You've heard a similar story plenty of times — Hollywood actor/actress decides to start a band, music is mediocre and said star/starlet is better off keeping their day job. If you think that's the case with Killola, you'd be sadly mistaken. For Lisa Rieffel, acting may be one love in her life, but music is definitely the driving force.
After landing a recurring role on the first season of King of Queens, Rieffel decided that she had been spending too much time acting and wanted to focus on what she enjoyed the most -- music.
"I've been acting since I was way little, like 5 years old," she says during a phone call before the band's recent tour hit the road. "I stopped because, like I said, I started at 5. I put it on hold. I was never able to do weird things with my hair or sleep until noon or get crazy tattoos or stay out late. Finally, I said that music was something that I really, really want to explore. I've been in a band since I was 19 years old. We could never go on tour because I'd have auditions or work. I put it on hold because music to me is amazing that it's the quickest creative outlet that instantly gives you what you're looking for -- whether it's rehearsal or singing in a room or singing in a shower."
Instead of just recording an album, hoping people would purchase it and hitting the road, the band decided to go a decidedly different D.I.Y. route. They recorded an album, I am the Messer, and then proceeded to offer it for free to anyone who wanted to download it.
"Music listeners are inundated and overwhelmed these days with people saying 'Go buy my new album' or 'Check out my CD,'" Killola guitarist Johnny Dunn says during the same three-way call. "It seems like everyone has a band. I put myself in the position of a fan and think I wouldn't go download a bunch of stuff off iTunes from a band I don't really know of. The fact that it's free is the main reason they'll check it out. They'll like it or won't like it, keep it or delete it or maybe share it. You're not going to go buy a new house from iTunes sales if you're a mid-level band. You want to get the word out."
Rieffel adds that the band has had more than 100,000 downloads of the album, which exceeded their expectations and has helped to form a solid fan base. The free music didn't stop with the album; they're currently giving away one free mp3 a day via Twitter.
As for the band's name, that's an interesting story in itself. To summarize -- the band found a roommate via Craigslist who one night just packed his stuff and disappeared and hasn't been seen or heard from since. The only thing left behind was the word "Killola" written on a mirror ... in mayonnaise. "It's a story that over the years -- you know how when you're 6 years old and catch a fish and that fish gets bigger when you get older? The story is something like that," Dunn says. "Craigslist is a strange place and that's where you meet strange people -- especially in Los Angeles. We haven't seen that guy since and he got away with a free month's rent. We had been four friends playing music together and it was the perfect comeuppance for a name."
Some of the band's fans are so dedicated that they've gotten tattoos of the band's "K))" logo and other related ink. Fans with such band-related markings will be allowed to get into any of the shows on their current tour for free. The closely knit fan base has also become attached to Rieffel and Dunn through their weekly radio show on Spread Radio Live, the online radio station of Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro. "We have a show every Monday night at 7 p.m. Pacific time," Rieffel says. "He found us through MySpace and then held an indie band contest on his radio site. We won and we played with Dave and became friends. I'd say he gave us our start."
Though her focus is on Killola, Rieffel hasn't given up acting altogether -- she's been an active part of the Web series Girltrash! and recently finished the movie for the same show. "Going back to do the Girltrash! movie was reuniting with a family member," she says. "It felt so good to be back acting with a character that I really loved and I look forward to doing more of it -- after I finish my tour. Something like Girltrash! where I was able to incorporate both [music and acting] was a gift from God. Oh my goodness, I can work on music and act and produce and do all these crazy things at once. It's the most amazing thing I've been a part of."
The band also finished wrapping up their next album just days before heading out on tour. They plan to make the album available via USB dog tags that will be for sale at each show.
"You can tell that we've grown together on this new record," Rieffel says. "I think this one's harder, a bit more rockage. We took some risks, but we did that on the last record as well. We're always trying to compete with ourselves and outdo ourselves. I feel that we've all grown and we're super excited to get this album out."
Along with the tour and album, the band is also getting attention for a poster a fan drew that was taken down in New York City, of all places. The poster shows a girl with some, um, heavy growth on the undercarriage ... "It was just a poster of a girl with, um, interesting hair," Dunn says. "A girl drew it and it's based on a real girl, but it's just a cartoon. I'm hoping that people will now submit posters that are 15 times as dirty."
Adds Rieffel -- "We have a huge following in New York and none of our fans has any problem with it. After all, we are in a rock band, so we must be doing something right if we're offending people."
Killola will perform at The Milestone on March 26 with of Sick of Sarah and Grown Up Avenger Stuff. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $8. This show is 18 and up.