Ex Hex at the Garrison (1197 Dundas West), Friday (July 18), doors 9 pm. $12.50. RT, SS, TF.
There is huge power in having a visual example. Case in point: when I saw Wild Flag at Lee's Palace in 2011, I was reassured that women who play rock and roll can keep doing it long past the age of 30. It's so rare to see, though, that the realization sent me biking as fast as I could go through the night, completely energized.
Turns out Mary Timony - of that now defunct band, of 90s college rockers Helium and current frontwoman of Washington, DC-based Ex Hex - had a similar experience.
"I had a moment like that," says Timony from her home. "I had given up music for about a year six or seven years ago. And then I saw the Raincoats play and everything completely changed in my brain. ‘Wait a second - they're women who are past 50, and they're doing this.' It meant so much to me."
Getting burned out on making solo records, of which she has four (including one from 2005 also called Ex Hex), was the reason Timony threw in the towel. But fresh collaborations drew her back, including Wild Flag, which featured Sleater-Kinney's Janet Weiss and Carrie Brownstein (also of Portlandia), and Rebecca Cole. The band ended up putting out only one record, but Timony has no regrets.
"It was a blast and so great for me. I ended up travelling to Portland a lot, and there are a lot of awesome women playing music there. That was inspiring. And being on the road and recording and writing songs with Wild Flag was really fun. It got me thinking about my musical life in a different way, especially in terms of songwriting. I'm editing myself a lot. A lot, a lot a lot."
Timony's earlier work is dark, dreamy and dense. These days, straight-ahead fun is the goal. Just-released single Don't Wanna Lose from full-length Rips (Merge, out October 7) is a slice of Cheap Trickian guitar pop bursting with melody and energy. Same with earlier single Hot And Cold, replete with an amusing food-focused video.
Bassist Betsy Wright helps out with songwriting, while Laura Harris holds down the beat on drums. Husky-voiced Timony, meanwhile, is becoming an ever more stunning guitarist. She calls the instrument "her biggest love in the world. An interest that never gets old. I feel like I could study it forever and never get to where I want to go."
She cites fret-tapping Marnie Stern as the six-stringer currently inspiring her most. Could that collaboration be on the horizon?
"We've talked about making a record and it hasn't happened, but maybe someday," Timony says. "I love her. She's kind of a genius."