Muffy Kroha’s infectious, bubbling laugh crackles through her cell phone as she zips through the aisles of Target — excuse me, Tar-shay.
Kroha confesses she’s there to buy computer supplies for her shiny new iMac, “but of course I found some really cool clothes too — I can’t go anywhere without buying clothes.”
Not surprising, considering the statuesque lead singer of the Sirens whiles away her 9-5 hours as the senior visual manager of Neiman Marcus at the ultra-swanky Somerset Collection; Kroha herself offers a translation of the executive title: “Basically, I get to play with clothes all day.”
And the blond glamazon gets to play with clothes by night as well; as the ringleader of her all-girlie glam cover band, Kroha bedecks her bandmates in outlandishly creative and eye-popping costumes she conceptualizes, inspired by everything from ’70s camp flicks to pop culture icons and British fashion magazines.
Kroha comes from a musical and creative family; mom works in fashion, and older brother Danny is better known as Danny Dollrod of Demolition Dollrods fame. (Kroha reveals that Muffy is not her real name, but a childhood nickname bestowed by her parents; she says Danny was supposed to be the original Muffy, “but he turned out a boy, so they figured that wasn’t a good idea.”)
Back in high school, Kroha kicked around the idea of following fashion design as a career, and occasionally produced commissioned pieces for her friends. However, her dreams of becoming the next couture-label designer were foiled by the fact that “I really hate sewing. If you look closely at my stuff you’ll see it’s 90 percent tape,” she says. “All that serious craftsmanship that goes into serious design? That’s not me, man.”
Instead, she focused her efforts on the stage, belting out Broadway tunes in numerous high school musicals. After getting a bachelor’s degree in theater, Kroha sort of stumbled into her position with Neiman Marcus (she jokingly suspects her cutesy nickname was the sole reason behind her hire).
Flash to the turn of the new millennium, when Kroha’s buddy Nancy Barr came up with the idea of forming an all-girl cover band, and enlisted her along with bassist Michelle Lannoo. Originally, the group only played once or twice a year, but the pace began to pick up as the gals found themselves in higher demand. Today’s lineup consists of originals, Kroha and Lanoo, Melody Baetens on lead guitar, Aran Ruth (Outrageous Cherry) on guitar, and Deanne Iovan (the Come Ons, Sunshine Doray) on drums.
Baetens, a veteran of chick bands, having played with Broadzilla, the Gore Gore Girls, and Stroker Ace, among others, says, “It’s so much more about doing it for ourselves and being friends than it is trying to get famous.” Of the unique Sirens vibe, she says, “We definitely spend more time on having fun and putting on a good show, and having a good time and enjoying each other.”
As for their sound? The Sirens pick cover tunes from multiple eras and genres, but tend to focus on ’70s glam.
“We all pick the songs, but Muffy is the creative consultant,” says Baetens.
But why all covers? Why not write your own material?
“I tried write to write songs and they were so sappy and awful,” says Kroha. “I’m actually on a personal crusade. … I’m not a songwriter and I totally resent the stereotype, and it’s only in rock. You never hear jazz singers getting shit for not writing their own songs.”
However, Kroha reports she doesn’t really get that much shit for her covers-only approach anymore, especially in light of the wildfire success of the Detroit Cobras.
“They have lent a great deal of dignity to it,” she says of the garage rock revival-cum-R&B cover band.
It’s clear that the total spectacle is the true selling point with the Sirens; the girls have strong musical chops, but it’s the full package that sells the show. How can you not love a band that has dressed up as post-apocalypse extras from The Road Warrior, a 1970s coming-of-age bicycling (yes, bicycling) flick Breaking Away, giant pink and red felt Valentines, candle-topped pieces of birthday cake, and Evil Knievel-ettes, just to name a few?
Furthermore, name one other singer in Detroit who can conduct an entire show from atop a pair of 18-inch platform shoes. That’s right, 18 inches — let’s see Gene Simmons haul his ass up on a pair of those babies.
Kroha originally tried to have the shoes custom-made, but says the company she queried was “afraid I’d break my neck, kill myself or sue them,” and offered a bank-breaking quote; so the industrious singer waltzed off to Home Depot, bought a big slab of foam rubber and a roll of duct tape, and constructed the KISS-dwarfing monstrosities herself.
However, she’s since had to retire them, for fear that she actually will break her neck or kill herself.
“I never was truly comfortable, my knees would be shaking the whole time, and I was afraid of moving and balancing,” Kroha says. “And then some of my friends told me the smaller platforms are way foxier, so I said, OK, I guess I don’t have to be 8 feet tall anymore, I can go back down to 7.”