The Witchiness and Raw Energy of Magneta Lane

Magneta Lane

Toronto trio Magneta Lane are a pastiche of music history’s most badass ladies, both sonically and sartorially.  At times they sound like a Warped Tour take on Debbie Harry and Blondie.  At others, they’re sounding slightly more superficially satanic and are far more reminiscent of Ozzfesty vixens, like Drain STH (… Remember them?  I wonder if Magneta Lane does…)  And then they’re pumping out punkly theatrical jams in the vein of Jack Off Jill or theSTART… There’s even a bit of Alternative Nation/Lollapalooza’s second-stage heroine-ism in there.  They essentially resemble all of these things rolled into one, as well… Actually they look a little more like mod femme fatales who could actually hold their own in the most honky-tonk bar for shitkickers…

Magneta Lane began a decade ago, with sisters guitarist/vocalist Lexi Valentine and drummer Nadia King, along with bassist French, who were all in their mid-teens.  Between 2004 and 2009 they released an EP and two full-lengths.  They gained quite a bit of critical acclaim… that they felt was primarily indebted to simply being hot young girls who happened to be able to rock… which was not exactly what they had hoped for… They took a few years off, but Rick Jackett and James Black of Finger Eleven convinced them that they really were a musical force that needed to be reckoned with.  Since then the band recorded their Witchrock EP, which dropped earlier this fall.  The album was inspired by the history of “witchiness,” that is to say, transgressive brands of femininity whose appeal is largely in its ability to intimidate… or scare… It’s quite badass.

The women of Magneta Lane are about to start a very short run of US dates, beginning December 10th in Boston and concluding December 14th at our very own Kung Fu Necktie.  Frontwoman Lexi Valentine recently took some time to chat with me about their latest output and what can be expected of the power trio.  When she first picks up the phone she’s in a playfully and existentially frustrated mood. “I actually just drove through the most terrible Toronto traffic, so for the past hour I’ve just been like on the verge of screaming at people,” she tells me, laughing.  But once we “get down to business,” she admits that the public’s perceptions of Magneta Lane are very rarely considered by the three, themselves.

“We don’t think too much about what we’re doing.  It’s not so contrived.  Like, we don’t sit around saying, ‘As three females in a band…’ We’re three best friends that just enjoy playing live together and recording music together.”

I ask Lexi about their latest, Witchrock, and she admits that it is a bit of a culmination of the band’s history.

“It’s definitely an evolution in our sound.  We wanted to explore songs with different dynamics.  We wanted to focus on more vocal melodies.  We’ve always had choruses that you can sing-along to, but we wanted to make the vocals seem more dynamic.”

When asked about Magneta Lane’s actual influences, as opposed to the comparisons us critics draw, Lexi Valentine tells me, “I’ve always been more a fan of punk rock music.  I mean, obviously the riot grrrl scene was largely influential to us and, I mean, it’s not like we could ever be anything that amazing, but listening to those bands is what made us pick up guitars.”  Upon this admission, I playfully offer, “Well, it’s not like anyone could ever be as amazing as Bratmobile.”  She laughs in whole-hearted agreement…

I’m curious about Lexi’s take on how females are perceived in the world of “the arts,” which, despite being something Magneta Lane avoids focusing on, seems always forced to address.  She tells me that she feels like it’s actually finally a reasonably comfortable time to be a female in the industry: “A lot of female artists are starting to speak up about some of the difficulties of being a woman in the industry.  I never want to be whiney, but there really are practical issues that tend to arise and I’m really into artists like Chvrches and Grimes, who are [or include] females who are not only talented, but also really intelligent.”

In addition to femaleness and femininity, Lexi Valentine and Magneta Lane are actively interested in inspiring youth generations to question the norms of society that they’re so arbitrarily flung into: “I just think boys and girls need to be able to look at something and decide whether it makes them feel comfortable.  Sexuality is being exploited in a certain way, where it’s not even necessary for these artists to sell themselves.  I just want to tell young people, ‘Don’t buy into what you’re told you have to do. It’s bullshit.’”

As much as I love Lexi Valentine’s high-minded discussion of youth culture and subversive brands of femininity, I also appreciate her take on the primal Rock’N’Roll anti-spectacle.  When I ask her what can be expected of her upcoming Philthy gig she tells me, “Just straight-up raw energy.  I just want people to release all those demons that they’ve built up all week, whether it be from being in traffic or being at work.”

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.