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Skavoovie and the Epitones use ska as a stepping stone to a broad musical landscape. 

Groovy Skavoovie

Skavoovie and the Epitones
Record Release Party
Twisters
9:30 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 19
$7
All ages
353-4263

It's a little hard to hear Ben Lewis on the telephone.

Lewis plays trumpet for Skavoovie and the Epitones, a Boston-based ska band. He's trying to give an interview over the phone from the band's latest tour stop, Seattle. But the nine other guys in the band are in various stages of waking up in what sounds like the same room he's in.

If Lewis is distracted, it doesn't show.

That may be because he's had lots of practice being in close quarters with his bandmates, all of whom are between the ages of 22 and 25. Last September, the entire band moved into a house together to begin writing and rehearsing for their third full-length album. The result, "The Growler," released last month on Shanachie Records, reveals that the band members clearly thrived as housemates. The album is a rich, lush work that starts with ska, and will surely please traditional ska devotees. But ska is just a stepping stone to a much broader musical landscape. The songs revel in the kind of diverse influences, explorations, variety and often weirdness one might expect from 10 accomplished musicians who are all living and working together in the same house.

"I was definitely skeptical about it in the beginning," Lewis confesses about the living arrangements. But he got over that quickly. "[It was] great because it provided a really good practice space," Lewis says. "It sped things up."

Skavoovie entered the studio ready to record last December. But their old record label, Moon Records, wasn't. "Moon was having difficulty funding some things," Lewis explains. "[They] didn't tell us until the last minute." Fortunately for Skavoovie, Shanachie Records stepped up, funded the studio time, and the album was finished by February.

"The Growler" is different from the band's last two efforts in that it ventures ever farther from traditional ska. The band members' wildly divergent musical tastes account for the blending of genres, according to Lewis. Influences range from classical music and jazz to hip-hop and even heavy metal.

In addition, the album has a richer sound and more background vocals, including some by a guest female singer. While that translates to a bigger sound, Lewis says the challenge now is to "figure out how to play these tunes live. It's a longer process to get these tunes worked into our set."

That's part of the reason the band embarked on a tour at the start of July. They'll pull their tour bus up to Twisters for a record release party on Aug. 19.

Skavoovie's tour will wrap up in late August with a series of shows in New England, its home territory. After that, most of the band will head back to school. Lewis says that several of his bandmates actually study music, but not him. He's heading back to Harvard to continue studying physics.

Lewis' long term plans aren't clear. "I have no idea what I'm going to do," he says.

But the short term picture is a bit more set. "We'll [record] another album in the next year," Lewis says. "I love recording, and I want to get back to
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