When you take a seat in PET ME vocalist Vikki Vera’s house, alongside some guitars and amplifiers, you’ll find a series of striking aquariums lining her wall.
“Those are reef bowls,” Vera says. “That’s live coral and I grow it. It’s an ultra-low maintenance coral reef aquarium. I used to have bigger reef aquariums, but I got sick of the amount of time and money it took to keep them up. I wanted to do other things, like play in a band.”
And that’s indeed what she did. In spring of 2018, Vera, an already accomplished Lansing-based visual artist, decided to pursue the sonic arts and co-formed PET ME. By New Year’s Eve 2018, the band performed live for the first time and introduced its self-described “fierce femme queercore power pop” to the Lansing music scene. Aside from Vera, the group also comprises guitarist Allie Hunt, bassist Quinn Endicott and drummer — known only by her first name — Myxi.
“‘Myxi’ was an early D&D character of mine — my Bard,” explained the percussionist. “So, now that I’m a bard, I figured it’s a great time to use that name.”
The four-piece band just released its debut, a self-titled EP produced by local engineer Nick LaForge. It’s on streaming services and, Saturday, the all-ages release party happens at Mac’s Bar. On the disc, within three songs, PET ME veers seamlessly from anthemic indie-rock melodies into fiery riot grrl punk. Vera said it’s a welcome change of pace.
“I’ve continued to make art, but I was just getting really disenchanted with it,” she said. “I got sick of trying to make it work economically because I tend to take way too long to make stuff. I was finding I couldn’t charge what I felt the art was worth.”
So why a band? Why dial back her creation of fine art — for the art of band merch?
“I wanted to reach more people,” she said. “I knew there were people who liked my artwork, but I couldn’t get it to them because it was too expensive to make. That’s what I love about being in a band. People can come see us for $10 and if they want a souvenir, they can buy a button for $1 or have a sticker for free.”
Like Myxi, Vera said she also reinvented herself with a stage name, preferring to leave her real persona out of PET ME. Her vocal delivery and stage presence was perhaps inspired by portions of her massive music collection — one that spans from newer UK bands like The Big Moon to throwback ‘90s Britpop icons like Elastica and Suede. With that is a heavy dose of obnoxious old-school punk like X-Ray Spex, Sex Pistols, Avengers and Dead Kennedys.
“I’m a very quiet and introverted person in my regular life,” said the dynamic vocalist. “I adopt a more extroverted persona when I’m in the band, and having a stage name helps me inhabit that side of me. I chose ‘Vikki’ because it has a bit of a spiky and prickly sound that appeals to me. ‘Vera’ is derived from a Latin word meaning ‘truth’ and a lot of the lyrics I write are about living your truth … ‘Hungry’ is a brand-new song about getting the fuck out of the closet and living your truth.”
Hunt, the band’s guitarist, is a familiar face in Lansing. Before she was writing hooky riffs for PET ME, the songwriter spent time performing with Charlatan. As for the new EP, Hunt said having LaForge behind the recording board helped with capturing the tracks — a fun-and-catchy batch of tunes that avoid being too self-serious, while still tackling social commentary.
“We definitely got feedback from Nick in the studio,” Hunt said. “We even changed a couple things around, because it made more sense production-wise.”
While Hunt has a long history of gigging across Michigan, the rest of the band members are new to band life.
“Quinn and I are partners,” Hunt said, “So, when we were forming the band, I said, ‘Hey, we need a bassist, you should play bass.’ Quinn could already play guitar pretty well, so it worked out.”
“This is my first band,” Endicott added. “I started playing bass right when the band started. I kind of prefer bass now. I like coming up with one-note lines, rather than playing full-on guitar chords on a six-string.”
Starting a new undertaking has allowed them all to be open and collaborate freely. While Hunt provides the chords and Vera belts out her lyrics, from there, the rhythm section pulls it together.
“I’d like to think we all have musical input on the songs,” Myxi said. “As we play, Allie will come up with a riff, then we all start playing and it grows from there. We bounce ideas around.”
One of those jointly created songs, “Fully Automated,” was inspired by the art of “leftist shitposting” on social media, Vera admits.
“Are you familiar with Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism? It’s a meme,” the lyricist explained. “It’s a utopian idea; a utopian daydream. The idea that with the resources and machine learning we already have, if we could muster the political will to do it, we already have the capability to give people a life of leisure without hanging them out to dry.
“Right now, automation is just being used to make a tiny bit of people richer,” she added. “But it could be used to give people the life of leisure that people — 50 or 100 years ago —hoped we’d have by this time. Instead, people are working longer hours for less money. So, don’t get me wrong: I’m not optimistic about the future. It’s a utopian fantasy. But wouldn’t that be cool? Wouldn’t that be fucking cool?”
Pet Me EP release
w/ If Walls Could Talk, Kiddo, Midnight Air
All ages, $12, $10 adv., 7 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 15 @ Mac’s Bar,
2700 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing