Published in the Fall 2004 issue • Arts
It took fewer than 10 shows for Magneta Lane to get signed. How do you top that?
Magneta Lane travel in a pack.
Up-and-coming indie rockers Lexi Valentine, Nadia King and French walk into Toronto’s Silver Dollar club, where I tell them I want to interview them for Shameless.
“Okay, but you can’t ask us what our musical influences are,” an exasperated Lexi says.
Maybe she doesn’t want people drawing comparisons between her band and a slew of famous ones, or maybe she’s just done too many interviews this summer, but musical influences are the least interesting thing about Magneta Lane.
The real question is, how did three young women who barely know how to play their instruments get signed to a record label and end up being compared to The Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in the first place?
See their live show and the answer becomes obvious: Lexi, French and Nadia are inches away from being as good as the bands at the top of the garage rock scene.
On the day of our interview, they’re travelling in a pack again.
“We’re our only friends,” French jokes.
Their debut album, The Constant Lover, was released in September on Paper Bag Records, the Toronto-based label of the Stars, controller.controller and the Fembots.
Signing to a major indie label is usually the kind of thing that happens after a band has established a reputation and has nailed a polished performance. Magneta Lane was signed to Paper Bag after playing fewer than 10 shows.
“We don’t even know how that happened,” Lexi says of the past few months, which have been a bit of a blur for the band. “Everything’s changed a lot. We didn’t know how to play our instruments when we started. Well, we still kind of don’t.”
The signing resulted from a chance encounter with Paper Bag shortly after they started playing live shows. The heads of Paper Bag saw a November 2003 show Magneta Lane played at the Silver Dollar. Though they had come to see another band on the bill, Paper Bag wanted to sign Magneta Lane. A deal was inked a few months later.
“I like how there was nothing else like them in Toronto,” says Paper Bag’s Trevor Larocque. “We’re looking for originality. They’re a perfect fit for an indie label. Their music is simple but catchy.”
But sealing the deal wasn’t simple.
For three 19-year-olds, the prospect of music industry success after barely two months of playing together seemed far-fetched, especially to Lexi.
“I have some major trust issues,” she says. “I remember sitting down with one eye open saying, ‘What’s this all about?’ I always tend to think when good things are happening, there’s always something bad to go along with it.”
In the end, they nervously handed their careers over to the music executives. To their surprise, things started happening.
Most surprising was an offer for the band to model Bluenotes jeans in a series of print ads. “You mean, how we sold our souls?” French says sarcastically when asked about the deal.
“You know, I’m so sick and tired of all these people saying, ‘I’m in it for the music, I don’t care if I have to scrape my rent together every month,’” Lexi says. “It’s bullshit. You want to be famous, you want to make money.”
And to get there, Magneta Lane is more focused on practicing for upcoming shows than the hype that is building around them.
“Never go into anything with high expectations,” Lexi says. “That’s when you get screwed. We don’t know if people like us or hate us, but we don’t care.”
“That’s pessimistic,” French shoots back.
“Well, it’s true.”
Pessimism aside, the future looks bright for Magneta Lane. Their album release was followed by touring and an appearance at the prestigious Pop Montreal festival. Not bad for three girls who took a year off after high school to see where music could take them.
“We’re constantly setting goals for ourselves,” Lexi says. “We want to see the world. Who knows if it’ll happen? If the opportunities come around, that’s great.