When Ramona front woman Karen Anne was 17, she made a bold move not unfamiliar in the realm of budding singer-songwriters: She dropped out of high school and moved to the city—in this case, London—to pursue her dream of making music for a living. “I was really naive,” says the 28-year-old waifish beauty, who grew up in the seaside locale of Brighton. “My mom passed away when I was 19, and I spent years doing anything just to make money. I ended up waitressing in a club, doing a lot of stuff early on for no money—I was a terrible server.” Nine years later—after untold spilled drinks (a semi-famous ’80s pop star once called her “the worst waitress ever”), undocumented days spent writing in her shared flat (“in the studio all day and working all night”), and the development of a deep devotion to Lou Reed (“I got really into the whole New York ’70s punk scene”)—Anne moved back in with her father, broke and depressed. “It got to this point where I was like, ‘Fuck. Where’s my life going?’ ” she recalls. “But then I went out a couple nights and I met my boys.” The boys—bassist James Watts, drummer Fred West, and new guitarist Craig Simpson—provide the backbone of Anne’s radio-friendly punk group, Ramona, which was formed in August 2009 and signed to Columbia before the year’s end. The quartet play Ramones-style, threadbare rock ’n’ roll—led by Anne’s sweet, raspy vocals and lyrics that tread the time-honored subjects of love, rebellion, and the desire to break free. “All of our songs are just about life and people,” says Anne. “They deal with that time in your early 20s when you’re trying to figure out how to live and escape your life—where you’re going next.” Next up for Anne, who also models and appeared in Burberry’s Spring-Summer 2011 campaign, is the release of Ramona’s self-titled debut album, out in January. “The funny thing is, after years of struggling, it was actually quite easy to put a band together,” says Anne. “I just needed to move back home.”

Click here to listen to tracks from Ramona.