In the Perlman family, musical talent is a family affair. Most people are familiar with Itzhak Perlman, the internationally renowned violin virtuoso. But his wife, Toby, is also an accomplished violinist. The couple’s daughter Navah is a concert pianist who tours worldwide both with her trio and as a soloist, and daughter Ariella plays the flute and is currently in a music conservatory.
The Perlman’s 26-year-old son, Rami, is also a musician, though he is exploring new territory as the lead singer of Something for Rockets, a rock band increasingly finding itself in line-ups that include groups like the White Stripes, the Killers and the Pixies. The band is re-releasing their first album nationally on its own label (Tragic City) in conjunction with 33rd Street Records, giving the record its first-time national distribution.
“When it comes to the rock-star son of violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman, the apple didn’t just fall far from the tree — it sunk into the fertile soil of indie rock, grew roots in electronica, and emerged as the axe-wielding frontman of the electronica-infused rock band Something for Rockets,” a recent review on Spin.com read.
Perlman — who characterizes the band’s sound as “electroromantic — a blend of dancy rock, pop with a sexy vibe to it” — was taught to play piano, drums, guitar, bass and trumpet, and he also is a talented singer. He credits his parents with encouraging his musical development. While growing up on the Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Rami sang in the children’s chorus of the Metropolitan Opera and studied trumpet for two years at Manhattan School of Music.
“It’s funny because all the interviews that I do bring up the classical training part of my background, and honestly, I never thought about it until people started asking me about it,” Perlman said. “And I guess that my training has been a huge help in my song writing, because I can play a number of instruments. But when I am writing on my own, and with the band, I’m not really thinking about that stuff. I’m just writing what comes out. I think it’s better that way.”
Perlman kept a toe in the rock-music pool even in high school, listening to the Pixies, Radiohead and David Bowie and fronting a band with the amusing appellation Oh My Grod. When he went on to Brown University for college, he was an art major and momentarily considered pursuing a career in painting. “But I was always playing in bands throughout school,” Perlman noted. “In the back of my head, I always knew I wanted to do the band thing.”
While at Brown, Perlman met Josh Eichenbaum, who was studying computer music and composition. Perlman moved to Los Angeles three years ago to start with Eichenbaum what was then a studio project. “I’d bring songs to his studio and we would work on them together, but we didn’t think that it would be a band,” Perlman said. “But after a while of recording, we just decided we wanted to do some shows. We started as a duo, and then added a drummer [Barry Davis] six months later. And here we are today.”
Their agenda today includes high-profile gigs, like an August 20 performance at AmsterJam, in the Randall’s Island section of Manhattan, where Something for Rockets will play alongside such groups as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Garbage. It’s no Carnegie Hall, but no one can doubt that Perlman is busy proving himself an heir to a very different kind of musical destiny.
And what does his father think of Something for Rockets? “He saw us for the first time in January. He was in Los Angeles playing a concert, and we had a show on the same day,” his son said. “He played and then came over to the club where we were playing and saw the show. It was maybe the coolest moment I have ever had with him. He knew all the words.”
Jordana Horn Marinoff is a lawyer and writer living outside Philadelphia. She is working on her first novel.