Local trio have history, music in common

BY JAMIE SOKOLIK, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

Jeremy Shanas has come a long way from his days at Solomon Schechter Day School. He has tried different schools, different cities, even different countries, but he never feels as comfortable as when he’s singing with his best friends right here in St. Louis.

Shanas met Eli Palnik and Jeff Geld when they all attended Camp Ramah in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. While at camp, they began to play guitar together.

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“We would make up silly songs about bagel dogs in our spare time,” Shanas says.

But the three young men fully realized their true talent when they went on Ramah’s trip to Israel.

“There was this one night when we were staying at this place in Northern Israel,” Shanas says. “There was a pool party, and we were singing songs and beat boxing at the pool. All of a sudden there were 50 kids around us. That was when we realized, ‘Wow, we could really do this.'”

And so The Northwoods were born. Named for the location in which they first met, The Northwoods’ style is what Shanas describes as modern folk. Their music is reminiscent of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young as well as Simon and Garfunkel but with a little pop influence, though Shanas is quick to explain that it is not “Britney pop.”

“It’s universal,” Shanas says. “We want as many people to be able to relate to the music as possible. That’s what pop is.”

Despite being states, and sometimes countries apart, The Northwoods have managed to stay together, become closer, and, now, put out their first album and have their first major concert here in St. Louis.

Shanas himself was born and raised in St. Louis. He attended Solomon Schechter and loved it. “Everyone knew me for being Jeremy,” Shanas says. “Not for wearing a popped collar and a frayed visor.” He says Schechter was a very comfortable environment. However, when he graduated and went to high school at Ladue, the transition was a little difficult. Through it all, Shanas, Palnik and Geld stayed close and continued to look forward to their summers at Ramah. Shanas began to become accustomed to Ladue, and upon graduation he attended the Indiana University. But the fit wasn’t quite right. From Indiana he tried Washington University night school and Webster University, but it still wasn’t for him. Shanas then transferred to Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Although the experience was incredible, when Geld called to let Shanas know he was moving to Boston, where Palnik was attending Berklee College, Shanas jumped at the opportunity to join them.

“I kept going back to school to figure out what I wanted to do, but I already knew,” Shanas says.

While sitting on the roof of his dorm overlooking the old city, Shanas called his parents to announce yet another move.

While in Boston, The Northwoods really started taking off. With the three living in the same city for the first time, they were able to write and rehearse as they never had before. When they first started to perform, it didn’t go quite as expected. “It was really great if you subtract the great and add some awful,” Shanas says.

The Northwoods had some trouble finding their niche at the college bars. They soon began performing at coffee houses and found some success. But the scene in Boston was still too Indie for the band to do what they wanted and to get where they wanted, so they decided a move back to Shanas’ hometown was just what they needed.

When they made the decision, Shanas called his mother and asked if it would be OK if all three boys lived at their house. Being incredibly supportive parents, they agreed and the three boys now inhabit the Shanas household free of rent.

But the cushy deal isn’t the only reason the boys chose to come to St. Louis, “We wanted to be in a low-stress environment,” Shanas says. “Plus, a lot of our fan base is here. It’s a good place to get stuff together for the summer and to build for the future.”

The Northwoods had their first major concert on June 27, and Shanas couldn’t have been more excited. When he was asked that day how he felt knowing the concert was just a few hours away, all he could do was point to his wide smile. “That’s how I feel,” he says. “We put a lot of work and time into this. I’m nervous, of course, but it’s a good nervous. I want to show these people who I am, and I want to do it with these guys because they’re my best friends. It’s going to be a good night.”