I have known Donna Milikin for a long time, I don’t think we ever actually met but in my circle of musician friends she has been a fixture on the scene forever. I remember she always came out and supported local artists performing, her love for music and the people who make it is well known and highly respected. Somewhere along the way she met and married Andrew Milikin and together they have forged their own sound in Bona Lisa. Considering most bands often find it hard to get along and hold it together, the fact that this husband and wife team have not only thrived but grown stronger and consistently put out better material with each release is amazing.
It was a pleasure to put this showcase together, my thanks to Donna for having everything easily obtainable and so well organized. Bona Lisa is a bright spot in our state’s musical tapestry and history, simply put, Andrew and Donna are a musical force working in tandem.
Bio (Provided by Donna Milikin)
The band’s name brings up all kinds of questions and images. Who is Lisa? Is she the singer? Is it the state of being exactly as claims or appearances indicate? Or is it a Sophomoric tongue-in-cheek phrase? In this case, Bona Lisa is a female fronted, fist-pumping, kick ass, straight-up hard rock/heavy metal band with high end vocals and crunchy guitars from Columbia, South Carolina, United States of America. It was founded by a hard-playing husband & wife rock-n-roll tag team, with Andrew Milikin on guitars and backing vocals and Donna Milikin on lead vocals. As an aside, a funny story about the band name origin is that Andrew Milikin purchased a skeleton Mona Lisa t-shirt from a punk rock boutique next to a club that he was playing that night. He jokingly brought it up as “Bona Lisa” when the band was brainstorming for a band name. Everyone laughed about the double-entendre but liked it.
Performing together in various cover projects since 2009, Andrew and Donna Milikin believe that a family that plays together stays together. It was only after the encouragement from a friend in 2011 that Bona Lisa began to perform their own music. Over the next several years, Donna and Andrew began working on songs and rehearsing in preparation for their maiden voyage into the recording realm. They recruited drummer Darrin Butler and bassist Mike Risa to record and support the new songs. Andrew prefers to make the band self-sufficient, so all the money earned from blood, sweat and gigs paid for the expense of their self-title debut CD, Bona Lisa. It was recorded at the Jam Room Studios in Columbia, SC and finally released in April of 2017. Upon the release, the band performed as many shows as possible in the Columbia and surrounding areas. During this time, various writers of The Free-Times described our sound and style as “vintage-styled hard rock in the vein of the Heartbreakers and KISS”, “fist pumping mash-up of those old guitar gods – Jimmy Page, Slash, Paul Stanley”, “Dr. Feelgood – style hard rock”, “Sunset Strip Rock”, and one even asked the question, “Is it still cock rock with a woman out front?”
The band pushed forward, with a few casualties along the way, i.e. lost band members. As anyone in the music industry knows, it is extremely hard to hold a band together. So, they evolved. With a shortage of musicians in the area, a few fill-ins were hired to keep things moving along. Drummer Darrin Butler, bassist Dale Raszewski, and guitarist/bassist Wayne “Crash” Andrews helped until new members were located.
With the new rhythm section added in late 2018, the band started rehearsing the new songs for performance and studio recording. Bona Lisa performed in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida venues.
The new members were onboard with adding more “show quality” to the show, i.e. lighting effects, fog, etc. Andrew has always been the King of Tone and Donna hand painted hats and created a partial mask and augmented costume to her stage presence.
Bona Lisa began recording their second CD in the winter of 2018 at Sugar Recording Studio in Lexington, SC. Engineered by Donnie Scearce, the tracks were finished by June of 2019. All band members were pleased with their parts and they were all very excited. The Band chose Dave Harris at Studio B Mastering in Charlotte, NC to master the project in July 2019.
Once that was finished, the bottom dropped out with a band member’s decision to join another band and although it was done honorably, the timing was a huge blow to the Bona Lisa camp. Then the next day the other member became incommunicado! Bona Lisa had a brand-new CD, fresh from being mastered, but no CD artwork, not yet pressed and not yet released, and not sure what to do… should they re-record? Should they ditch the project? So, they did nothing …for months…
They decided to basically brand the band as just themselves… so they picked some artwork for the cover, picked themselves up and dusted off and focused on what they love!
CD – Give It All You Got – was pressed on February 15, 2020 and released April 2020 on Bandcamp.com. Then they called on their friends that fill–in when needed: drummers, Darrin Butler and in the alternate Adam Shealy, and guitar/bassist Wayne Crash Andrews who joined in support of the newly pressed CD. It really is no joke when they say that they have had the help of a small army of talented fellow musicians and friends to do this. Just as things were looking up and 2020 seemed to be ready to kick into high gear ……. The world is hit with COVID19! ALL SHOWS are cancelled and the World Stands Still!
Need I say more? But fear not, this is not the end, with all the trials and tribulations, they have been through and persevered they would not be stopped because the ROCK NEVER STOPS.
On June 22, 2020, SLEAZE ROXX writer, wrote of Bona Lisa’s latest release “Give It All You Got is five tunes of greatly missed, melodic hard rock played by humans and filled with tasty guitar and aggressively powerful yet understandable vocals….loaded with all the headbanging riffs fans of early 80’s metal hunger for and vocals that even the most discriminating of metal fans would eat up.”
With Andrew’s tone and crunchy guitars, Richard’s pro percussion skills, Devin’s foot work while playing some tasty riffs on the bass, and Donna’s power packed high energy vocals, you are not going to want to miss what they do next. Writing …. recording…. performing…. stay tuned!
At this writing, Bona Lisa are still rehearsing and writing with rejoined member Boogie, (Roland Mitchum), on drums and new members Joel Hilley (FACE) on bass and second guitarist sharing leads, Michal Kalwajtys. We are always ready to play shows and are working on new songs!
Donna Milikin – Lead Vocals
Andrew Milikin – Lead Guitars, Vocals
Michal Kalwajtys – Guitars
Joel Hilley (FACE) – Bass
Boogie (Roland Mitchum) – Drums
Mike Risa – Bass
Devin French – Bass
Darrin Butler – Drums
Richard Hudson – Drums