Montreal Gazette FRONT PAGE feat
"Magnetics Compass" by firstname.lastname@example.org
There was a touch of nostalgia in the air on Monday when Lorraine Muller, frontperson and lead vocalist of Lo and the Magnetics - accompanied by the group's keyboard and sax player, Dan Meier - showed up at The Gazette wearing a Kingpins T-shirt.
During the Kingpins' 10-year ride, Muller sang and played sax for the legendary local ska-rockers. When they broke up two years ago, she was the only original Kingpin left in the lineup.
During the decade of the Kingpins, Muller became one of the Montreal music scene's cult heroes. "With the Planet Smashers, we took Montreal by storm," she said. "There seems to have been a void just waiting for something, and
we just came right into it. It was beautiful. It was perfect timing and perfect chemistry between the audience and us. Everybody seemed to have a taste for that kind of music. We created a really wonderful, vibrant ska scene here in Montreal."
The group's pop side had gently and gradually overpowered its ska foundation by the time the final Kingpins release, Plan of Action, came out in 2000. As a result, it segues smoothly into the exquisite hook-filled songs on Lo and the Magnetics' 2004 debut album, A Part. Both discs would be right down the alley of any New Wave child who was weaned on Blondie, early Elvis Costello, the Police and the English Beat.
In fact, the Kingpins name was still being used up to the mastering stage of the Magnetics album, Muller said.
"People should be nostalgic for the Kingpins," she said. "I have a love and respect for everything we ever did. But it was time to admit that these four guys playing in a band with me were not the Kingpins. I wanted to tell the musicians involved in creating Lo and the Magnetics that they're a band - something special. The music dictated the change."
The group - Muller, Meier, bassist and co-producer Mitch Girio, guitarist Chris Raz and drummer Mike G - recently released a remastered version of A Part, with dramatic sound improvement, and wrapped its first video, for Pull it all Apart.
Meier was hired in 2002 for a Kingpins tour of Europe and Canada. He was on board when the new formation played a free concert - as the Kingpins - the following year, rocking a Montreal International Jazz Festival crowd estimated at 30,000 or more.
"The new band members were playing in somebody else's shoes, with a very strong identity that we had to fit," Meier said. "But we were encouraged to express our own personalities, and it seemed obvious that something had changed." That musical evolution needed to be recognized, Muller said.
Ska's distinctive off-the-beat shuffle - the hyperactive father of rocksteady and reggae - can still be heard in most Lo and the Magnetics songs, but no veteran scenester skanking on the dance floor could have anticipated the string section that wraps around Muller's voice in Come on, Bring it Home. This could be merely the beginning.
According to Meier, songs are still being rearranged in live Magnetics shows. "We do have ska elements, but in the same way that the Police had ska elements," he said. "It's getting more and more pop - in a British way. Here, pop doesn't have the same connotations as in Europe. It can be a bit negative. But for me, pop is very positive. The Beatles are pop - and if that's pop, I don't mind being pop."
Staying open to change is nothing new to Muller - it goes back to the Kingpins' early days. "We always wanted to try different things. We started out doing Two Tone-flavoured music," she said, referring to the label that launched a new generation of British ska-rockers as the 1970s became the 1980s. "Then we got into the surfy '60s, (James) Bond-y kind of garage. And in 1997, we started playing more traditional ska, with covers, and it became part of our style. We started to have our own voice."
FULL STORY AVAILABLE ON MAGNETICS OFFICIAL WEBSITE www.loandthemagnetics.com
Live Review / Interview
After ten years of being one of Canada’s most accomplished ska bands, the Kingpins have undergone what some may call an extreme makeover. In the past decade, the last standing original Kingpin, lead vocalist Lorraine Muller, has seen many band members come and go. The sad goodbyes finally ended in 2002, when the revolving door was locked shut and members finally settled into their positions.
After three years of performing together as the Kingpins, Mike Gasselsdorfer (drums), Mitch Girio (bass guitar), Chris Raz (guitar), Dan Meier (keys) and Lorraine Muller (vocals and baritone sax) eventually succumbed to the natural evolution of their music, renaming themselves Lo and the Magnetics.
“I had been thinking of renaming the band since 2000, when the last original member left, but it never felt right. I just had to feel comfortable with the change, I had to be ready to do it,” explained Muller.
Ready or not, she was about to venture into the unknown, though not alone. “Ska is obviously each of our comfort zones, but we also realized that comfort can kill you,” said Raz. “Sometimes you just need to step out of the familiar and try out new styles. We got to this point where it became ‘this is what the Kingpins are’ and we wouldn’t allow ourselves to go anywhere else.”
The transition wasn’t easy for anyone; however, with full support from each of the members, Muller felt the time had come. “It was a natural progression. We had matured, our sound matured.”
The band’s first album, A Part, reflects this maturation not only in its sound but lyrically as well. Muller has become more introspective in her writing style, a challenging effort that required her to be more courageous. “I was much more reluctant to get so personal.”
The album, a collection of eclectic sounds and reflective lyrics, will not be mistaken for a Kingpins album, but rest assured that the ska flavorings are still recognizable. “The album is more varied in terms of sounds, but that is what happens with a new band. It's our first album so there is not going to be one definite sound, but there will be the obvious influences,” explained Gasselsdorfer.
After the album was released in late fall of last year, the band went on to tour Europe for several weeks. “We went there first to test out the songs -- perfect them for the shows we have back home,” said Gasselsdorfer.
That may have been why they went, but they came back with so much more.
“We realized on that tour that something had changed. The chemistry was different, stronger. The other tours were always about us learning songs that weren’t ours,” said Raz.
“This tour was just about the music, about catering to the ears, not to the fans,” added Gasselsdorfer.
The obvious abandonment of past inhibitions, and reliance on one another as musicians, has allowed the band to finally come into their own.
At 8:45 p.m., in the “backstage” area of Café Campus, I wrapped up my interview as the band got ready to perform. “There is always more pressure to perform in Montreal. There are family and friends, whose opinions you really care about,” said Muller in a stressed tone. The opening act should have been hitting the stage any minute, but instead had just walked in the door.
Muller didn’t seem too worried though. “I consider it good luck. Every time something bad happens beforehand, I end up having a great show!”
Whether you believe in superstitions or not, Muller was right. They could not have asked for the show to go any better. Each song was played to perfection, even those that were performed differently than their recordings. The crowd was on their feet in no time, and though it was the official CD launch, most people were singing along to all the words as though the songs had already become personal classics. The newfound chemistry of the band members was evident and emanated from their performance. If this was any sign of what is to come, Lo and the Magnetics should have no problems pulling in the fans.
Montreal Gazette - CD Review
Out of the embers of The Kingpins, Lo and the Magnetics rise to represent the Montreal ska scene with style and substance. Pretty pop and new wave influences abound, as lead vocalist Lorraine Muller crafts clever ditties that will put a skip in your step and leave a song or two stuck in your head.
UK printed CD review
Formerly of Canada's The Kinpgins, Lorraine's latest outing is with her new act The Magnetics, and any fans of her previous band - or indeed new punters - will be pleased to know, she's still makes some cracking ska records. Kicking off with Insult & Battery the tempo continues to flow with Fool on Impact, the first of a few songs that musically at least remind me of early Madness album tracks with their arrangement, which is a compliment - honest! Interspersed with a few abstract 'tunes' there are 17 original tracks on here, of which it must be said it's hard to pick a favourite. Pull it All Apart is another well-written tune which like many on here benefits from great lyrics, Top 5 a bit of a foot tapper, Never Let You Down picking up the pace even further and possibly contradicting the 'ska-pop' moniker I was about to bestow this album. That's another compliment by the way, one which judging by the success Lo has had in her native Canada and even mainland Europe she will appreciate. Sadly the UK ska scene is such that this album, distributed in Europe by Grover Records of Germany, may take some tracking down, but when you do I think you'll like it. What taking ska into the mainstream could be like if only the majors had balls.
CD Review - Nightlife Magazine
Former Kingpins Lorraine Muller has revamped her ska-pop quintet and has reinvented them to great effect! Every one of these seventeen tracks is a blast and is stay-in-your-head catchy. An element of traditional ska is still apparent, however the direction is a fusion of 60’s garage and pop with a hardcore injection of new wave. Ultimately the sound has been feminised and it really, really works! Some of the magic can be attributed to legendary producer Mitch Gírio of King Apparatus fame, but the credit mainly goes to the sheer song writing talent of Muller.
Chart Magazine - Concert Review
STILL KINGS: Lo And The Magnetics are off to a great start with A Part, their first post-Kingpins album, now with half the ska. Under their new guise, the quintet’s more open-ended sound combines The Kingpins’ latter-day new wave direction with infusions of jazz, dub and ballroom balladry, which is where their set began.Grand entrances are rare in indie rock, but for their first proper hometown gig, Lo And The Magnetics (and a guest string quartet) assumed their positions backlit, with an imposing ambient soundtrack rumbling out of the PA. Singer Lorraine "Lo" Muller appeared last, evoking David Lynch’s star chanteuse Julee Cruise with her platinum hair, cherry-red Chinese dress, blue backdrop and a melancholy tune called "Come On Bring It Home," a dramatic intro heightened all the more by a halo of swirling lights.The pace picked up quick with "Sooner Of Later," bringing the skankers to the dancefloor. Recalling the likes of Elvis Costello, The English Beat and Blondie — the resemblance between Muller and Debbie Harry doesn’t end at hair colour — the band’s lively and amicable stage presence, not to mention rock-solid sound and lighting, made the show a hit from top to bottom. From knees-up ska-pop ditties like "Insult And Battery" to sleek, urban stoner jams like "Out" to a cover of Indochine’s pop masterpiece "L’Aventurier" (the only number from the Kingpins era) to the synth-pop pulse of "Tachée," the band continues to surprise. By show’s end, if not right from the start, the gratitude Muller expressed to the crowd "for trying something new" was most certainly reciprocated.
CD Review - Montreal Mirror
The classic clean break - this is effectively the Kingpins, or rather, where last remaining original Kingpin Lorraine Muller, saxophonist and exceptional singer, had been taking what was once Montreal's premier roots-ska band. Leaving the name, the Stomp Records nest and the old-school style behind, Muller strikes a balance between the refined, high-end ska-pop of the English Beat and the cushy, emotive new wave of Indochine. The latter is particularly evident on the French-language track "Tachée." There is one sweet nod to the classic Jamaican sound on "Shipwrecked Heart," but this is largely an eminently '80s effort. In this particular case, I mean that as a compliment. 8.5/10
Webzine CD Review
For the longest time there had been no news out of The Kingpins camp. Then the band came to town and announced they were breaking up....which really meant ditching The Kingpins moniker and coming back as Lo and the Magnetics. Their debut album has dropped and I can't begin to tell you how stellar it is. Think Elvis Costello during the "Get Happy" era with a female vocalist. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that I enjoy this new incarnation ten times better than I ever liked the Kingpins....and I loved the Kingpins...Mitch Girio wrote the majority of the album and some old faves are here as well as some kickin' new tracks. Standout songs : Insult and Battery, Fool On Impact, This Town's Unbearable, Party Of One, Shipwrecked Heart, Never Let You Down. Besides the stellar track listing the production is super solid. I can't put it better than simply saying the album sounds cool. A must have. Really....change your Christmas lists and add this disc...you'll thank me for it.