LOLAA’s dance-pop is a celebration of Mexican identities, Latin American culture and love

LOLAA with HOW SAD and NIKKI’S WIVES at Adelaide Hall (250 Adelaide West), Thursday (May 25), doors 8 pm. $10.,,  

“We put so much sweat, blood and tears into this.”

Lex Valentine is talking about the new EP she’s made with her sister, Nadia Valerie King. Together, they’re LOLAA. For simple categorization purposes, they are a pop band. But peek beneath the vibrant, thumping neon veneer and they’re more than that. 

Valentine and King are creating an explicit celebration of Mexican identities, Latin American culture and love. That’s what’s at the beating, tear-stained heart of LOLAA’s immersive retro dance-pop. 

It’s a rebirth for the sisters, who were co-conspirators in Toronto’s beloved alt rock trio Magneta Lane. It’s also a dramatic shift for the self-taught musicians. Despite speaking rosily of their former outfit, they knew a change was needed, one that took them back to their roots.

“Growing up, we listened to a lot of Latin American 80s pop stars,” Valentine explains. “That’s the stuff our mother used to play. We always loved that sound because it reminded us of our childhood.” 

The lush warmth and relentless poptimism of their heroes is transposed into LOLAA, with Gloria Estefanesque vocal work set to revamped Bette Davis Eyes atmospherics. 

“It felt like something that was ours, and like something that was pure,” Valentine says, citing the voices of Daniela Romo and Celia Cruz as solace providers during turbulent times related to draining industry pressures and the death of a friend. “To us, [that music has been] our happy place.

“We didn’t get a chance to show this side of us with Magneta Lane. Not being able to put that in music in some way, it felt like it hadn’t come full circle.” 

From inception to release, LOLAA is an expression of King and Valentine’s identities, with a Spanish version of the album coming later this year. 

“We want the world to know this side of us,” Valentine says. “We’re so proud to be Mexicans.

“One of the things about Latin Americans is that we find ways to celebrate even the saddest of times or the toughest of times. We rise above.” 

The music is thick and inviting, swathed in a sweet haze, but it’s also distinctly mournful. Lead single Always Been begs to be danced to, but it feels like you’d be dancing to something sad. 

And though it’s not a religious work, the name “LOLAA” is derived from “Dolores,” the Spanish name for the Lady of Sorrows. (Dolores means “sorrowful.”)

“In Latin American culture, there’s a lot of Catholic symbolism,” Valentine says. “When you think of Latin Americans praying to something, it’s quite a beautiful thought. They have so much faith that things will get better, or that they will rise above. They’re just such positive people. 

“I like the idea that someone, whoever that is, is listening on the other side.” | @nowtoronto

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