Jerusalem’s own G-Nome Project will return stateside for appearance at Tonic Room on February 18th, bringing their dynamic livetronica grooves to the intimate Chicago venue. With an extensive American tour surrounding the Windy City stop, the group continues to progress as a powerful touring machine, all the while maintaining a strong connection to their Jewish roots with deep religious values and practices. So, how on Earth do they do it? We caught up with keyboardist Eyal Salomon to learn what it’s like to be an observant Jewish musician on the road.

L4LM: How much of a role did Judaism play in your life growing up?

ES: We all grew up differently, but all in religious Jewish homes. I grew up in what’s commonly referred to as a “traditional” religious home, meaning he received religious Jewish education and his family observed kosher, the Sabbath, and holidays. Zechariah grew up in a modern orthodox home, which included a religious Jewish education, as well as a kosher, Sabbath observant home. Chemy grew up in a hassidic household, so his family observed very strict interpretations of the Jewish law. Shlomo grew up in a very religious neighborhood in Jerusalem in a religious family, so his upbringing was similarly strict.

L4LM: Did you always feel that you would carry those religious values into adulthood?

ES: We have all developed differently from a religious standpoint. Zechariah still maintains a religious observant lifestyle including kosher and sabbath observance. Chemy, Shlomo, and I still maintain a Jewish lifestyle at varying levels of observance.

L4LM: How does your Judaism influence your songwriting?

ES: The biggest influences on our songwriting aren’t definitively Jewish. However, being Jewish does influence us in three ways. One, since we live in Israel, we’re very exposed to Israeli trance which is very influential on our music. Two, Chemy’s drumming style is to a degree a result of playing traditional Jewish dance music at religious weddings. And three, our playing as individuals in an improvisational group is informed by a Jewish concept called “Tikkun HaMiddot” which essentially means working on your behavior; it’s a labor of love in which we learn what playing makes the band sound better as a group, regardless of whether or not it may be fun or exciting for the individual. It requires a lot of humility.

L4LM: What are some of the biggest struggles of being a touring musician and an observant Jew?

ES: The two most difficult things are finding kosher food and a place to stay for Shabbat. Finding kosher food is easy, if I’m willing to eat canned tuna for the whole tour. If I want a hot meal, on the other hand, I’ll need to be in a city with a large Jewish community, and shell out a small fortune (Kosher food is quite expensive). For the most part, we’ve been lucky with having nice places to stay for Shabbat, usually with friends or their families. I’ve spent sabbaths at festivals which is certainly not the greatest environment for spending a sabbath, but when we’re playing Saturday night, sometimes I have no choice.

L4LM: How do you stay connected to your Jewish community while on the road?

ES: While we don’t really stay connected to our Jewish communities back home in and around Jerusalem, we do have the privilege of getting to meet members of Jewish communities all across America. We’ve become friends with some amazing people all around America and we’re really thankful for it.

G-nome Project – “March of the Mice” Post Shabbos in Baltimore, MD from Shlomotions on Vimeo.

L4LM: Are there certain practices that you’ve had to pick and choose from in order to maintain this lifestyle? Which are the ones that you personally feel are most important to you?

ES: Our one big thing is that we don’t play on Sabbath, and our agent knows not to book gigs on the sabbath and not to plan drives on the sabbath. That’s really the biggest thing. For food, we can fend for ourselves. Not all venues provide food anyways. But not playing on Friday night, which for most venues is the biggest night of the week, is a really big deal. It’s also a big deal for us that we know that we’ll always have at least one night off per week.

L4LM: The Israeli music scene is lacking in the jam genre. Why do you think this is?

ES: The Israeli music scene has actually been on an upswing. The indie scene has produced some great bands recently. Trance is huge here. So is Jazz and Pop. Here in Jerusalem, the city sponsors multiple huge pop up street concerts each month. But that is usually all very mainstream music. I think there’s something inherently American about the jam scene. It’s not only lacking in Israel; it’s pretty much lacking everywhere in the world outside of America (and Canada). This was one of the things that inspired us to create G-Nome.

L4LM: How have you seen the Israeli jam scene evolve based around G-Nome shows and your fan base?

ES: It’s been a pretty amazing thing to watch. We have seen a steady growth from the beginning and now a large community has formed. Demand for more jam music has increased and inspired more bands to come out of the woodwork. It’s exciting and people are really getting into it. There are so many expatriates here who miss the scene in the states. It’s so great that we now have a small taste of that scene here in Jerusalem. More and more venues are catering to it. Even Israelis are starting to catch on and join in as they are blown away by what a fun and warm community we have.

Get tickets to G-Nome Project at Tonic Room Chicago on 2/18 here.