If last year’s YouTube viral sensation adapted pop songs to Jewish holidays in a capella, this year is ranging with rebellion, with music videos by the Groggers posted on nearly everyone’s Facebook profile wall. “It resonates with all of us marginally religious New Yorkers,” said fan Michael Fishman, 32, of Manhattan. “Anyone who’s ever been on a bad shidduch date or tried doing the Upper West Side thing.”
Fishman was describing their video “Upper West Side Story,” where front man L.e. Doug Staiman, 23, sings about a neighborhood of high rents, eligible women, and speed-dating accountants. The video, directed by Farrell Goldsmith, was released last September, receiving a boost from the irreverent Heeb Magazine and numerous other sites that parody Jewish life in New York.
Staiman grew up in Florida, relocating to Queens five and a half years ago in search of a more active Jewish community. Teaming up with Ari Friedman and Chemy Soibelman, Staiman recruited Goldsmith in May 2010 for the breakout hit “GET,” about a man who refuses to give his wife a Jewish bill of divorce.
I think its time to cut your losses
And maybe cut the cord
Its time to let her go
Cause she seems miserable and bored
“Their music is visual and reaches a lot of people, comical and captivating, and never in a negative way,” said Frum Satire blogger Heshy Fried, 30, who shares Staiman’s love of punk music and rebellious expression while remaining personally Orthodox. Describing their musical inspirations, Fried and Staiman listed Foo Fighters, Green Day and Blink182, citing their ability to blend teenage angst, current topics and cultural criticism.
Echoing their lyrics, the videos contain comical characters poking fun at Ortohdox life, while keeping a positive message. In the video for “Eishes Chayil,” the protagonist expresses his adoration for his crush by standing outside her window and hiding behind bushes as she passes by. “A good filmmaker is a storyteller, it keeps people interested,” Goldsmith said. “With YouTube, you’re able to see whether people watched the video beginning to end, and they have.”
The band’s most recent hits, Anonymous Girl, responds to the controversy at Stern College on an anonymous student columnist’s account of a tryst; and The View from the Sink takes the point of view of Matisyahu’s now-shaved beard singing to him about eventually returning to the singer’s face. “My mind works differently,” Staiman said. “Within 10 minutes, I interpret information into a song. I sit down with a guitar and record the idea.”
Although the music of the may be too risqué for most synagogues and charity concerts, Staiman expressed confidence in the band’s future.
“The reaction to our first video was tremendous,” Staiman said. “We penetrated a market that appreciates honesty.”