Your New Favorite Jewish Kids' Album Is Here – Kveller
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Your New Favorite Jewish Kids’ Album Is Here

Image courtesy of The Macaroons

The Macaroons make great Jewish kids’ music. And the secret to that is simple — The Macaroons make catchy, enjoyable Jewish music… that also happens to be for kids.

“When people hear The Macaroons,” band member Shawn Fogel told Kveller over e-mail, “we don’t want, ‘oh, this music that’s made just for kids’ to be their first thought. We hope their first thought is more along the lines of ‘this is great music!'”

That’s exactly why I love their new album, “Jews All Over the World,” released on November 12. It took the members of The Macaroons — Dan Saks, Dave Schneider and Shawn Fogel — 10 years to release this album, but honestly, it was worth the wait. Every song on it is a bop — and one that I would voluntarily listen to quite happily even when my kids aren’t around.

With the irrefutably catchy title song, the children’s band have taken the gist of “Wherever You Go (There’s Always Someone Jewish)” and made it into something you want to listen to even outside of synagogue.

Many of the holiday-specific songs have previously premiered on Kveller, including “10 Days of Hanukkah,” the delightfully upbeat “It’s Purim” and the peaceful “Step Into My Sukkah.”

Their songs about Jewish foods are wonderfully appetizing — I love the smoothness “Ooey Gooey Rugalooey” and the mellifluous joy of “Cha-lah-lah.” Their punk anthem “Kids’ Table” might make even the most reluctant child excited about the prospect of sitting apart from the grownups.

To me, The Macaroons feel like a Jewish version of my kids’ favorite musicians — Caspar Babypants and They Might Be Giants. This album is full of eclectic musical styles, with the band finding inspiration from the likes of Twisted Sister (a mostly Jewish band!), Alan Sherman, Mel Brooks and Shel Silverstein.

To celebrate this delightful album, a decade in the works, the members of The Macaroons told Kveller about their origin story, their musical inspirations, Jewish childhood memories and why you’ll never catch them doing a Hanukkah parody:

What is the origin story of The Macaroons?

Dave: OK, you asked so, here we go. I have a band called The Zambonis (the greatest and ONLY all hockey band). We have been together since 1992. Along the way, in 1995 we befriended the great band Guster.

In 2005 they asked The Zambonis to join them on a two-week tour of the midwest. While cruising through Peoria, Illinois, Adam Gardner [the guitarist and vocalist of Guster] asked me, “You want to write some songs about Jewish stuff like Hanukkah?” I thought he was joking so I just replied, ”Let’s do it now.” We grabbed two acoustic guitars, went to the back of the bus, and in one hour wrote three songs: “At The Time Share,” “Gelt Melts” and “Latke Clan.”

We recorded our bus demos on our Motorola Razor phone and sent them to Guster’s manager Dalton. Two days later Dalton tells us, Warner Brothers Records wants to sign you guys. We write and record the record in two weeks.

Months later, The LeeVees “Hanukkah Rocks” LP comes out. We are asked by The Barenaked Ladies to go out on the road with them for one month. Adam says, “Dude, I am way too busy with Guster, you need to put together a band.” I know exactly who to call: Dan Saks, Shawn Fogel and Michael Azzerad. The three agree and The LeeVees live band is a go! A few years later, we were asked to do another record but Adam was booked up with Guster so The LeeVees spun off as The Macaroons.

Shawn: If I recall correctly, the conversation between Aaron (JDub Records), Dave and Adam that birthed The Macaroons took place on the dance floor at Dan’s wedding.

Dan: I don’t think I knew that. I’d like to renegotiate my percentage.

What’s the secret to your longevity? You guys have been making music together for a long time! How do you keep it going?

Dave: Nothing beats laughing and creating great tunes with people you love. Success for me is making music with friends and putting them out to the world. I will be doing this with these two for a very long time.

Shawn: Waiting 11 years to release your second album is definitely a recipe for longevity. We love writing songs together, and it’s still just as fun and rewarding as it was over a decade ago. You can be sure that you’ll get a third album out of us at some point; we still don’t have a Tu Bishvat song.

Dan: Also, every time we meet up to write songs we get to use the band credit card to order a bagel and lox spread. This is not a joke.

What Jewish music inspired you growing up? What kind of kids’ and/or Jewish music inspires you when you make your songs?

Dan: I was inspired by “Chad Gadya.” Specifically, when it was time to sing “Chad Gadya” I would be inspired to go elsewhere.

Shawn: Chad Gadya? Is he the drummer from Red Hot Chili Peppers?

Dan: I think so, yes. I was also inspired by classic holiday songs by Jewish songwriters like “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” by Johnny Marks and “Who By Fire” by Leonard Cohen.

Shawn: In all seriousness though, I think a lot of parents fall into a trap where they think they have to play music for their kids that is “just for kids.” Kids have better taste in music than most adults give them credit for. What I’ve found with my own kids is that if you expose them to a range of music that isn’t “kids’ music,” they will make good choices. If you let kids hear The Ramones or Queen, they’ll pick that over “Pop Goes The Weasel” every time. Kids want to rock.

Can you talk a little bit about some of the newer songs on this album?

Shawn: “Don’t Nosh Until You Plotz” is a punk rocker of a tune, sprinkled with Yiddish, that’s all about not spoiling your dinner. When I was little, Yiddish was like a secret language that only my grandparents spoke. When I was in college I took Yiddish for a semester and even worked at the National Yiddish Book Center, which was on our campus (at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA). I don’t remember much of anything I learned, but I like the idea of Yiddish living on, and I love hearing my 3-year-old say “shpilkes.”

Dan: “Hanukkah’s Not Just For Kids” is our newest Hanukkah jam. Not only does it feature a pitched up kazoo solo, a classroom of Jewish students singing “weeeee” and a groovy New Orleans rhythm, but it is also a celebration of diverse family makeups. My dad was the rabbi at a gay and lesbian congregation way back in the day, so this one goes out to him.

Dave: Someone needed to write a David Bowie inspired song about an afikoman hidden in space. So we did. And since Black Flag never wrote a song called “Kid’s Table,” we did.

What void are you hoping to fill with this album? What are you hoping kids (and adults!) take from it?

Dan: I get the sads whenever I see someone share a dumpy parody passing as Jewish kids music. Jews can do better than that. Jews wrote “Let It Snow” for Christ’s sake. Tell your aunt to only forward high-quality original Jewish kids’ music and leave the parodies to the surprisingly not Jewish Weird “Al” Yankovic.

Shawn: Weird Al is an honorary Jew in my book, he’s a real mensch. But yeah, we don’t do parodies, that’s rule #1 in The Macaroons’ bylaws.

Dave: With this and all of our bands albums, we will continue to put out original music that will put a smile on your face and hopefully not stink.

You can listen to “Jews All Over the World” on Spotify.

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