Laughing out loud

There's a fine line between bands with a sense of humor and bands that are just a joke. The 99-cent markdown bins are filled with the recorded output of the latter, while those that fit the former are faced with the often difficult task of maintaining their sunny dispositions while slogging it out club show after club show.

Though they've been at it for less than two years, the Orlando boys in Alias Clark are managing to keep a cockeyed smile on their collective face, while dishing up infectious, high-energy punk rock. Live performances are peppered with various in-jokes, toilet humor and jaw-droppingly juvenile props (a recent night at Will's Pub prominently featured a blow-up doll ... don't let it be said that this band avoids obvious jokes). But the thing that keeps audiences smiling is the band's obvious enthusiasm for what they're doing. The four members of Alias Clark are positively gleeful onstage, clearly thrilled with what they're doing. And that, perhaps, is what keeps 'em so happy.

"We kind of have a dual personality where we're serious about the music and the recordings, but it's all shits and giggles for the live show," says guitarist and vocalist Jim Tramontana. "It's a double whammy. Hook 'em with the good tunes on the CD, and then you put on a fun and different live show every night."

"We've definitely got the lunacy, but we're not a novelty act or anything," adds drummer Andy Wambach.

Even without the pervasive humor in an Alias Clark show, the music stands on its own. Their two recorded EPs are both surprisingly strong musical statements from a band so young. Yes, Alias Clark is working a pop-punk sound that -- thanks to its combination of catchiness and chunkiness -- is hard to ignore. But the limitations of the genre seem to invigorate the band rather than limit it, and Alias Clark is prone to injecting a healthy dose of rock power into their songs (check the top-down classic rock-isms of "Nasty Reputation" for a prime example).

Formed by Tramontana, Wambach and bassist Adam Williams after the dissolution of the previous band -- the somewhat more straight-ahead Hidden Children -- Alias Clark worked for nearly a year as a trio, recording a self-titled EP in the process. With the addition last summer of second guitarist Matt Woodruff, the group's sound was beefed up considerably; and though Woodruff is notoriously shy in person, he definitely gets in on the act when the band hits the stage. ("I met Matt in speech class," says Williams. "Which is funny when you realize that neither of you guys ever talk," adds Wambach.)

The addition prompted the now-quartet to head into the studio for another round of recording, resulting in the four-track "Florida EP." Live shows play a big part in the Alias Clark story, but the band is also intent on getting as much material as possible preserved on tape.

"Initially, we wanted to record every month, because we write all the time," says Tramontana. "It turned into every other month, and then the problem of money came in, and we really haven't recorded all that much lately."

When the band does go back into the studio, it's unclear exactly what they'll emerge with. After all, following two EPs of solid punky pop, perhaps Alias Clark is ready to conquer other genres. Perhaps it's time to broaden their horizons. Perhaps it's time to explore Broadway.

"We're gonna do a whole CD of show tunes," says Williams, tongue protruding from cheek.

Tramontana concurs: "We were gonna do "Little Shop of Horrors," but now I think we should do "Annie."" He then busts into the chorus of "Tomorrow."

"Yeah, nobody will think we're a joke band then," sighs Wambach.

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