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The New Lows hit a new high

Local band celebrates release of I Couldn't Sleep

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Jarred from a deep sleep by your cell phone ringing in the middle of the night, it's not uncommon to hear this greeting: "Oh no, did I wake you? I couldn't sleep." It's a go-to validation for anyone who's ever called a loved one at an absurd hour. And whereas most folks these days instinctively reach for the phone to quickly silence it, we all have our short-list of exceptions – the people we'll always answer.

Borrowing from the unexpected liveliness that often propels insomniacs through late-night conversations, the energetic latest album from Orlando music scene veterans The New Lows is offered almost as the sort of epiphany that occasionally comes from those kinds of calls.

The album, titled I Couldn't Sleep, comes out Nov. 13, and it expresses a point of view derived from letting go and allowing yourself to be surrounded by a fortress of friends – the kind you can call up in the middle of the night should you ever feel the need. For Mike Levin, who wrote the songs and assembled the band's current lineup of Bobby Pino, Greg Lightfoot and Wes Snowden, one of the inspirations for the sound was friend and former band member Ralph Ameduri.

Ameduri had been helping keep The New Lows going while they sought a new drummer. In 2011, Ameduri was shot and killed in an attempted robbery – it was a gut punch not just to Levin, but to the entire Orlando music community. His memory continues to be celebrated by members of the local music scene whose efforts are still touched by his influence. Take I Couldn't Sleep, for instance: Levin says Ameduri's death was an eye-opener that prodded him to be more musically productive, and the record reflects that.

"I'm relieved, I'm excited; you go through so many phases of loving it and hating it, so it's hard to know in a week how it's going to feel, but I'm proud of it," Levin says of the album. "My whole goal with this was to really have a lot of fun and kind of go for it. Like I said, I was really inspired by the passing of Ralph to do stuff and not just sit back. So I think that's kind of how I was like, 'Let's make a record.'"

Nothing about the album feels forced, perhaps because Levin says he's compelled to write more fluidly after departing from the slowed-down craft reflected on the band's last album, 2008's Atlantic Pacific. That album contained glimpses of what listeners will hear on the new album – listen to "Dan," from the 2008 album, and it's easy to draw a line to tracks on I Couldn't Sleep like "Abeyance" or "Bite Me" – but with I Couldn't Sleep, Levin returns to his pop-punk roots.

"I was doing kind of country, almost classic rock-y there for a little bit, and it just got boring to me, writing that way," he says. "So, I'm trying to find new ways to keep things exciting for myself, and in this case, it turned out kind of being a turn back to old days for me, just straight up punk and poppy."

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