Prowling power pop with Pet Tigers

And now for a little advice on how to properly rock a keytar, the spork of musical instruments.

“You can’t take yourself too seriously,” notes Lizzy Minx, speaking from experience. “It’s a really cheesy instrument, you have to say. It takes a special person to play it.”

Minx carries on this proud tradition, from Jan Hammer to Herbie Hancock to various dudes in Asia and Dream Theater, as the frontwoman for Vegas power pop trio Pet Tigers.

The band’s sound is rooted in ’80s New Wave, as Minx’s instrument of choice might suggest, but it’s not confined to the days when Missing Persons could still be spotted on magazine covers.

Bassist Ryan Arcoraci grew up playing in punk bands in the Buffalo, N.Y., area, where he’s originally from. He brings a straight-ahead, time-to-get-down-to-business energy to the band.

Add some surf flourishes, a touch of hairspray, and here the Pet Tigers come, clawing at convention.

“Just let me by myself,” Minx sings on “You Don’t Own Me” from the band’s delirious self-titled debut, released Tuesday. Her words serve as the band’s operating principle.

At times the trio sounds like a femme Devo (“Yeah!”), at others, they become dance-floor cheerleaders (“See Me Now”) with Minx’s commanding, woman-in-charge vocals high-stepping over a motorlike electronic pulse.

Call it New, New Wave.

The idea for the band, which is playing at Backstage Bar and Billiards Thursday night, can be traced back to Arcoraci, who initially wanted to put together a project consisting solely of drums and bass.

“I really wanted to experiment and do something totally out-there,” he says, hanging with his bandmates at a Starbucks on a recent Tuesday evening. “Whether it was going to be good or bad, I just wanted to do it.”

But then he met up with Minx, and after later recruiting drummer Jesse Moran, they hit upon their distinct, candy-coated sound, earning them a deal with Vegas’ SquidHat Records.

Almost as finely honed as the band’s tunes is its presentation.

They’re all nattily attired fashion plates, Minx in particular, who dons custom-made dresses designed by Gypsy Den owner Katie Cewe when onstage.

If Pet Tigers don’t really sound like other Vegas bands, they don’t look like them either.

“You have to look like you care,” Minx says, “and we all care.

“We’re not trying to be poseurs or anything. We love playing music,” she adds, “but we want to do it with a little style.”

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow on Twitter @JasonBracelin.

Find more on Las Vegas’ music scene at bestoflasvegas.com.