The Magnettes
“We have always felt like growing up that the role for girls was too narrow”

The Magnettes Interview
The Magnettes

The Magnettes, Euro-pops latest export to our shores, come from seemingly indiscriminate beginnings. Hailing from the Swedish town of Pajala, home to only 2000 people and a total of ten hours from Stockholm, makes for a humble inception for this trio of indie kids.

The band is made up of the original girl group duo Rebecka, Sanna and Tomas, who was fully integrated into the band at a later date. Their aesthetic is a perfect balance between punk’s hard edge with fishnets, oversized t-shirts, Doc Martins, peroxide blonde hair and pop’s friendliness and personable nature.

Their debut album Ugly Youth was released on June 30th of this year. I spoke to them to find out how it all came about, why they are using music to stand up for the kids who don’t conform and what we can expect in the future.

How did The Magnettes come about? Especially from such a small town?

Rebecka: We met when we started school, about six years old, and started playing together when we were 11. It shape shifted and turned into a punk band for a little bit and then an acoustic duo. We met Tomas when we were 15, and he was always a part of it, but we didn’t write together.

Tomas: I was more the sound guy, or the substitute bass player sometimes.

So when did it come together as the trio we know now?

Sanna: Was it three years ago?

Tomas: Three or four

Rebecka: Going on four now I think. It just started with us writing song together and it was a good fit.

Sanna: It came naturally.

Whats the inspiration behind the name, The Magnettes?

Tomas: A couple of years ago, when we were forming the band, there was a mining boom in Pajala. A failed mining boom that went super bad and people’s jobs disappeared, people’s money disappeared, a lot of people had invested in this. They were mining for magnetite. We always liked these 50s and 60s sounding band names so we took that sort of disappointment and turned it into this 50s sounding band name.

Rebecka: A lot of people don’t get it and they often say The Magnets, without the -ettes.

Your lyrics aren’t what you’d expect from normal pop music, can you talk me through the song writing process? 

Rebecka: This album is very much about adolescents. Growing up, feeling like a weirdo and a freak and the pressure of society as a young woman. We sort of just decided to not censor ourselves, not put a filter on it and not sugar coat it. We just wanted to say exactly what we were thinking. During those teen years you are insecure and you are huddled up with your feelings, this was a release. All of that shit you wanted to yell out, we are doing that in this record.

Tomas: We scrapped everything we did when we got signed. We started over, went back and that exact same day wrote Killers, Bones, Hollywood and Parking Lot.

On So Bad, one of the track on your new album, you have a voice over that says “girls should behave better” and “boys will be boys”, how important is this message of going against gender normative thinking for you as a new wave band? 

Rebecka: We have always felt like growing up that the role for girls was too narrow and if you feel like you are outside of it, it’s like the worst thing in the world. For us, it has just been a natural part of what we want to say as feminists and trying to include people; having that “we” perspective.

Sanna: We want to do something for girls of the future, so when they grow up they don’t have the same pressure. We want to be a part of changing the life for girls, they don’t want to be a part of the society that tells girls to be like that or be like this.

Tomas: Also, like the hetro matcho norm is destructive to guys too, if we can like eradicate that then great.

Rebecka: You can really see things changing, even in our small town. we played one show and these cool little boys with like caps on and riding bikes wanted Tomas’ autograph and he gave it in the lipstick in their caps. They thought that was super cool! Things are really changing, especially with young female artists, people on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter are very outspoken and they are having none of that shit, it’s very uplifting to see.

Your sound is very in your face and almost quite aggressive, how did this originally come about? 

Tomas: We all started out in punk bands. We all love Swedish punk bands so it always felt like that should be a part of what we are doing.

Rebecka: But we also loved pop music.

Tomas: It’s almost the same thing, punk and pop, because it is so straight forward, simple and to the point. We think that whatever makes a punk song great is also what makes a pop song great.

Your album Ugly Youth came out two weeks ago, how do you think the launch and reception has been? 

Rebecka: We have had some people saying great stuff. It was realised while we were still on tour. Sanna was saying the other day “oh theres another review, there’s so many!”

Sanna: There’s reviews from the States, from the UK, from Sweden, it’s hard to keep up!

Tomas: The reviews have been good.

Sanna: I want to there more reviews from girls that have been listening to it, but there’s a lot from old dudes who have been listening to it, like 50 year old dudes. It’s cool to see what they think.

Tomas: I was really nervous the day before, like are people going to get it, but then we started getting good reviews. It’s like this is exactly what we were trying to do, it has been a relief.

Rebecka: When you are working on it, you sort of have this sense that people are going to like this one or that song. But as time goes and you begin to get distance from it, you don’t know. The day before the release, I was like “I have no fucking idea what people are going to think”.

Tomas: We all stayed up late to see the second it came out on spotify and it was like “oh shit, we have got a record out!”

You just mentioned you were on tour went the album came out, are there plans to carry on touring?

Rebecka: This fall we are going to Germany and playing in Sweden.

Sanna: And the US I think, right now theres a lot of Swedish shows.

Tomas: A lot of Swedish festival as well.

Sanna: Germany, UK, the States and there will be a German and European tour this winter. We are always on tour.

Who would you cite as your main musical influences? 

Tomas: Thing we usually say is that we view Kathleen Hanna and Katy Perry as equally important.

ALSO READ:  Swim Deep

Sanna: So the punk queen and the pop queen

When you aren’t making your own music what do you like to listen to?

Rebecka: I think it varies, I get sick of perfectly written pop songs with the very pleasing sounds, so there are times when I want to listen to songs that are just noise and songs that are too long, like Les Big Byrd or Pig Eyes who are Swedish bands.

Sanna: I listen to a lot of British punk bands, also pop bands, from the 80s. The Smiths for one.

Tomas: I really love Mura Masa right now, it’s just so extremely musical and cool.

Rebecka: Also Lorde’s new album is great.

Are there any artists you’d like to collaborate with?

Rebecka: We’d love to collaborate with people, we are fan girls and boys basically. We are big fans of a lot of people. Lorde for one, wouldn’t say no to that, nor Mura Masa.

Tomas: Rich White Ladies.

Sanna: Then there’s of course Swedish producers.

Tomas: Then Kathleen Hanna, always Kathleen Hanna

Rebecka: If we could get Max Martin and Kathleen Hanna together in one room and make a record, but that could be a challenge.

What would you say to the people who may critique the messages of sex and drug in your songs?

Rebecka: The sex part… it’s really about people who have thought about female sexuality as if it is up for discussion by the public, and that female are not active in their sexuality. Which is almost like everything we feel is wrong, if we don’t want to fuck we are prudes, if we do we are sluts. We talk about sex in a way that we are active and in control and we do whatever the fuck we want. If we don’t want to fuck you, then that’s it, if we do, then that’s it.

Tomas: I don’t see how our message about sex is any worse than the current norm around sex.

Rebecka: It gets noticed in a different way when it’s two females singing about it.

Sanna: We got told “if you treat your boyfriend like this” then you’ll never have one.

Rebecka: On the drugs, it’s really about an experience that wasn’t very good, the album is all about your youth and Parking Lot is your youth being taken away from you, even though you don’t want it to. And thats an unfortunate event in our lives that had to do with drugs. We just got to say we are the cleanest band ever.

Tomas: We would never encourage people to do drugs.

Your aesthetic is very cool and hip, how import is personal style?

Sanna: I think its very important, we think its fun and working with our stylist. For us the music is not the only important thing, its the style and we want to inspire other people. It’s not like we are on our own and we get dressed, we talk about our style.

Tomas: Try to make everything cool and fun and noticeable. I think we want people to see that we are trying really hard.

Rebecka: Also we have always strived to be memorable, to create moments. When we play live, me and Sanna have cheerleading outfits on, with “psycho” and “witch” on them and we all have red tears.

Tomas: I have a varsity jacket on. We have been talking about whether it would be cool if it was a high school and the freaks had taken over.

Do you think you represent an outlet for the misfits who feel like that might not fit in and how important is that to you?

Rebecka: We really hope that we could be that and we feel that, especially though social media, people are reaching out more and connect to the songs. We want to keep an open dialogue and everything we do is about breaking down that wall between us and the audience, so the communication is very direct. For the shows, we are barely on stage, we are mostly out in the crowd. Communicating on social media as well, for Sad Girls Club, we release that song the same day as Trump’s inauguration, and for that we release a website called sadgirlsclub.net. Where people could send in letters, poems and artwork of them expressing their inner sad girl, just raw and out there. An outlet for them feel scared and disappointed, sad and angry. We wanted to shine a light on that. During that time especially when Trump was elected, a lot of people were scared, for their LBGTQ friends, people were trying to get rid of us. It was just to show that there are a lot of people who don’t really that way.

What has been The Magnettes biggest achievement so far?

Rebecka: I would say getting into A rotation on Swedish national radio. That happened this summer and it was crazy. We go into D rotation and people were saying when you are a new band and not on a major label you won’t get higher than C, then A happened. It was like, thats the biggest thing for me.

Tomas: Definitely, thats like the biggest!

Sanna: And the radio promoting us as a future artist!

Rebecka: It’s always been an uphill battle when you are the furtherest away from anything. Especially Swedish radio is very Stockholm based, it was hard to get in, so when we did it was a big thing. We just freaked out!

Finally, what can we expect in the future?

Rebecka: We aren’t going to be sleeping on the music, going to be a lot more of that.

Sanna: And touring!

Tomas: We are like half way to the next record already!

Interview by James Underdown

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