Music Interview: Feminism lives near Magneta Lane

By Kyle Francis

Somewhere back in the memory of music, some record executive got the bright idea to mass-produce Barbie dolls catering to the ever-deteriorating self-esteem of twelve year old girls and their parents’ pocketbooks. Not a bad idea if your goal is to sell sex first and music second, but many music enthusiasts have given MuchMusic a skip over the past five or six years, fearing their television may catch gonorrhea from flipping through Brittany Spears and her plethora of clones. Girl rockers like The Donnas, Le Tigre and Sleater-Kinney refreshingly counter this norm, but some argue they rely too much upon their “girl status” rather than their killer sounds to sell records.

Despite the welcome change in the musical community’s perspective on women offered by the aforementioned bands, they remain few and far between, and their relatively small fan bases consist of but a few dedicated members. Hot out of Toronto, alt/garage/punk trio Magneta Lane hopes to break this mold, as well as the eardrums of all who dare listen by striving to deliver a unique sound and a message more positive than the bubble-gum pop sex dolls–Magneta Lane wants to be noticed for their music, not their looks.

“There’s two sides to [being a woman in the rock and roll industry],” muses French, the curvaceous bassist of Magneta Lane. “People treat us differently, but it’s only bad sometimes. There are a lot of assumptions made that are kind of annoying, but other times, people are a little too nice. Like, our record label will sometimes hide bad reviews from us, because they think they’ll hurt our feelings or something.”

Not wanting to share a niche with The Donnas and their ilk, Magneta Lane strives to simply “make music” rather than making “girl music.” Despite a web site decorated by highlights and markers surprisingly looking a lot like pink lipstick, Magneta Lane claims they try to stay away from using their gender as a gimmick to sell their music.

“[In] art in general, but music especially, women tend to concentrate too much on the fact that they’re women,” explains French, “In that way, we’re trying to be different from other girl bands.”

Just exactly how Magneta Lane plans to be “different” remains to be seen, as their high energy rock is easily recognizable, yet offers nothing new when compared to other female rock groups. Releasing their album on vinyl as well as the usual plastic seems to be a step in this direction, but is superficial at best. Despite these holes in their ideology, Magneta Lane still cooks up some quality music, even if it’s something we’ve all heard.

Messages and gender politics aside, Magneta Lane is a rock band and their agenda is to make rock music. With a high-energy, garage sound and slightly atypical lyrics, the Lane girls flaunt their obvious Kinks, Sonic Youth and Velvet Underground influences. Despite their lighthearted approach to the business, the story of Magneta Lane has been anything but ponies and flowers. Getting recognized for playing indie-rock anywhere can be a veritable undertaking, but coming up in a large city like Toronto can be that much worse.

“In the [Toronto] indie-rock scene, everyone has their own sound, but it’s a little elitist–sort of like a cool-kids club,” sighs French. “We hope we weren’t like that.”

All the other elitist rock douches back in Toronto do whatever undiscovered indie-rockers do, but Magneta Lane is out touring in support of a CD and a limited edition vinyl LP and it appears separating themselves from that crowd was a prudent decision.

Since record labels began manufacturing plastic-princesses, the behemoth that is mainstream music has played unwilling host to a voracious horde of cookie-cutter music videos, nausea-inducing clothing lines and belly button rings on minors.

Although Magneta Lane doesn’t push the envelope right off the table, they manage to make some damn good rock, remaining a refreshing exception from the rule of synth pop mediocrity.

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