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Harrisburg Punk Band THE LEBOWSKIS Release First Full Length CD 'Tuesday Nights'

It must seem a contradiction, being in a band that has its roots in rebellion, giving the finger to the status quo and going one's own way, and yet having to pay the bills. The argument is pointless in terms of setting a benchmark for when punk isn't punk anymore.

The definition is different for each person, but the purists tend to ignore the foundation of the whole thing, the music. One band that's been through it, and running headlong towards the midlife crisis without fear is Harrisburg's own Lebowskis.

The Lebowskis (l-r): Jon Rich, Tommy Presite, Brian Cartwright, Craig Dunkle

No apostrophe. No Dude. No references to the movie beyond the name. Together in various forms since 2004, the quartet has just released its first full-length CD, Tuesday Nights.

From start to finish, two influences hit you: Ramones, Green Day. Both are acknowledged and embraced by the band's founder, guitarist/singer Craig Dunkle. "When I started the band," Dunkle admits, "it was definitely more three-chord, boom-boom-boom. Everybody's brought a lot of differences to the band that made it grow. "(Brian) Cartwright's a very good drummer, especially for the punk rock stuff that we do. And Jon (Rich)'s pretty good at guitar, since I'm terrible." Over the laughter in the studio, he adds, "I play Ramones songs and that is about it."

There is a structure to the tracks on Tuesday Nights you detect from the kickoff, "Embers." There's the 97-second shot of "Radio On," while "Undertow" reminds more of Green Day. "Boomerang" and "Girl I Know" cover familiar ground, but are not knock-offs. While the chords sound predictable, and the distortion of the second guitar is expected, there's a lot more going on here. Lyrically, same thing.

Bassist Tommy Presite says of his mates' songs: "I think they're pretty melodic; they do have these catchy kind of chorus, little riffs. After you hear the 3 am you're kinda humming. 'Why am I humming? Oh yeah, I heard this song earlier today, I can't get it out of my head."

Rich's style of contribution is his own, yet recognizable. "We've always been very drawn to pop music," he says. "There's just something about, like a hook. To me, there's all kinds of music I like out there. I don't really listen to music that I play, but I kinda have this thing: I walk around all the time and I hear these sounds in my head, and I have to get to a guitar."

"Jon will go so far as to text me at odd hours with links to these little iPhone recordings," Presite adds, "because he's trying to be super-quiet, because he's got three young daughters."

Me and Jon pretty much write half and half. As far as the music goes, every member of the band has their input. Lyrically we both write half. So on Tuesday Nights I wrote five and sing five, he wrote five and sings five. It'll probably stick pretty close to that."

Dunkle, Rich and Cartwright had all traveled in the same musical circles, in and out of Harrisburg-area bands for years. Cartwright joined in 2006, Rich in 2011. Presite, who came aboard in 2012, had played bass for years but was never in a band. He too was around the scene, but learned quickly what he got into.

"My idea of being in a band was just making some noise," he says. "Well, the first thing I realized, these guys are no joke. If you knew us, you hung out with us, we're easy going, we're just party dudes and this and that, but when you sit down...obviously they've been doing it for so long,

The agreement I got out of it: the Lebowskis do this for fun, not rock stardom, but they're not going to go out and sound like crap, either.

The matter of kids kind of puts a damper on long-run tours, but perhaps that's a good thing. "Three of the four of us have kids, and it's pretty hard to get out of town," Dunkle says. "When we started ten years ago, it was pretty easy to do."

Cartwright, who also tours with Baltimore's Lisa Doll & the Rock n' Roll Romance says, "I would love to get out for two or three weeks, with these guys, but I can see some blowups here and there." While the group appears to laugh this off, Cartwright adds, "We just get a little edgy."

Tuesday Nights is available on HFKP Records and through, but most likely your best bet is to catch the Lebowskis on Facebook and find out where you'll see 'em next. Without doubt, you'll get the energy of punk, catchy lyrics, but also know you'll get a band that's doing it their way, and only their way.

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From This Author Tory Gates