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Novelty? Think again.

Sister act Smoosh makes serious splash in rock

Chloe, the younger member of the band Smoosh, is familiar with people putting their own spin on the outfit she has with her sister, Asya. It's a situation that extends all the way to how the band's name -- inspired by the band Smash Mouth -- is pronounced.

``We tried to think of something like `smash,' " Chloe says. ``So we picked Smoosh [pronounced like push]. But we kind of spell it wrong. There's, like, no way to spell it. So at first, like, one person pronounced it as Smoosh [pronounced Smooosh] and then everybody pronounces it that way. And I like Smooosh better anyways."

If fans couldn't figure out something as simple as how to say the band's name, other misconceptions were a foregone conclusion. After all, lead vocalist-keyboardist Asya is 14, drummer Chloe only 12 -- facts that can lead to cynical dismissal s of Smoosh as a novelty and ironic championing by hipsters in love with the unusual and obscure.

But with last year's nomination for band of the year in Spin magazine, and profiles on NPR's ``All Things Considered" and the ``Today" show, Smoosh isn't so easy to dismiss. The band's playful and sweet brand of stripped-down indie pop is clearly the product of youth, but only in its enthusiasm and abandon. Asya and Chloe, who open for eels at the Somerville Theatre tomorrow, may have an innocence about them, but their appeal has nothing to do with the charm of youthful semi-competence. These girls know their way around a song and a stage.

It started six years ago on a family visit to a music store, when Chloe (the girls' family does not publicize their last name for their protection) saw a red drum set and was instantly smitten.

``When I first saw them, I just thought they looked really cool, like all shiny and sparkly," she says. ``I didn't have a plan to buy a drum set at all. . . . Then I decided that it'd be cool to play with Asya and stuff, since Asya was already playing piano and, like, doing open mikes and stuff. She's always been doing that."

With Asya tagging along, lessons at the Seattle Drum School quickly turned into band practice. As Asya shifted her attention from drums to keyboards, Smoosh was born. Younger sister Maia played bass with them for a while but ultimately gave it up. ``All of a sudden," Chloe says, ``she just, like, didn't like the bass anymore." (Now 9, Maia is responsible for the cover art of both the new CD, ``Free to Stay" and Smoosh's debut , ``She Like Electric.")

As their drum teacher and the producer of ``Free to Stay" (not to mention the man who sold them the red drums), Death Cab For Cutie drummer Jason McGerr picked up a clear musical connection between Chloe and Asya.

``Just the sibling thing where they could communicate without even looking at each other," McGerr says. ``They could be facing opposite directions, and they would stop at the same time."

He also marveled at Chloe's focus and hard work.

``Chloe was always the one who never wanted to leave the drum lesson until she got the part right. Her mom would be there, Asya would be like, `Chloe, come on, let's go,' and she's like . . . `Wait, I've almost got it!' "

Along with Death Cab, Smoosh has played with Pearl Jam, Sleater-Kinney, Rilo Kiley, Cat Power, and Mates of State -- sharing the stage with the cream of indie rock at an age when most kids don't know anything about music. Both sisters speak matter-of-factly of adoring the styles of the bands they've performed with, even if, as Chloe says, ``I didn't even know we did indie music."

If Smoosh does fall in the indie-rock genre, it's not out of any conscious choice. It's simply a result of the sisters' natural musical inclinations. Chloe doesn't see any real alternative, offering a suggestion to anyone who wants to be in a band.

``I'd say to only play music if you're having fun with it," she says. ``Otherwise, it wouldn't really work out if you were just doing it for, like, the money or anything. You wouldn't really be able to write, like, good songs.

``And you shouldn't really have like a schedule, unless you really like having a schedule and stuff, with playing music, because then it sort of gets like a job, like you have to do it on a certain day. I usually just play when I want to, and then it's fun."

Smoosh performs with eels tomorrow at the Somerville Theatre. 7:30 p.m. Tickets $21.50. Call 617-931-2000 or go to www.ticketmaster.com.

SAMPLE SMOOSH Check out audio clips at www.boston.com/clips.

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