Living in the '80s

The April Skies

The April Skies' latest CD, "How It All Played Out," is their best work to date - but not the easiest to record.

"It seemed all these dramas played out the whole time we were recording last year around January," said singer/guitarist Jake Crawford. "There were divorces, births, a change in line-up and a near-death experience."

Whoa, hold up. A near-death experience?

"I got a phone call from my keyboard player's girlfriend this one day and she said he wouldn't be in for practice," Crawford said. "He had a really bad ulcer and started throwing up blood and almost died - but he's completely fine now. Seriously. We're all fine."

The band from Hershey is also fine with all the attention they're getting as of late. Their East Coast appearances have doubled in the last few years, their CDs are being sold all over the country, and the band is suddenly appearing in places like CMJ New Monthly Music magazine.

"It's cool, CMJ's latest companion CD features our song 'X.' It's available for download on their Web site too," Crawford said. "People keep calling us to play their clubs, and we can't say no to any of them."

On Saturday The April Skies will play at the Chameleon Club in downtown Lancaster with a few of their special friends.

"We got to pick the other bands that will be appearing with us," Crawford said. "It was so cool. Lancaster's Kheris is playing, Middle Distance Runner from D.C. and Two If By Sea from Baltimore.

"They're all amazing bands we respect," he said. "Whoever goes to the show is going to have a good time. Anyone who likes bands like Death Cab for Cutie or The Killers or who likes the modern New Wave thing going on now or likes to dance is going to be blown away."

It's no secret that The April Skies is fascinated with the sounds of the '80s and early '90s, that curious stretch of time when The Chameleons were still together and The Jesus and Mary Chain were getting banned from English cities like Plymouth and Sheffield for swearing on stage.

But the band isn't revisiting the past.

"I think that music is the best music that ever was," Crawford said. "It's not about the past, it's about a sound that never got old. That sound's at our core."

At times, "How It All Played Out," is sleekly hypnotic, expansive and airy. Think the Psychedelic Furs have the market cornered on soaring postpunk? Well, just give a listen to "X," the first track on "All Played Out," and be prepared to change your mind.

Crawford's still got a great set of pipes that give a throaty resonance to all the songs, allowing him to be emotional and confident all at once.

And after a minor line-up change, The April Skies has gelled into a balanced outfit made up of Andy Book (guitars), Jason Leidich (bass), Mark Higgins (keyboards & vocals) and Mark Tritico (drums). These are the guys responsible for the CD's supremely atmospheric sound, which delivers a lot of stirring rhythms and dreamy grooves.

The band formed in 1988, played extensively throughout Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., and New York, picking up followers wherever it went. The April Skies produced two noteworthy EPs, "A Strange Western Mood" and "The Drive -In."

"We were inspired by a Hershey band, Ocean Blue," Crawford said. "They named themselves after an Echo & the Bunnymen song. We kind of grew up around them, so they were an influence.

"So, we named ourselves after a Jesus and Mary Chain song, like it was a kind of tradition," he said. "Though we were careful to call ourselves The April Skies, since April Skies alone could sound like a stripper's stage name."

But things wound down after the early '90s.

Some of the guys even moved to suburbia and started families. Luckily, that's where Crawford met one of the band's former bass players, Mark Mazick. The two musicians hit it off, and The April Skies was a reality again.

The band released "The Breathe EP," in December 2003, and began to score more shows.

"The clubs have been great," Crawford said. "They must like underdogs, 'cause we keep getting called back. (But) we're bringing the crowds in."

The April Skies, with Kheris, Middle Distance Runner and Two If By Sea, Sat., 8 p.m., Chameleon Club, 223 N. Water St., 393-7133.

E-mail Carla DiFonzo at cdifonzo@lnpnews.com.