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Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009

The Lovelies’ Second Encore

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One of the best things about The Lovelies’ reunion performance in February at an Atomic Records tribute concert was “looking and watching people sing along to songs that haven’t been played in almost 10 years,” recalls the band’s longtime drummer, Damian Strigens.

A local alt-rock band that mirrored The Breeders and Elastica, The Lovelies helped pave the way for today’s local scene with their dedication and professionalism in the late ’90s/early ’00s. It turns out the reunion last winter was not just a one-time deal: The band is preparing for another reunion show at Mad Planet this weekend.

After that first success, bridging the gap between the miles and years to relive The Lovelies one more time feels natural and effortless. The band mainly resides in Milwaukee, and guitarist/vocalist Liv Mueller and shared drummers Bill Backes and Damian Strigens still find it easy to reconnect with bassist/vocalist Barb Endes, who now resides in Queens, N.Y.

“I think we still have great chemistry,” Endes says. “I felt that back in February. Some of the nuances are probably lost because there’s no substitute for constantly playing together.”

Those nuances were never much of a hurdle, though. Strigens adds, “When I asked Barb and Liv to do the Atomic show, there was no hesitation whatsoever. I think that for the most part we all really enjoyed the time we had with The Lovelies. The fact that the Atomic show was so fun and easy to do made the possibility of doing another one all the more probable.”

Mueller recalls the chemistry of the band, but also remembers the time as a growing point both as a young adult and a musician. The mid-’90s weren’t one of her favorite periods for music, she says, adding, “Maybe it’s because I was in my early/mid-twenties and, really, who loves their mid-twenties in hindsight?

“I think our other projects got a lot more experimental,” Mueller continues, and as a result, “The Lovelies music feels pretty vanilla to me now—not vanilla in a bad way in the slightest, just in terms of song structure, etc.

“Barb and I have Everly Brothers-caliber harmonizing,” she adds. “I don’t know why; it’s always been like that. It freaks us out, hard. We look at each other sometimes during shows or practice like, ‘Where does this come from?’”

And those dual girl harmonies were what stuck most in the ears of Milwaukee’s music nerds back in a time when alterna-pop bands were busy ripping hook after poppy hook onto the college music scene.

Reliving the days of The Lovelies playing a packed Globe East, complete with go-go dancers, or opening for bands like Fountains of Wayne at the Metro has given the band a bit of a giddy, memory-filled adrenaline rush. Mueller says part of it comes from practicing together, not just the reunion performances themselves.

“The best thing?” she asks, “Well, first off, we all had so much fun and were just cracking each other up, reliving the memories of being together for years and years. Second, rediscovering that we still sound great together.”

Strigens points out, “We probably laugh and tell stories more than actually rehearse.”

The Lovelies play Mad Planet (533 E. Center St.) on Saturday, Dec. 26, at 9 p.m. with The Lackloves.