Lexi Valentine is scared. Not of spiders or smugglers or Bill O'Reilly but of expectations. Truthfully, this "fear" isn't fear at allórather, it's a seasonable blend of gratitude, confusion and uncertainty.
As the vocalist/guitarist for Toronto buzz mavens Magneta Lane, she's seen her basement band thrust into the membrane of the mainstream in a mere matter of months. Their debut EP The Constant Lover was released in October of 2004 and has already positioned the trio as the city's "next big thang". Hard-backed critics and swooning fanboys alike have practically been disemboweling each other in praise of the band, and the attention has the ladies of Magneta Lane a bit leery.
"It's scary in a lot of ways," says Valentine by phone, from her parent's North York pad. It's two days after Christmas, 2004 and Valentine is in full reflection mode. "With so much attention off the one EP, it seems like the future of this band is already under a microscope. There's a certain amount of pressure to fulfill that potential, I guess, even though we didn't start Magneta Lane to impress people. We started it to have to have fun and create the kind of music we enjoy."
Alongside bandmates French (bass) and Nadia King (drums), Magneta Lane play a hummable strand of rock and roll that wouldn't sound out of place alongside the Strokes, the Lemonheads and other purveyors of straight-forward, feel-good guitar goop. They formed in Toronto circa 2003, twiddling their untrained fingers around their instruments and letting the amps do the grunt work. It took a few months but they soon were embraced by the tastemakers at Shameless magazine and Paper Bag records. The rest, as the history teachers say, is history.
"Steven Himmelfarb was a great help to us early on," says Valentine with more than a hint of gratitude in her quaver. "He runs an indie label in Toronto called Permafrost Records and he also writes for Shameless magazine. He's friends with Nicole Cohen, who also writes for Shameless and the Toronto Star. It was actually something she wrote for the Star about female bands in Toronto that helped us out. We got in touch with her and she put us in touch with Steven, who started booking shows for us. At that time, we were having trouble getting gigs at the El Mocambo and some of the more well-known venues so it worked out really well."
She continues, "Enrique Soissa from Paper Bag was in the crowd for an early gig Steven booked for us with Uncut at the Silver Dollar. He liked our sound and we eventually signed with them. It's great because Paper Bag has a really good understanding of what their bands want and they allow you to be your own band. They give you that artistic freedom because they're fans of the music first."
That freedom and a choice distribution deal with Universal Music recently catapulted Magneta Lane all the way to New York City, where the trio played notorious punk squat CBGB's as part of October's CMJ Music Marathon. While the gig turned out to be something of a white elephant attendance-wise, Valentine hopes the experience will help brace the trio for the road wars to follow (Magneta Lane embark on their first cross-Canada tour this winter).
"New York was hard on us the first time around but we realize it's one of those places that you have to re-visit a bunch of times before you can start making new fans. I'm not going to lie to you; it wasn't a big crowd. But we did get to meet a lot of nice people from that experience and every person that sees you perform counts."
Magneta Lane will be playing the following Canadian dates in support of The Constant Lover:
January 13: Thunder Bay, ON, The Apollo
January 14: Winnipeg, MB, The Collective Cabrert
January 15: Saskatoon, SK, Louis Pub
January 19: Calgary, AB, Underground
January 20: Edmonton, AB, Likwid Lounge
January 22: Vancouver, BC, Picadilly
January 28: Sudbury, ON, Townhouse
February 1: Barrie, ON, The Foundation
February 5: Peterborough, ON, Trasheteria
February 13: Hamilton, ON, The Underground
February 18: Windsor, ON, Fog Lounge
February 19: London, ON, The Embassy
February 25: Toronto, ON, The Drake Hotel
March 4: Toronto, ON, Horseshoe Tavern (CMW Chart Magazine Party with Oliver Black)
For more information on Magneta Lane, please visit their official web site at: www.magnetalane.com
Writer: Cameron Gordon