By Jason Keil   Published Feb 13, 2004 at 5:30 AM

{image1}Putting an end to several weeks of rumors and speculation, Liv Mueller, the guitarist and lead singer of The Lovelies, has admitted that the popular local trio is no longer together.

Mueller, bassist Barb Endes and drummer Bill Backes remain tightlipped about the details of the breakup.

The split comes on the heels on what has been a successful year for the band. Last September brought the release of the group's long-awaited fourth album "White Leather," their first with St. Louis label Force MP.

The Lovelies' first release in three years received widespread acclaim from fans and critics alike and featured the band's trademark guitar-driven rock anthems that through the years have received much-deserved attention. "White Leather" was a chance to bring them to wider national audience.

Mueller, a seasoned veteran of the Milwaukee music scene, formed a version of The Lovelies when she moved to Austin, Texas in 1995, where the group acquired a respectable following.

When she returned to Milwaukee the following year, a new version of the band was formed with Damian Strigens, formerly of The Frogs, on drums and Italian-born Louisa Ritchie on bass. The three self-released the album "Baby Justice" in 1997, but only offered a glimpse of what the band was truly capable of.

Three years later, Endes joined the group as Ritchie returned home to Rome. In 2000, the group self-released its next album, titled "Hot One," which went on to become a critical and commercial success.

The disc appeared on the College Media Journal (C.M.J.) music charts for eight weeks in 2002 as an unsigned band. The success of the album also led to winning the Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) award for Best Alternative Band in 2001(and a later nomination in 2002). The group has made several popular appearances at the South by Southwest Music Festival (SXSW) as well as an appearance at Chicago's International Pop Overthrow Festival last year.

Another lineup change came when Strigens departed the band, leaving Backes to fill his shoes. Stringens, a graphic designer who has done CD artwork for a number of Milwaukee bands, did, however, supervise the art direction for "White Leather."

"It's the Lovelies I had always hoped we'd have," Mueller said of Backes and Endes in an interview with Underground Online, "I lucked out beyond belief by hooking up with Barb and Bill. I couldn't have found anyone else as good as them for this band."

Fans became drawn to The Lovelies' shows not only for the band's ability to play intense melodic rock, but also for its desire to entertain its audiences. Mueller and Endes often took the stage wearing matching outfits - demonstrated in the artwork on the cover of "White Leather" -- that mesmerized fans.

But it was the strength of Mueller's songwriting (with Endes and Strigens sometimes contributing) that kept the band from being pigeon-holed as "chick-rockers," a label that the singer disdained.

"I just think we're these human beings creating music together and hopefully a couple people out there like it," she told reporter Molly Snyder Edler in an interview in September 2003.

The Lovelies will not appear as scheduled at The Mad Planet on February 14. Instead the lineup will be: Ella Music Group, The Static Model, Scarlett and The Final.

The Lovelies' label, Force MP, could not be reached by press time.

As the members of The Lovelies begin to pursue other projects, be sure to check for updates as they become available.