In MKE Music Rewind we revisit notable Milwaukee music that was released before Milwaukee Record became a thing in April 2014.
Local bands come and go, often breaking up with little to no fanfare. It’s notable, then, when a band’s departure does make waves. Back in early 2004, news that Milwaukee alt-rock band The Lovelies were calling it quits was such a big deal that it garnered a full feature on OnMilwaukee. The piece breathlessly mentions “several weeks of rumors and speculation.” It includes an attempt to contact the band’s label, which “could not be reached by press time.” It ends with a promise of “updates as they become available.” The end of The Lovelies was big Milwaukee news.
And that’s because The Lovelies were a big (and great) Milwaukee band. One listen to any song released during the group’s 1995-2004 run confirms this. Here’s the deliciously crunchy and harmony-happy “Catalina,” which appeared on 2000’s self-released Hot One…
…and again—in a noticeably slicker form—on what would end up being the group’s swan song, 2003’s White Leather. (The title was a nod to the group’s live outfit of choice.)
Milwaukee musician Liv Mueller formed the initial version of The Lovelies in 1995, during her time in Austin, Texas. When she returned to Milwaukee in 1996, a new version of the group took shape. Several records (including 1997’s Baby Justice), oodles of shows, national tours, WAMI awards, and plenty of local and non-local acclaim followed.
Oh and more lineup changes: With Mueller as the singer-songwriter constant, The Lovelies occasionally included Damian Strigens, Louisa Ritchie, Barb Endes, and Bill Backes. The Mueller-Endes-Backes trio was the lineup that delivered White Leather, with Mueller calling it “the Lovelies I had always hoped we’d have.”
About The Lovelies’ sound. In another OnMilwaukee feature (“Are The Lovelies misunderstood?” from 2002), Mueller claps back at lazy comparisons to other female-fronted groups:
“People think because we are a female-fronted band that we are going to sound like Hole,” complains Liv Mueller, lead singer and guitarist of Milwaukee’s The Lovelies.
But Mueller and her partner in rock and roll Barb Endes don’t scream, yell or get angry like Courtney Love. So why this misunderstanding?
“It’s because there are a lack of other bands to compare us to, so we always hear the whole Veruca Salt and Breeders thing,” Mueller explains, “I would like to do something different.
“It makes Barb and I hungrier. We want to prove that we can rock and put on a good show and be good songwriters.”
It’s been roughly 20 years since The Lovelies broke up. Mueller went on to form The Dark Horse Project in 2005; these days, she plays with a new trio, Video Sex Priest, and frequently releases solo material.
The Lovelies themselves make occasional reunion appearances. Mueller and company have played at events like the Atomic Records farewell show in 2009, and a Pablove benefit in 2016. Several holiday reunions have taken place at Shank Hall. With local reunion shows all the rage these days, another Lovelies outing seems inevitable. Dust off your best white leather now.