Veteran ska band the Scofflaws sticks to its tried and true musical roots. 

Obeying the Beat

The Scofflaws and Skavoovie and the Epitones
VCU's Shafer Court
5 p.m.
April 9

If something works, stick with it.

Especially if that something is as fun as playing ska music. Just ask Buford O'Sullivan, trombonist and vocalist for The Scofflaws, a New York-based ska band that's been touring and recording since 1987.

O'Sullivan says when he joined the Scofflaws for the recording of the band's eponymous debut, the ska scene was a small, local phenomenon. But not for long.

"Before you knew it, there were thousands and thousands of bands with 'ska' in the title," O'Sullivan says. "If you went on the road, there were eight other [ska] bands on the road with you." Now, he says, the popularity has faded some: "It's going back to where it's always been, which is underground."

But while a lot of ska bands have come and gone during the last decade, The Scofflaws have stuck around. The band will perform with Moon Records labelmates Skavoovie and the Epitones on April 9 at VCU's Shafer Court.

The Scofflaws started as "The New Bohemians," but eventually sold their name to a singer named Edie Brickell (You read that right). The band sank the name-sale proceeds into instruments, equipment, and the production of their first album.

The seven-piece band relies on the thick, heavy horn arrangements of traditional Jamaican ska, but blends that with a campy, twisted sense of humor. They mix traditional ska covers like Jackie Opel's "Till The End Of Time," with more offbeat choices like "These Boots Are Made For Walking." And the band eschews politics, favoring lighter themes, as evidenced in classics such as "Nude Beach," and the bands' loving tribute to Captain James T. Kirk, "William Shatner."

O'Sullivan says that the band's longevity is largely due to founding member Richard Brooks. "He's very, very diligent," O'Sullivan says. "He knows he's got a good thing, and he just holds on."

That's a good thing for ska aficionados. The Scofflaws latest album, "Record of Convictions," the band's fourth release, is another fun, danceable, all-around excellent offering. "We put a lot of work into it. We're really happy with it," O'Sullivan says.

O'Sullivan says the catchy "In The Basement" is the album's first single, but his favorite song is a note-for-note cover of the theme song from Sergio Leone's "The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly."

O'Sullivan's also just finished a solo album, "Club of Hopes and Fears," set for a May 11 release. Even though it's his own project, don't expect a huge change musically from his work with the Scofflaws. "Since I've been doing [ska] for a long time, I may as well stick with it," he says.

The Scofflaws haven't toured since last fall, when "Record of Convictions" was released. "The band is kind of laid-back as far as drive and ambition is concerned," O'Sullivan says. Except, that is, when it comes to performing. "Be prepared to have a good time," he says. "Smile, dance around a lot. That's what the band has always been


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