By Julie Lawrence Special to Published May 17, 2006 at 5:06 AM

Milwaukee's Heart of a Failure has come a long way since, well, high school.

As teens, leading lady Sarah Mick and Maggie Tielker (keyboards) spent their days writing and performing pop music, but it wasn't until after graduation, when they joined forces with Chris Christen (bass) and Carlyle Nowak (drums), that they found the right rock formula for their band.

And now, after playing together for almost five years, the girls have achieved much more than legal drinking status -- they've found their sound (and impressive one, at that).

The addition of the Christen and Nowak introduced heavier punk and metal influences, that, when combined with the lingering pop melodies of Mick and Tielker, resulted in a series of punchy, heart-on-your-sleeve, pop punk anthems so catchy that they caught the attention producer Gavin McKillop (Sugarkult, MxPx).

The dawn of 2006 found the band recording with McKillop in the Full Kilt Studio in North Hollywood, and although the band is calling its new EP "A Final Flight," it is far from any kind of end. With a new musical direction and a solid vision, "A Final Flight" looks more like a promising start.

"We consider 'A Final Flight' our debut because it's the first release under the name Heart of a Failure, and we're really proud of our musical progression to a harder rock/punk style," says Mick.

In true underdog form -- as the name suggests -- Heart of a Failure philosophizes over peer rejection, the dodgy days of youth and the general uncertainty of life after high school, in what Mick describes as "music that tells the truth."

"Lyrics for the new EP come straight from journal entries and real life situations," she says. "In the past we were sometimes a little worried to say exactly what we thought, but with the new CD we gave up on that and just put into the music what we wanted. When we say that our music tells the truth, we mean music that tells our truth."

Earning a solid local fan base and securing a spot on the 2006 Warped Tour in Milwaukee, Heart of a Failure appears to be firing on all punk rock pistons --- though Mick says that even as little as a year ago, the future didn't look quite as promising for the band.

"We're all still young, but we're at the point after high school where most kids are starting college. Being a musician is an unstable career choice and a huge gamble. The pressure of convincing everyone that we were going to try and make this work was weighing so heavily on us that we were starting to question ourselves. We had a few really long talks together as a band about why we were still making music and if it was worth all of the stress to keep doing it. We always say that it's not that we chose to make music; it's more like we have to."

Heart of a Failure plays The Rave at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 19 with Remember the Day, Inept and All Envy Aside, and plays The Vans Warped Tour Saturday, June 17 on the Hot Topic/Kevin Says stage. The band's Web site is

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”