A lot of bands work on their live performance before recording an album, but few are as deliberate about it as the Suicide Dolls.
The New London trio last month released “Prayers in Parking Lots,” its full-length debut — just in time for the group’s 10th anniversary this year.
“We’ve been chipping away for a long time, and I think we’re at a point now where we’ve never sounded this good,” bassist and singer Michelle Montavon says over coffee at Mohegan Sun.
Ten years doesn’t fully tell the story. Montavon and guitarist and singer Brian James Albano, both 38 and a couple since they were 15, started playing music together in 1994. They played in a succession of improvisational noise bands on the East Coast and in the Midwest, before a longing for musical structure prompted the pair to overhaul their approach.
“In the ’90s, we wanted to play this noise that when you listened to it, it was hard for your mind to conceptualize and focus on what was going on,” Albano says. “But then I wanted catchy, because I love catchy songs, too.”
Forming the Suicide Dolls in 2002 marked the start of their effort to fuse noise with structure in a way that acknowledged their influences, including the Jesus Lizard, Dinosaur Jr. and the Pixies, without sounding too much like any of them.
Although the group had made a handful of rough demo recordings over the years — good for posting online and getting gigs, the band says — and released an EP, Albano, Montavon and a rotation of drummers spent more time on stage than in a studio, honing their sound by performing show after show. In 2010, with seminal drummer Matt Covey, 30, back in the band after a two-year absence, the musicians started feeling like they were finally ready for the next step.
“We were no longer putting on the I’m-in-a-band hat and playing the role of it,” Albano says. “Around 2010 it became genuine. We became more like ourselves onstage, and our life off-stage became not our life anymore. We’ve really become genuinely our sound.”
With nearly a decade’s worth of music to document, the Suicide Dolls booked themselves into Q Division Studios near Boston and spent just four days recording the 12 songs on “Prayers in Parking Lots.” It’s a confident album with a big, bristling sound: Montavon’s basslines charge along in lockstep with Covey’s pounding drums, while Albano delivers tough guitar riffs that seethe with tension.
The lyrics, though oblique enough for listeners to impart their own meanings, often address subjects drawn from the musicians’ lives, and New London itself is a recurring character, by turns charming and seedy.
“It’s weird how the location where we grew up actually seriously filters into the music,” Montavon says. “It’s a weird place. I call it the vortex. I’ve lived in a lot of different places. Providence, Chicago, Woodstock, NY; we kind of went all over in the ’90s. Apart from the fact that we have family here, there’s just something about New London.”
Although the album represents only some of the material the band has written, the musicians say it’s representative of their evolution.
“It’s got some of the first songs we wrote in 2002,” Montavon says. “It’s really where we were, where we are and where we’re headed.”
For now, they’re headed back to the road. The band already plays frequently in New York, and has lately made inroads in the insular Boston scene. With a powerful new album in hand, the Suicide Dolls hope they can find a label to sign with and get some help with the business end of making music.
“A lot of bands, it’s become a sprint,” Albano says. “We’ve been on a marathon, we’ve been living this music. Now, as we’re starting to really get some traction, we’re planning on smashing our way in.”