Loud. Tough. Rude. Serious. Strong. Relatable. Sweet.
Believe it or not, but these words are all related to the Swedish band The Magnettes I had a chance to meet and see during Tallinn Music Week in 2018. It was a different experience as I saw them for a chat before the concert, rather than after, which was both kind of intimidating and interesting. Here are musicians who you look up to and admire, artists who are loud and strong and can come off scary, and then there are those who on top of that make you believe you are friends and have known each other for a long time. The Magnettes are perfect example of this.
The pop-punk-trio oozes self-confidence and power both during their soundcheck as well as when we finally sit down in the back room that seems to be craftier to their aesthetic. My first question flies straight out of my head and instead I want to know, if they have always been just as confident.
“Definitely – we haven’t always been confident. We are still insecure about a lot of things. I think the music that we write and perform, gives us confidence. Being the person who shares this message makes us confident. We are aggressive, but when we walk off the stage we are like “hi”.” The band demonstrates their nicest smiles and I laugh. They are already fun to be around. “People think we take drugs, we are often offered some after the gigs, people think we are like that. We have songs about female sexuality, and female relationships, and people think we fuck everything that moves. Which is totally not true.” In fact, rather they seem to be normal people. Just like us. “There is still a lot of personal experience in our stuff, especially about growing up. Being a young woman from a small town, being a punk kid, a weirdo. We think a lot of people would relate to it.”
No truer words are spoken to me recently. Estonia is a small country. Very small. We have little people so even Tallinn can be considered a tiny place on the grand map of the world. And if at first The Magnettes songs may seem very pop, very youth-targeted, there is much more, oh so much more.
“A lot of the songs do come from realising something – we are not alone in our experiences; either struggling with depression, finding your place, struggling with insecurities. We have all these conversations with friends and people around us and we can see that we are relatable.” I nod and mumble some words of encouragement as my mind is running wild. They do understand. They really are relatable and it is so easy to even tell a little about my own struggles.
What about the actual target audience? “We actually have a lot of older people listening to us, also teenage girls, also a lot of boys between 20 and 30. A lot of LGBT people. We deal with identity and people finding themselves.” I at first doubt a little, but attending the gig later, I have to agree. People from all age and sex groups are there and not just to see – to enjoy.
When I was walking to the meeting with the band’s manager, I heard a little about the band’s personality, especially about their incredible energy, which I am intrigued to hear more. “There is always that thing… when there is a wall between the band and the audience. It is a little bit like a film playing, we want to break this wall; what do we do to break it? We want people to feel that they are a part of this experience. People usually respond to when we leave the stage and go mingle with the crowd.” Later I experience this first-hand. The girls jump from the stage with their mics on, they dance with people, they sing to everyone. One of them reaches me and hugs me during the live. I feel like I belong there and nowhere else at that moment. I remember what is so good about live performances. And why you always, always, should go and see someone new.
“Or if someone is being an asshole, we call them out of it. In Germany, a guy came on the stage for a little attention, we went down from the stage, started singing in front of his face. Most people are very nice. However, we do have some experiences, when some dudes try to take over the room – that is not okay. You wanted to be in a spotlight? Well, we’ll sing a chorus to your face. Most people are nice and happy to be a part of it. And we know how to deal with others.” I am glad Estonian audience belonged to the nice category.
With strong personalities, ideas and temperament I expect fights and arguments between the group. But…? “We are all very different people, but we don’t really fight. It is like we are a family. We have different opinions, we have learned that if something is bothering us, we need to lay it down. Not keep it in for months and then explode.”
Gathering one good thought after another, I want to know what is difficult for them, if anything at all? “Performances are a workout, we gotta stay in shape. We never cancel shows, we have played for 10 years and we have cancelled 2 shows in that time. You should never be able to tell that the artist is not feeling on top. You take your medicine, you pull yourself together and you go out. You fake being well. You are not excused. The show has to be good, even if everything around you is in chaos. We cannot fuck it up. If there is no show, it is our fault. We cannot accuse others.”
“We take the room. When we do our stuff, we are doing our job and we make sure people listen. With time, we have gotten better at it. It is a challenge to make people listen. I keep eye contact with people, go in and be intimate. We have played so many shows and showcase festivals that right now the biggest difficulty – when we play live – is the technical stuff. Things start to fall apart (they literally show me their shoes that are barely holding themselves together as well as beat-up cases and cables). Things are literally falling apart.”
There is so much passion in them. So much good, so much happiness and motivation. I am sad to leave, but I am sure I will get a chance to talk to them again. They are my friends now.
The Magnettes show was later at the night. I was expecting it and despite arriving early, the room at Von Krahl venue was full to the maximum. People were buzzing and there was so much energy, good vibes and electricity. And the live was incredible. In addition to fantastic personalities the girls have great voices. Even the members of the audience who had no idea what was about to go down had to admit that such pure voices and skill during such an ecstatic performances was something spectacular. And the audience did not miss the humor of The Magnettes – they talked about their small hometown, of the struggles, of the things they are not happy with in our society, and that all in such adoring key that it just stuck with you.
Welcome to the sad girls club, to a club where everyone are able to find their place.