May 13 2009 12:00 AM

Fringe punks MK Ultra Culkin band together


Lansing’s MK Ultra Culkin, one of the few female-fronted punk bands in the area, is loud, aggressive and what drummer Todd Kerinen calls “an acquired taste.”

The band’s debut full-length CD, “Sexual Exhilaration at a Bargain Price,” radiates mid-Michigan’s angry and experimental musical tendencies.

Kerinen said MK prefers being musical outsiders. “Lansing has bands who are on the fringe,” Kerinen said. “We’re on the fringe with a lot of other area bands.”

After years of playing in Lansing, Kerinen said he’s noticed a distinct, leftof-the-FM-dial trend. From current to nowdefunct bands, Kerinen said Lansing has a rich history in unique sounds. “It’s just how Lansing does things,” he said. “The local bands I have always been friends with, like Fun Ender, Space Brains and Dead Stream Corners, were of a different breed of band. We have a different kind of scene.”

So how do the members of MK label their sound?

“[Bassist] Nick [Merz] came up with the best definition,” Kerinen said. “It’s post-hardcore punk revival. We sound like we’re from Michigan.”

Kerinen and band mates Merz, Sylas (guitar) and Liz Garcia (vocals) are set to release the new album on Sunday, May 17, at East Lansing’s Small Planet. The CD was recorded over the span of a year at Broadside Productions in Kalamazoo, and it will be the first release from Silver Maple Kill Records, Kerinen’s new independent label.

At the forefront of the music is Garcia’s distinct vocal work. While she may shout like a punk rocker, her lyrics don’t follow the punk blueprint. “I write about what I know, typical relationshiptype stuff,” she said. “Other songs are political. I try to get out our shared opinions, like what’s going on with the war but without sounding cliché about it.”

Aside from being an artistic outlet, Garcia said singing in a rock band also relieves stress.

“It’s a break from work, school and being responsible,” Garcia said. “I would say it’s kind of a release. It’s a positive way for me to escape from my personal life.”

Garcia, who joined the band in 2007, said the MK rhythm section quickly became a second family to her. “We got along great,” Garcia said. “They’re like the big brothers that I never had.”

Perhaps the family-vibe is derived from a pact the members agreed upon early on. “When we started the band, we all agreed to not have any drama,” Kerinen explained. “I’ve seen a lot of bands end that way. Nobody has a drug problem, nobody is an alcoholic and nobody is fucking another member’s girlfriend.”