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Dalia Shusterman and Perl Wolfe, the ladies behind all-female Hasidic rock band Bulletproof Stockings, have known each other just a few short years, but when they speak they share the meaningful glances and nods of lifelong sisters. When I meet them in a Brooklyn café, they greet me with smiles, hugs, and cheerful hellos. Just sentences into our conversation, it becomes evident these women mean business. They’re serious about music, spirituality, and creating spaces for women.
Earlier this month, they launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund their first full-length studio album. The campaign, which ends on April 4, explains that under Jewish law, men are forbidden from listening to the singing voices of women outside of their immediate family. This often results in women lacking opportunities to attend live concerts where they can dance or sing along. But Shusterman and Wolfe are determined to create spaces where girls can rock out.
While the law prohibits men from listening, it doesn’t actually forbid women from singing. So they organized ladies-only concerts for growing crowds at New York venues like Matchless and Arlene’s Grocery.
“As far as we know, we can’t legally stop men from attending our concerts,” Wolfe told the Daily Dot. “But so far people have been really supportive of what we’re trying to do.”
And with the help of supporters, they’re aiming to go international. “When we met I was like, ‘We’re going to play Berlin,’” Shusterman said. “I don’t know why. I’ve never been there but I can just feel it.”
Their shows have attracted fans of diverse ages, backgrounds, and faiths. “It’s really special [at concerts when] there are young women and 66-year-old women side by side,” said Wolfe. “It does something special. It breaks down boundaries of how we connect, and also of what [Hasidic] women can do and be.”
The two envision expanding Bulletproof Stockings not only by going on tour, but also by creating jobs for women within the Hasidic community. “Women and girls have come to us and said, ‘I feel like I can sing and play music now that I’ve seen you do it,’ or do other things creatively that maybe they thought they had to give up,” Shusterman said.
And while they’re passionate about empowering women, they have similar feelings about their music. “We have so many influences,” said Shusterman, citing everything from Bach to Etta James to Radiohead. “We knew we had a different sound so we decided to call it Hasidic rock.”
Their sound is different, but it’s still wildly listenable. Their 2012 EP, Down to the Top, is available on Spotify and full of melodies that are light and soulful. “Vagabond’s Wagon” has the indie-pop dreaminess of Sara Bareilles, while “Easy Pray” sounds like an angsty Hozier ballad.
Bulletproof Stockings released newest single “Mind Clear” on Thursday, exclusively for supporters of the campaign. You can also catch them live this summer at Matchless for the Northside Music Festival on June 11.
Although they won’t turn men away at the door, Wolfe summarized the spirit of their project as something everyone, regardless of faith or gender, should be able to relate to.
“Everyone wants to jump up and down and burst out and sing!” she said.”[In temple, I’ve thought], ‘How cool would it be for these women to have a mosh pit?’ It’s about sisterhood and partying and giving girls an awesome time. It’s not about excluding anyone. It’s about giving.”
Photo via Bulletproof Stockings/Facebook
Nayomi Reghay is a frequent contributor to the Daily Dot, covering body positivity, feminism, sex, relationships, and gender. She is also the author of the advice column “Swipe This!” A former New York Teaching Fellow, her writing has been featured in Reductress, Rolling Stone, Mic, Someecards, and more.