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"I think that we're so obviously not trying to be purists that for people to be offended by us would be like, what are you doing here? Although I don't feel like we could ever offend people in that way, because it's really obvious that we have a deep reverence for the traditions. I'm always telling stories and talking about the sources and stuff, so we're not giving Jewish heritage the finger. It's very clearly the opposite," she states.
And based on that heritage — as well as the fact that Golem is signed to JDub Records, the nonprofit label that's been home to a multitude of Jewish artists, including, at one point, platinum-selling Orthodox reggae star Matisyahu — many want to know the nature and extent of Golem members' faith.
"A lot of people come up and go, 'So, who in the band is Jewish?'" says Ezekiel. "And that's kind of annoying in a way, but in a way it's not — it's Jewish music, so why not ask that? And then people ask, 'Are you religious?' People are really interested in that, especially Jewish members of the audience," she says. "Some girl came up to me last night and was like, 'Oh you were great. Are you Jewishly involved?' And I'm thinking, Well, you just saw me play two hours of Jewish music, how can I not be 'Jewishly involved'? And then I realized she meant observant, you know? They're curious. Our violinist is fairly observant, but there's definitely different backgrounds and experiences and levels of religiousness within the band."
Ezekiel's own background and experience can certainly be heard in the batch of new songs — most of them originals — that Golem is road-testing in advance of the band's return to the studio this summer to record a followup to Fresh off Boat.
"There's a song about becoming an American citizen, which is based on some Russian-American friends' stories about passing the test, and my grandfather's stories about it, and just watching the movie Moscow on the Hudson. And then another song is based on these taped interviews I have of this relative of mine who died before I was born, and her stories are really cool.
"I think in every family there's the kid who's really interested in where their grandparents came from and stuff — that was me. I always felt like kind of a weird person obsessed with my roots and doing this weird mix of music, and then it turns out that a lot of people have really responded to my weirdness! I guess I always hoped for that. I don't think I ever consciously thought it would happen, but that was always the idea behind this band."