Coming up from the 'Basement': Lincoln-Sudbury grads taking their band, The Stolen Records, to the next level By Mason Neely/ Daily News Correspondent Sunday, July 23, 2006 Recent music history has shown there are easier lines of work than playing in a ska band. Nearly a decade after it's mid-90s commercial heyday, the infectious horn-driven sound that launched bands like Reel Big Fish, No Doubt and Boston's own Mighty Mighty Bosstones to multi-platinum status couldn't be more out of the national mainstream. Despite that cultural exile, it's a handicap that has managed to elude The Stolen Records, the Sudbury-based quintet who in only a few short years has seen their pop- and punk-inflected ska make considerable inroads throughout the region. Formed in 2004, the same year all five members graduated from Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, the band will release it's second full length CD, 'Basement Songs,' at The Middle East in Cambridge on Friday. Recorded in a home studio over the last year, the album wears the influence of a numerous ska touchstones, most noticeably the amped-up skank of Operation Ivy and the dub-inspired synth touches of Lee 'Scratch' Perry. According to keyboardist Casey Gruttadauria, the album's wide-open sonic palette is a testament to the band's convenient neutrality within the ska community. Since the band isn't directly tied to any of the genre's subcultures, like older rooted two-tone or rock steady or more modern pop-punk, the group can write and arrange without much restraint. 'There's definitely an influence from different bands, but what we do also comes out of experimenting with new sounds and trying to grow and bring something new to the table,' said Gruttadauria. 'No one wants to hear the same song 40 times, and we don't necessary want to play the same song that often. We just try to push ourselves outside of what we know and find new things to add in. We started out as more of a rock band coming at it from all over the place, but the more we heard ska, the more we came to love it. It's really become a part of what we do,' he said. 'Any band has certain genre conventions,' added bassist Jamison Hollis, who is credited with turning his bandmates onto older ska acts like the Skatalites. 'But because ska had already had it's heyday, we didn't see that to make the music that we really wanted to make. We try and look at an album and what we do on the whole as not just a bunch of songs, but something that's cohesive and works together. We want people to go on a little ride.' Already a fixture on the Boston college circuit and at established clubs like T.T. The Bear's and Bill's Bar, the band has built much of it's expanding reputation on it's live show, a high-energy set that draws on a surprising New Wave influence. 'I think it worked out to where the kind of music we like to play and write translates really well into a live setting, where people can dance,' said Gruttadauria. 'When we're writing, we don't go for any particular sounds; we're just thinking about the songs. But having people enjoy them the way they do -- live, in person -- is an added bonus.' 'New Wave bands like The Cars had a definite pop sensibility that we appreciate,' added Hollis. 'We want people to dance at our shows and have a good time and those bands really capitalized on making that kind of dance-y rock music. It's something that we want to incorporate into what we're doing.' Though the band remains without a label, Gruttadauria is confident 'Basement Songs' will continue the band's success around town, where they've already secured airplay on WBCN 104.1 FM, and beyond, hopefully culminating with a regional tour by the end of the year. Venturing out of town might be a forgone conclusion for most bands, but with vocalist Maggie Arnold attending Harvard University, guitarist Kevin Verni a junior at Tufts, and drummer Steven Patton and Gruttadauria both at Northeastern University, raising the band's profile has not been without it's difficulties. 'Boston and New England can be a tough nut to crack,' he said. 'But we definitely want to be touring. Even though it's been a little tough to pull off when you have five different people and five different schedules, I think we'll make it work. It has thus far.'