Roll over, Beethoven, this Perlman is a rocker

Itzhak's son, 24, hits L.A. scene with band

March 08, 2004|By Richard Cromelin | Richard Cromelin,LOS ANGELES TIMES

LOS ANGELES - Rami Perlman, the singer and main songwriter of the rock band Something for Rockets, stands at a microphone in a small rehearsal room, meshing his electric guitar with an electronic groove programmed by his partner Josh Eichenbaum and the beat of a human drummer, Barry Davis.

In a deep voice that swoops and wobbles, Perlman sketches a scenario of desire and deception played out in a Manhattan loft: "I like to ask about your other men / To see what you might say and can I be one of them / And then you laugh as if to pretend / You don't know what I'm thinking when we get into bed."

The question that occurs isn't what the public might think about the song, but what Perlman's dad, a guy named Itzhak, would think. It's a long way from Beethoven's "Spring" Sonata to Rami Perlman's "Tragic City."

Second-generation performers have proliferated in pop music for decades, but Perlman, 24, is a true rarity, if not entirely unique: the child of a world-renowned classical musician who's chosen to fight it out in the rock 'n' roll trenches.

"Classical? Not really," says the younger Perlman when asked whether he considered pursuing the field. After all, he sang in the children's chorus of the Metropolitan Opera and studied trumpet for two years at the Manhattan School of Music.

"I love listening to it, and I took a conducting class and I loved that," he says. "But as far as playing it, I don't have the brain for that type of playing."

So, what does dad think of Something for Rockets?

"He always plays it for me, and sometimes I give my opinion," says Itzhak Perlman, in a phone interview from his New York City home. "Sometimes I say, `I love this song - is that bad? Is it a bad song because an old-timer likes the song?'"

Rami Perlman, his older brother and their three sisters were amply exposed to both classical and pop music while growing up in New York (mother Toby is a violinist as well), but father and son concur that there was never any pressure to follow the parents' path.

The girls did anyway, big brother became a lawyer, and here's Rami, a frisky pup trying to stir up some attention on the bustling L.A. rock scene.

In that regard, Itzhak's example has been invaluable.

"He's a great person to follow, because he works so hard," says Rami. "He's playing 90 concerts a year, he's now conducting, and he teaches every day. ... He's a killer role model."

Something for Rockets is still fairly low on the L.A.-band food chain. The band has played just a handful of shows since expanding from a duo in September with the addition of drummer Davis. It's released a three-song sampler CD while concentrating on an album that might be finished in April.

But the three are cheery and tireless proselytizers, often rehearsing until 1 a.m. and then hitting the campaign trail.

"Every time I go out it's like a chance for promotion - without being obnoxious about it," says Perlman, who initially teamed with Eichenbaum when they were students at Brown University in Providence, R.I. "All of us carry our CDs in our pockets wherever we go. ... We're very social people. A lot of things happen from the social aspect."

The three musicians say they've had good response to their sampler, noting some airplay on a local college radio station, and they're encouraged by the recent success of the group the Postal Service, which employs a similar blend of modern electronics and traditional songcraft.

Then there's the name. Perlman realizes that it might open doors, or at least get attention, but he knows they're in different worlds.

"Like, [classical greats] Kathy Battle and Daniel Barenboim had Chinese food at our house one night and then went upstairs and started playing," he recalls. "That was cool, but it's not like hanging out with Eric Clapton and Jeff Lynne comes over."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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