Any band that opens its album with the lyrics “Lucky, lucky are we” clearly has a story to tell.
Shmuel and Bentzi Marcus, otherwise known as 8th Day, are feeling both lucky and blessed. Performing Jewish music all over the world for 17 years, writing some of the industry’s biggest hits, including their 2011 YouTube viral hit Ya’alili, 8th Day has reason to celebrate and be proud of their accomplishments. But they don’t rest on their laurels. The are constantly on a quest to improve, progress and impress.
Lucky is the duo’s 9th studio album, recorded and produced during the pandemic – Talk about overcoming challenges. But how do you match the popularity and meteoric success of a song like Ya’alili? As Bentzi explains, “There was, in fact, a lot of pressure. Everyone asking “what are you going to do next?” He relates a Chasidic story of the Tzaddik Reb Zushe who said that after 120 years when arriving in heaven, he won’t be asked why he wasn’t like the great tzaddikim, but rather why wasn’t he the full potential of Reb Zushe. The answer, Bentzi reminds us, is “Give it all you got, don’t worry about it. Give it your best and the rest will work itself out.” And, the answer to the Ya’alili question was their 2012 follow up album, aptly titled, All You Got.
Admittedly, every album released by an artist or band has its challenges. Lucky was recorded mostly during lockdowns and quarantine. It was hard for the duo and their musicians to gather in the recording studio. The engineer didn’t even let them into his studio on some occasions. But the obstacle of being out of their routines and recording space only motivated and pushed them to go to a higher level.
With their track record of hard work and dedication, is 8th Day really just lucky? Bentzi responds to this with a chuckle, “In our day-to-day conversations, when asked about our well-being, we might reply Ashreinu, I’m lucky. Better than using the usual phrase of Ashreinu, 8th Day opted for Lucky.” Bentzi elaborates: “We are lucky to be here in this generation to keep Judaism, Torah and Jewish music alive during the pandemic. Everyone should consider themselves lucky that they’ve been chosen. You are where you should be.”
The Marcus brothers were blessed to grow up in a musical family – their uncle is Jewish music superstar Avraham Fried, and their first cousin is the ubiquitous singer Benny Friedman – where Shabbos zemiros went on and on and were replete with multi-layered harmonies. Their parents always played music in the house, including MBD, Carlebach, Fried, Miami Boys Choir, Chabad, Modjitzer, Belz and even Safam.
That music influenced their musical and writing style. But Megama, Diaspora Yeshiva Band, Raia Mehemna and the Piamentas made them want to be musicians and performers.
That style, talent and showmanship has served them well as they continue to record albums that build on what they’ve done on previous recordings. Their sound and their brand are created with catchy hooks, memorable lyrics and songs with powerful messages.
On Lucky, 8th Day found ways to innovate and not repeat what they did before. Fans want albums that are fresh, and 8th Day delivers. In the middle of the album is Lo Olecha, a reminder that we have huge responsibilities in life but that ultimately it is not our task to complete it all alone.
“The highest high is to try / You win some you lose some…” As Shmuel points out, “Perfect is not the ultimate goal, process is the goal. Winners are those who are sweating through and staying with it.” Shmuel had been playing around with this song for a while, and realized the process, the struggle, took him to the top and made the song worthy to be released. That sentiment made its way into this song that is sure to be a highlight for many.
Una Meser features lyrics from a Yiddish phrase the Marcus brothers grew up with. Listeners might get thrown by the song’s silly, catchy phrase, but there is a second layer – A cow eats without a knife; We are not a cow, so be a mensch, be polite. 8th Day urges us to look into the mirror, use no filter, be real. This could be their statement against the free-for-all social media where everything is exposed. What they want to project is: Are YOU really smiling, or is that just your Instagram pic smiling? Their message to the young generation: Don’t get lost in what’s superficial. Be a mensch, start with the basics – the real you. Stay true!
Bentzi and Shmuel ventured out of their comfort zone to get assists from Boro Park-based Jewish music producer Naftali Schnitzler, a well-known dance hit-maker who helped Lucky’s sixth track, B’zeh Hashaar, get its dance groove. Avrumi Berko lent his production talents to Lo Olecha, and Avremi G helped arrange some of the album’s horns and strings.
8th Day wants anyone who wants to hear soulful and nourishing Jewish music to give this album a shot. It’s something to enjoy over and over, not just for the catchy tunes but for the important messages embedded in each song. The goal of their music is to help create achdus (unity), to keep people happy, entertained and together.
The challenges and success they’ve faced have brought 8th Day beyond their wildest dreams. And for that, they feel Lucky.
Lucky is available at www.my8thDay.com and on all streaming services.