- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Like many a local band before them, Practically Einstein came together with the help of blind luck and a newspaper classified ad.

The harder part was coming up with a name.

As singer and guitarist Brad Pugh explains it, he came to the District from Charlottesville in the mid-1990s and drafted an ad looking for musicians who shared his love for the bands Wilco and Buffalo Tom. He met some interesting people — including drummer-vocalist-songwriter Dave Moran and bassist Paul Schmidtke — though it wasn’t Mr. Pugh’s musical tastes that drew them in.

“The funny thing is, neither of the guys knew who those bands were when they answered the ad,” Mr. Pugh says. “But we did kind of click musically.”

They play tonight at Iota Club and Cafe in Arlington in a show to celebrate the release of their new four-song EP, “Pressing the Flesh and Other Steps to Success.”

With a shared love of rock songs with strong hooks and hummable melodies, the three began playing and writing songs together in their spare time. Chemistry came easy, but getting a good band name was far trickier, Mr. Pugh says.

The current name came when Mr. Moran made a smart remark and a friend replied, sarcastically, “Oh, yeah, you’re practically Einstein.”

Several years into the band, Mr. Pugh was playing an acoustic show by himself in a bar when a stranger asked to sit in with him — and Mr. Pugh was pleasantly surprised by the man’s guitar skills.

Thus the three-piece became a quartet and guitarist Rob Kuczynski joined the crew.

The band plans to use “Pressing the Flesh” as a calling card, something to give out at shows and perhaps catch the notice of an independent label.

“We put a lot more work into it than we initially thought we would,” Mr. Pugh says. “With everyone’s crazy schedules, it took a little over a year to really make it happen.”

It’s not the group’s first experience with studio recording. They released the self-produced album “I Want To” in 1998 and “From The Other Side of the Window” in 2002, an 11-song CD that can be found through independent Web sites online. It’s a good introduction to the band’s sound.

Practically Einstein remains devoted to original music, with rock songs that take a cue from pop music and aren’t afraid to have sing-along choruses. Mr. Pugh remains proud that the band can bridge the gap between “rough around the edges” indie rock and the all-too-slick sound of commercial radio.

Local music fans have likely stumbled over one of their live shows over the years, and the band is hoping to increase its fan base with the new batch of songs. The EP, Mr. Pugh says, allowed them to focus on making the songs the best they could be; the result is an effort they are proud to show off.

While Mr. Pugh still plays solo shows (and many as a duo with Mr. Kuczynski), the Iota show marks a return to the full band playing regular shows together after a semi-hiatus. Nearly a decade later, Mr. Pugh’s classified ad has led to a strong musical friendship that sounds like it’s just getting going.

“It’s nobody’s band,” Mr. Pugh says. “It’s our group, our music and there are no rules.”

• • •

Longevity isn’t always easy to come across in the music industry. Today’s fads quickly become yesterday’s one-hit wonders, and for every band that lasts as long as the Rolling Stones, hundreds more crash and burn.

All of which makes the band Stereolab an interesting curiosity. Formed 15 years ago, the English group has kept up with its spaced-out mix of electronic music and lounge pop and outlasted one musical trend after another.

Its series of mid-1990s albums, including 1993’s “Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements” and 1996’s “Emperor Tomato Ketchup,” sound as fresh today as when they were released. The band hasn’t been afraid to experiment over the years (its modern art album covers give a good indication of the strange sounds listeners can sometimes expect), but they’ve also produced an incredible amount of melodic, beautiful, dreamy pop songs.

Though the group lost one of its original members in a bicycle accident in 2002, they have continued to perform and record together.

Stereolab’s first new album of material in two years, “Fab Four Suture,” was just released last week and early reviews seem to indicate longtime fans won’t be disappointed.

Hear what’s kept listeners coming back over the years when they play Tuesday at the 9:30 Club in the Districte

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