It’s no secret: I’ve been a cheerleader for Killola since I heard their first LP Louder, Louder! in 2007. This was before they helped me sneak backstage during SXSW 2009, where I interviewed them, snapped photos of the New York Dolls, and snagged a beer from the cooler as the bouncer threw me out. And, while I’m obviously biased, I’ll say that, based on my encounters with a LOT of musicians–both famous and lesser known–over the past several years, Killola are one of the just damn nicest, most accessible, and most fun bands to be around.
And they put on a hell of a live show. Lisa Rieffel is simply one of the most dynamic frontwomen on the scene. The last time I saw the band live, Lisa sang upside-down, hanging from the ceiling of The Studio at Webster Hall. Later that night, she was molested onstage by an over-zealous fan who stuck her hand down the singer’s shirt. (Lisa repaid her in kind.)
But the appeal of Killola extends beyond the stellar vocals; the L.A. band is also remarkable for how they’ve harnessed the fan-base building power of the Internet, to the extent that they’ve acquired a devoted cult following almost exclusively through an aggressive, grass-roots, online initiative. If for nothing else, Killola should be remembered as the band who whipped the web into submission until their music and concerts became a fan fetish. Examples:
- In 2007, Lisa tapped into The L Word audience and the OurChart social networking/dating site (now defunct) when she starred in the web series Girltrash!, frequently referenced by OurChart bloggers. The series also landed Lisa (already a professional actor) some mentions on the queer culture hub AfterEllen.com. In effect, the band gained exposure to a niche audience through the Girltrash! web series, then a relatively novel medium for entertainment.
- Also in 2007, the band announced on myspace that anyone with a Killola tattoo would forever get into Killola concerts for free. They posted fan photos of the K)) logo tatts on their profile. A brilliant on- and offline advertising campaign emerged. People are still getting K)) ink and sending their pics to the band. To this day, you can show up at the door the night of the show, flash your tattoo, and get in.
- Killola’s latest innovation is the pre-order format of their new album, Let’s Get Associated, on USB dog tag necklaces. For $40, you get the album in a wearable form, plus bonus materials, plus continual access to live recordings of Killola gigs. See the recent L.A. Times blog post about it.
Between the creative marketing savvy, the megawatt presence of the lead singer, and the tongue-in-cheek appeal of their music, it’s difficult not to appreciate Killola.
In Killola’s third studio effort, Let’s Get Associated, the band sticks with the California pop/punk vibe of their previous records while upping the quantity of 80s synth textures–and revving the vulgarity into overdrive.
Killola have never shied away from raunchiness. While tunes like “Cracks in the Armor” and “Traffic” are more introspective, you must have a sense of humor to swallow (no pun intended) a song like “I Wanna See Your Dick”. The same applies to the satirical “1-2-3-4” (about moral hypocrisy) and “She’s a Bitch”. Whether or not the lyrics turn you off depends on your personal taste, though much of the crudeness is so over-the-top, so totally lacking in shame, that it’s almost impossible to take seriously. The brutal honesty of the the whole thing is enjoyably hilarious.
It’s also smartly feminist. Consider, what would we say about guy singing a song called “I Wanna See Your Pussy”? I think the general response would be, “Well, duh.” It wouldn’t be all that different from “The Thong Song” or “Baby Got Back”, both of which most of us laugh off and dance to without reserve. By turning the overt ogling around–that is, by switching the typical genders of ogler and oglee–Killola challenge the idea of sexual objectification as a male-dominated pastime.
Or maybe I’m reading too much into a campy rock song. Still, when a band is clever enough to self-manage and -market themselves as successfully as Killola have, that they might put the same amount of thought into their lyrics seems within the realm of possibilities.