New York ska scenesters the Scofflaws are all about a skewed, crude comic sensibility attached to infectious backbeats, crunchy horns and jazzy guitar work. "Our sense of humor makes all the difference," says trombonist Buford O'Sullivan, one of the octet's two lead singers. "We choose to smile at things. We don't really like to make serious statements. We're not trying to pose or trying to be tough."
The proof is in the manic performances, as heard on last year's "Live, Vol. 1," recorded in 1996 at the New York Avenue club in their Long Island hometown of Huntington, N.Y. The disc thrives on such goofy gems as the risque "Back Door Open" and "William Shatner," O'Sullivan's salute to the "Star Trek" icon.
Ska fanatics and horn players Richard Brooks and Mike Drance formed the band in 1987, and O'Sullivan signed on two years later. They traded their original name, the New Bohemians, to Edie Brickell for enough money to record their self-titled disc in 1990 on Moon Ska Records. Drance left three years ago to form The Bluebeats. "With a band going out so long touring like we do, it's hard to keep people," says O'Sullivan.
O'Sullivan is content with the band's slow ascent. "I love being on stage, whether it's in front of a couple hundred people in a club or thousands," he says. Wider exposure may kick in when the band's new disc, "Record of Convictions," is released this fall. In composing the songs they drew from early ska as well as punkier '90s incarnations of the genre, says O'Sullivan. "There's a couple of different styles on it. We chose not to be completely traditional. It's a good, clean sound, and the songs are great."