I can’t speak Spanish, but if I could, I’m positive I would have seen this coming. It’s a blinding Sunday morning and I just realized Milkanette Ramos, the tightly coiled, take-no-shit frontwoman of bilingual fivesome Milka – and my interview subject at the moment – has nearly lost her voice. “I went to the Junkie Rush concert last night and destroyed my throat with cigarettes and yelling,” she explains in hushed tones. “My voice is gone.” I recall “Reza por Mi,” a playful, Spanish-language lark off the group’s new album, The Morning After, and wonder if the title translates to something like, “I don’t have to tell you a thing.”
For years, Ramos and the band have challenged audiences with their blend of pounding, Latin-infused metal and the wounded strength of Ramos’ defensive lyrics. Milka’s live sets play like a detonation at the multiple personalities factory: one moment sultry, Ramos’ hips swaying as she whispers, “It might be the midnight sky engraved in your skin where my fingers fly”; the next moment fierce, a guttural scream accompanied by a middle finger and a smile.
Raised by her mother after her parents divorced, Ramos credits a “great childhood” with her confidence onstage. “My mamita always made us work really hard,” she remembers. “She always said, ‘There’s a big difference between patience and tolerance. Don’t tolerate shit.’ She made the best out of the worst situation.”
The early lessons prepared Ramos to record Milka’s first album, Fire in the Sky, in 2002. Although Milka boasts an accessible sound with undeniably catchy hooks and a lush, layered texture, they were hardly embraced as Orlando’s Next Big … anything. “I think it’s difficult to be an artist in Orlando, period,” shrugs Ramos. “No matter who you are. I had a lot of fun here, and met some wonderful people, but I feel it’s time to move on.” She drops this depressing bomb in an oddly endearing way, in much the same way Milka will break up a melodic intro with crashing cymbals and chunky guitar. It’s as if the band specializes in cold-water wake-up calls. “[I have] no plans to move … yet,” continues Ramos. “Just the incredible desire.” She mentions New York fondly. “That would make me saucy!”
Wanderlust aside, Ramos already has her mind on the next show. She has little interest in representing herself as a “female artist” – or in the baggage included with that label – or even a “local musician.” She’s simply an artist, preferably one near the stage at all times.
“It’s funny, ’cause I have bad social anxiety, but all of my insecurities and fears vanish onstage,” says Ramos. “I get anxious and I can’t wait to play. Then I run to my place, ’cause I’m afraid of people. Unless you’re a hot broad.”[email protected]