The past 15 months have been a bit turbulent for the band Kill Miss Pretty. In 2007, the group was enjoying plenty of attention within local music circles, and its lead singer, Alicia Olink, was (and still is, in fact) seen as an indie darling on the rise. With a voice that's part nursery-school and part raunch, Olink is charismatic and alluring enough vocally to create a buzz all on her own. Couple that with the two well-established, longtime musicians playing beside her and Kill Miss Pretty seemed like it had fallen into just the right niche.
The band burst onto the scene in 2006 with its kitschy, electro-pop tunes and sexually charged lyrics, impressing the hell out of onlookers at their shows. Just as the band's popularity was on the upswing, though, real life reared its familiar head. Late in 2007, Olink and her husband, Russ Rogers, who also serves as the band's guitarist, producer, and drum programmer, got pregnant and decided to have a baby. Nothing wrong with that. But having a pregnant lead singer can obviously affect the number of shows a band plays. On top of that, the couple permanently adopted their 6- and 9-year-old nieces. In just a matter of months, they went from being carefree 30-somethings with music as their main focus to becoming parents with three kids in the house and a heap of responsibility yanking them away from music.
But KMP is back. They just finished the new album, Permission for Strange, last month and shot a new video, and there's already a small buzz generating locally around their return to the stage. And rightfully so. It's been a long time since a lot of their fans have seen them perform.
The first thing I wanted to know is what's it like trying to complete an album during pregnancy — and then having two extra children sprung on you unexpectedly in the process.
"There definitely were a lot more distractions going on," Rogers says with a laugh during a recent phone chat. "We'd take an hour and work on a song because sometimes that's all we could spare."
It's probably best that the woman who gave birth answer the question as well. Her answer says a lot. "I think I was a little more focused [working on the album while pregnant], because obviously I was sober the whole time," Olink says (she likes her booze). "It was also harder to sing, because I couldn't breathe as well. I'd get really tired at times. But everything is a little bit harder when you're eight months pregnant."
You can hear the couple's, 8-month-old son, Cooper, vying for attention in the background, further driving home his point that the couple's priorities have changed.
It's a well-timed yelp that comes through the receiver, yet Rogers continues unfazed: "I'm used to it, man. I always say, I've got three kids, two dogs, two jobs, two houses, and two bands... " His voice trails off, but what he's saying makes the catchy and well-composed songs on Permission for Strange that much more impressive. He and Olink, along with their bassist, Martin Davis, have recently crafted one of the darkest and edgiest electro-pop albums to come out of South Florida in recent memory. Both the song-writing and musicianship displayed on Permission are stronger than their previous 2006 EP, Bite Your Tongue, and Olink's subject matter digs further into real-life taboos. On "Glows in the Dark" Olink starts the track off with the not-so-PG lyrics: You know you never made me cum, but we had so much fun, with my-special-vagina. The three and a half minute song is about a glow in the dark vibrator and her former lesbian lover.
Olink sees no reason not to discuss both openly. "Umm, I like sex a lot," she says after her hubby, Rogers, has passed her the phone to explain the lyrics of the song. "I think everyone likes sex a lot, probably as much as I do. I don't feel like you have to keep quiet about it. I mean, I don't try to flaunt my sex life in anyone's face. I keep it quiet. I wouldn't sit around with a group of preschoolers and talk about 'Glows in the Dark.' But I've never felt the need to be ashamed or uptight about it either."
That attitude guides a lot of the principles that KMP lives by as a band. They don't take themselves too seriously, and they're more focused on having fun as friends than trying to become famous.
"We're not even pursuing making it big, which is probably why we had so much fun making this album," Olink says.
"We do it just to have fun," Rogers adds. "Once it all gets too serious, it taints the whole process. It's gotta be something that you enjoy."
What's for sure is that their live shows are geared to be highly enjoyable. The band takes delight in dressing up in quirky costumes. Themes from previous concerts have included Little Red Riding Hood, Alice in Wonderland, and Girl Scouts, to name a few. For their upcoming album release party this weekend at Respectable Street, they've got a circus macabre theme planned.
Part of that goes along with the album title they chose.
"Permission for Strange — it's like, you've got permission to be different," says Davis, the group's bass player. "We're saying that there are no boundaries. And we try to make that carry over into our music and our live shows."