“We didn’t want people to think we’re a death metal band so we shortened it to SK,” Danielle Tipton said. She’s the lead vocalist for Norman concept band SK Love. The initials chillingly stand for Serial Killer. SK Love will be performing their unusual repertoire at the Hilo in Oklahoma City July 5. In a sense they are a death metal band, just without the growling vocals, distorted guitar and blast-beat drumming. “I’ve been developing the idea for the band since 2007 and just haven’t had the opportunity to work on it with anyone,” guitarist Ben Carter said. He recently became re-acquainted with Tipton who is a university educated vocalist with a background in jazz, opera and Broadway-style theatrical singing. Carter was looking for an SK Love front person and she was interested in the concept’s story line. Tipton began making editing suggestions and writing songs. “There are lots of talented bands in Norman with great songs but nobody’s really putting on a great show,” Carter said. “I wanted to produce something with a lot of continuity between an album and a live show.” For whatever reason some musicians are uncomfortable with being entertainers in any other sense than playing their instruments well. Making a spectacle of oneself on stage is often viewed with disdain but the fact remains that audiences enjoy a show.
“It’s almost been like writing a play or opera that will also appeal to people who like pop and rock music,” Carter said. Tipton described the project as “conceptual art rock.” That brings to mind The Who’s 1969 double album rock opera titled “Tommy” which was made into a movie a few years later. SK Love is based on the notion that although rare it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that a serial killer could be a woman. “We wanted to create a character that initially appears normal but then descends into madness,” Tipton said. That would be her, the nice Oklahoma Baptist University alumnus. “I found it an interesting idea because of being fascinated by psychology,” she said. “And I love theatre and making stories come to life.” Carter and Tipton have written a set of songs that tells the tale. Tipton’s dramatic interpretation of them on stage relies heavily on her musical theater background. “We’ve created something that at times may make the viewer uneasy but is also captivating,” Carter said. Tipton is in-character, wearing costume and using props through the entire performance. “I’m not just singing, it’s also portraying this woman through all these means,” she said. A back-lit silhouette screen is employed for dramatic effect in certain scenes. Playbill style programs are distributed at the show to help audience members follow the story line and plot twists.
SK Love has conceived their project as an album trilogy with the first third now in presentation and the others upcoming. The other members of the band are Abe Hartley on keys, bassist Andy Beard and Harold Usry on percussion. “We’re about half way through writing the entire score,” Carter said. Recorded tracks from the project made available to the Transcript reveal a focus on Tipton’s strong vocals. Her voice is well-suited to dramatic lyrics. On a composition titled “Victory has its Fee,” tight acoustic guitar leads to Tipton taking the song’s final chorus into the stratosphere. “The songs sound like a metal head and Broadway junkie got together and said ‘Hey, let’s write some songs,’” Tipton said. They described compositions sometimes fusing jazz and rock. “The two heaviest songs on this album Danielle actually wrote,” Carter said.
Being in a band and doing studio recording has been a learning experience for her. Bringing dramatic stage presentation familiarity to the table has been an important contribution from the 28 year old Norman native. In other bands Carter has developed a reputation for lively stage presence when playing usually bass guitar. That’s given somewhat of a rest in SK Love. “There’s been a learning curve for us both and at times we’ve thought the project might be too ambitious,” Carter said. “We’ve stuck with it and the performances done so far have had a great response from the audience.”
If You Go
What: SK Love performing the first installment of their rock opera trilogy, with opening band Feathered Rabbit.
Where: HiLo Club, 1221 NW 50th, Oklahoma City.
When: Sat. July 5, 10 p.m.
Danielle Tipton collaborated with Ben Carter on SK Love's music and lyrics.