The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah has its highs — eight nights of presents, fried potato pancakes (called latkes), and lots of chocolate. But the music? Not so good. Enter the LeeVees, a group featuring Adam Gardner (from folk-rockers Guster) and Dave Schneider (from hockey-rockers the Zambonis), whose debut album Hanukkah Rocks (out now) brings a bit of garage-style swagger and power-pop songcraft to the Festival of Lights. Over plates of (what else?) latkes and chopped liver at Manhattan’s Mo Pitkin’s House of Satisfaction, a Cuban-Jewish deli, the LeeVees sat down with LTT for a nice long schmooze. Prayers were not said, but Manischewitz was consumed.
ROUND 1 SHVITZING TO THE…
LTT 1 (Loisaida, a.k.a. Dr. Brown’s cream soda and bourbon): On your album, you devote a song to the debate between latke toppings — applesauce or sour cream? Why can’t you do both?
Schneider (Mojito): I understand that, but if there was one to go for I would go sour cream.
Gardner (Manischewitz-tini): As would I. But I alternate.
LTT 2 (Loisaida): What’s the worst Jewish food?
Schneider: A guilty brisket. My mother stopped using salt one year. The brisket sucked. It’s like, ”You’re not going to eat it? You love my brisket!” It was some new diet. She had just gotten her Richard Simmons dance tape.
Gardner: I was on a plane with him once. I have a picture of him on my phone. He was super friendly. Very soft hands.
ROUND 2 ROCK OF AGES
LTT 1 (Jack and Ginger): Do you like any other Hanukkah music?
Gardner (Mojito): I think it was the lack of Hanukkah music that made us want to do this.
LTT 1: Can you name one song?
Gardner: I like [the medieval hymn] ”Maoz Tsur.”
LTT 2 (Loisaida): How about something in the last 500 years?
LTT 1: What about Adam Sandler’s ”Chanukah Song”?
Gardner: It’s more comedy than a piece of music. What about all the great Jewish songwriters — Leiber and Stoller, Irving Berlin, the Gershwins — where were they with the Hanukkah?
LTT 1: Who’s your favorite Jewish songwriter?
Schneider (Mojito): Bob Dylan. Robert Zimmerman.
Gardner: But he made a Christian album [Slow Train Coming].
Schneider: [To Gardner] Yeah, let’s do a Christian record. It’s a wide open field. The problem with making a Jewish record is the market share is not huge. We’re only 1.8 percent of the population.
Gardner: Though the rabbi of my temple e-mailed me to say that he had heard about the LeeVees. So there is a Jewish network. We’re hoping word gets passed around.
Schneider: The problem is everyone wants it for wholesale. [Groans all around]
Schneider: Thank you. Is this thing on? I’m here every Tuesday.
ROUND 3 MIGHTY FINE WINE
Gardner (Loisaida): We really wanted Manischewitz to sponsor us, but I don’t think they get it.