The Rock of Repentence

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Jeremiah Lockwood is the frontsman, singer, and lead guitarist The Sway Machinery, a band that belts out roots, rock, blues, and cantorial tunes. (Don’t believe me? Check out their downloads and prepare to be blown away.) The band is, at times, composed of members of the Arcade Fire and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, a testament to the band’s diversity, and its not-just-Jews appeal. Lockwood himself is an occasional member of dance-music outfit Balkan Beat Box, singing and playing guitar when appropriate.



Last Rosh Hashana, the Sway Machinery played its Rosh Hashanah show, “Hidden Melodies Revealed,” to a sell-out crowd at the decked-out gothic Angel Orensanz Foundation. This year, they’re doing a repeat performance at Le Poisson Rouge. This time around, you have to buy tickets (they’re finally becoming like a synagogue) — but the band is gearing up for a new and heightened concert/prayer experience, adding a short film and new nusah to their existing canon. We spoke to Jeremiah about his band, his family, and what he has in store for this Day of Atonement.

What’s the dress code for your Rosh Hashana show?

For us in the band, the usual old school formal — but there’s no dress code for the audience.

What’s the night going to be like? Is your concert basically a set of covers of the Rosh Hashana liturgy, or are you going to mix it up?

The set will consist of my compositions based on old cantorial classics. All of the pieces I perform will be from the High Holidays liturgy.

My work straddles the line between self-generated and traditional—I write all of the pieces, the arrangements and the harmonizations, but I closely research traditional pieces as part of my composition process.

So you won’t be taking requests, then.

That’s a joke, right?

What’s your writing process like?

It’s different for different pieces. Some are based on specific recordings — those pieces, I pretty much take the whole melody of the vocal piece. The original recordings, there’s no meters, there’s no metronomic pulse. Then I write horn lines and orchestrations and create a whole piece of music.

Posted on September 23, 2008

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