was happy with the general message because accordions are becoming too popular and nobody likes their interest to become trendy, so ... thanks Yahoo for stealing away pop culture for me.