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With only two weeks until the biggest concert of their lives, Care Bears on Fire were furiously practicing when GO Brooklyn arrived at their Prospect Heights lair last week.

Akin to buying a stick of Teen Spirit with Kurt Cobain or flipping the switch for Dylan when he went electric, this reporter knew he was a witness to history: the last relatively calm moment before this band goes big-time.

While still in middle school.

On Sept. 28 (not a school night — phew!), the band will rock Southpaw to celebrate the release (on Oct. 2) of its first full-length record, “I Stole Your Animal.”

Looking like wholesome, if tousled, tweens, music snobs might be quick to write the band off as “just kids,” especially with songs like “Five Minute Boyfriend” and “Baby Animals,” but anyone who takes a listen knows there’s more here than just Dan Zanes with a punk riff.

“[Our] songs are about everything from the craziness of middle school to our thoughts about the world,” drummer Isadora “Izzy” Schappell-Spillman said between songs. “But besides all that, the songs are just a lot of fun to dance to.”

It’s true. From my exclusive perch, I saw the band play a few of the songs from the album, including the infectious punk-pop anthem, “(Don’t Wanna Be Like) Everybody Else.” The song, whose video uses Park Slope as a backdrop, practically begs the listener to jump up and down.

Afterwards, taking a break from her duties as singer and guitarist, Sophie Kasakovie showed off a new funk riff she’d learned, then followed with the guitar part from Pavement’s “Cut Your Hair,” a well-tread rock anthem that the band is thinking of covering.

“I really want to do ‘The Sweater Song’ by Weezer,” she cooed. “I love that song.”

i did, too. In 1994 when it came out. So how did these kids happen upon punk rock?

“The first album I ever had on my computer was Nirvana’s third album,” said bassist Lucio Westmoreland, “which actually came out before I was born.”

Ouch. But there’s plenty of music, and musicians, from before their time that these three find influential. Sophie is going through what she called, “a little bit of a Joan Jett phase,” both in sound and look — it’s no coincidence that her pink-and-black–striped guitar strap matches the pink-and-black–striped sweater she wore that day — and Izzy chimed in that, “My mom likes to say I was listening to the Ramones in utero.”

It wasn’t so many years later that, in the fall of 2005, the trio formed Care Bears on Fire. They had previously played together in a short-lived band called Nada Clue, but reformed, named after a toy bear of Izzy’s.

“We thought, instead of Sunshine or Huggy Bear, why not Depression Bear, or Death Bear,” said Izzy. “Then when I told Sophie and Lucio about it, we were all just like, ‘Care Bears on Fire,’ and that was our name.”

Lucio, the band’s lone boy, said he actually does enjoy lighting stuff on fire. His energy is not entirely destructive, though, he also has a knack for the technical. “I like to build things and burn things,” Lucio said. “I’m always re-routing wires and fixing the amps.”

“It’s a good thing he knows how to do that stuff, because Izzy and I are hopeless,” added Sophie. “I barely even know how to work the distortion pedal on my own guitar.”

Izzy and Sophie have other interests, such as dancing, singing, acting and sewing. Sophie said that she hopes Izzy will teach her how to make her own clothes, a time-honored punk tradition.

But at the moment, what the band is most concerned about is making music. Even though they’re played plenty of shows — 20 at last count — the record release party is a big deal. And, like any other musicians, they want to tour. Citing a friendship with Smoosh, a Seattle-based band about the same age, the Care Bears hopes to tour the West Coast.

But before that can happen, there will be plenty of local gigging and recording. As practice was wrapping up, the band’s handler wanted to know if I had any other questions before everyone went home. “Ask away,” he said, “you won’t get them to sit still again anytime soon.”

It wasn’t so many years later that, in the fall of 2005, the trio formed

Care Bears on Fire. They had previously played together in a short-lived

band called Nada Clue, but reformed, named after a toy bear of Izzy’s.

“We thought, instead of Sunshine or Huggy Bear, why not Depression Bear, or Death Bear,” said Izzy. “Then when I told Sophie and Lucio about it, we were all just like, ‘Care Bears on Fire,’ and that was our name.”

Lucio, the band’s lone boy, said he actually does enjoy lighting stuff on fire. His energy is not entirely destructive, though, he also has a knack for the technical. “I like to build things and burn things,” Lucio said. “I’m always re-routing wires and fixing the amps.”

“It’s a good thing he knows how to do that stuff, because Izzy and I are hopeless,” added Sophie. “I barely even know how to work the distortion pedal on my own guitar.”

Izzy and Sophie have other interests, such as dancing, singing, acting and sewing. Sophie said that she hopes Izzy will teach her how to make her own clothes, a time-honored punk tradition.

But at the moment, what the band is most concerned about is making music. Even though they’re played plenty of shows — 20 at last count — the record release party is a big deal. And, like any other musicians, they want to tour. Citing a friendship with Smoosh, a Seattle-based band about the same age, the Care Bears hopes to tour the West Coast.

But before that can happen, there will be plenty of local gigging and recording. As practice was wrapping up, the band’s handler wanted to know if I had any other questions before everyone went home. “Ask away,” he said, “you won’t get them to sit still again anytime soon.”

Care Bears on Fire will play at 7 pm on Sept. 28 at Southpaw (125 Fifth Ave., between St. Johns and Sterling places in Park Slope). Tickets are $8. For information, call (718) 230-0236 or visit www.spsounds.com.
Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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