WRITING: RANDI BERGMAN
It factor can’t be taught. Unless, of course, you were raised by two eccentric celebrity impersonators with penchants for theatrics and over the top glamour. “I was shy about my voice when I was young, but it didn’t take me long to realize that the only way to keep up with my family was to learn how to put on a show,” says Kara Lane, a Toronto singer known as much for her Gaga-worthy vocals as she is her high camp persona and performance style. As a child, she’d improvise with performances of Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty” in the living room as her mother Heather, a Lucille Ball impersonator, and Aunt Shelley, Marilyn Monroe, would “gaze in fear.” Lane would later trot to her room where she’d refine her skills. In high school, those skills would get her noticed by fellow classmate Bobby Lo, a long-time collaborator with whom she’d found K.I.D, a garage rock band signed to Columbia Records.
Fast forward to today and Lane is back as a solo act, ready for her close up after a few years spent out of the spotlight (not entirely though, for anyone who knows this chanteuse or her iconic Instagram feed, you’ll know that it’s impossible for her to be entirely elusive). Her debut single dips into the mythology of her childhood with “Malocchio,” which is the Italian term for evil eye. “According to Italian folklore, those giving the malocchio stare can cause harm to someone else,” she says. “Legend says it’s just another way of putting a curse on others that can cause physical pain such as head or stomach aches or even cause misfortune.” In the video, which premieres exclusively on Capsule 98, Lane delves further into her own origin story with a family affair both in front of and behind the camera including a cameo by her mother, lasagna by her cousin, and so on.
Here, Lane talks about her wild upbringing, her time out of the spotlight and the inspirations behind her triumphant return.
Watch Kara Lane “Malocchio”
How did you originally get into music?
I grew up in a family of performers, all of whom had loud voices and even louder personalities. Music was omnipresent in my household, between my aunts harmonizing or a CD player blaring, I don’t recall a silent moment. I was shy about my voice when I was young, but it didn’t take me long to realize that the only way to keep up with my family was to learn how to put on a show. I would perform Christina Aguilera ‘Dirrty’ in the living room as they gazed in fear and then trot to my room where I’d quietly refine my skills. My older sister was the real singer of the family, her voice was buttery and smooth with a vibrato a nightingale would envy. My aunts and uncles would gather in a circle and swoon as my sister belted out a tune. She was the Jessica Simpson and I, the Ashlee.
How did you get into music professionally?
I attended an arts high school and was able to explore musical theatre and acting there. I sang some dumb song in class one day and a strange boy named Bobby approached me about starting a band, I said “Sure” and the rest is history. Our grunge pop punk fantasy began with our band K.I.D. We spent years touring, giggling and making albums. I experienced so many life and career milestones with K.i.d, and I will cherish those memories 4ever!
You’ve been on pause for a while with music, what made you want to come back?
When I left K.i.d, I also left my label and management. I felt lost but I also felt a sense of freedom and autonomy knowing that no longer was I obligated to answer to anyone but myself.
Subsequently, I went through a pretty traumatic breakup and my father passed away, both of which really transformed my perspective on life. I was like damn… life really IS short. I spent that year traveling, getting spray tans, working random part time jobs, making out with people and doing my best to heal.
I had always had a musical partner I could lean on and share responsibility with and suddenly I didn’t. I think the fear of not being good enough on my own really held me back from getting back into the studio to start my solo project. I had intrusive thoughts screaming, “Am I talented enough? Do I have anything to say or offer? Will people like me without my bandmates beside me?” I also questioned if I had the strength to withstand the perils of the music industry. Once I settled into my healing and independence, I started feeling this deep overwhelming need to start making music again. The first person I got into the studio with after my break was Dylan Brady of 100 Gecs, a pretty insane producer to write your first solo song with. It was obviously a dream and it lit a fire under my ass. And here we are, I’m putting out my first solo music video that I creative directed and funded on my own! Very obsessed!
Tell me everything about your childhood around fabulous performers.
My aunt lived in the basement of our childhood home so I would camp out downstairs and observe her. She worked at an accounting firm by day but was a Marilyn Monroe/Madonna impersonator on weekends. I would just sit in her closet, one side dedicated to pantsuits and the other side dedicated to hot pink Marilyn bows and bleach blond clip in Madonna ponytails. Both sides were fascinating to me. She would set me up in front of her TV and pop in VHSs to keep me occupied while she cleaned her apartment. I would switch between two tapes, the Madonna music video that featured everything from “Borderline” to “Frozen,” or a true crime documentary about Marilyn Monroe’s mysterious murder with an impersonator re-enacting the tragic events.
On Saturday nights, pre-gig, my mom and aunt would gather in the kitchen where there was lots of glamming, peroxide on the hair, vodka and of Lucite heels. They would always smell of hairspray and Halls lozenges (to soothe their voices pre-show).
I grew up going to the clubs my mom and aunt were performing at. So, I really got to witness performance and entertainment from so many different sides. Sometimes I would chill backstage with the drag queens, sometimes I would hang out with the weird lighting guy. I got to see a breakdown of how a show is put on. To be honest my favorite part was what was happening backstage, nothing tops that energy. Half the time there’s a better show going on behind the curtains. It was fun and it was grimy and I was hooked.
What’s your earliest memory of performing?
I got the movie Grease for Christmas when I was three. I lived and breathed that movie. My mom has a home video of me dressed up in all black a la Sandy with plastic princess heels on (both left feet) and a marker cap as a cigarette. I performed all four minutes of “You’re the One That I Want” for the camera. The video is lost somewhere in the garage but I was giving Olivia Newton-John camp and no one can tell me otherwise.
What is “Malocchio” about?
“Malocchio” touches on themes of paranoia, distrust, and suspicion, and is an ode to my family for their unwavering protection and support from the evil forces in this world. I have a very deep and spiritual connection to my Italian roots and have always had an urge to explore this topic. Malocchio is the Italian term for evil eye and there are many haunting superstitions associated with it. According to Italian folklore, those giving the Malocchio stare can cause harm to someone else. Legend says it’s just another way of putting a curse on others that can cause physical pain such as head or stomach aches or even cause misfortune. The song came about whilst struggling with a toxic friendship with someone who presented as a support but was truly wishing me ill will. I felt like I was deteriorating physically and mentally but putting pen to paper opened my eyes to the importance of being more cautious and aware of who you keep in your inner circle because Malocchio will make you sick.
Why did you choose it for your first single?
It’s a song that just feels special to me. It doesn’t sound like the rest of the EP, It kind of deserved to have its own moment separate from the other songs. This song came at the end of a session with Dylan, in like 30 minutes. Immediately it felt catchy to me and still does. I had never heard a song about Malocchio before, my high school friends and I would talk about Malocchio all the time and it just felt comforting to write about and share. Shout out to all my Mississauga Italian queens, ILY!
Tell me about the inspiration for the video.
The song and video are for my nonna Gliceria who passed away last year. I miss and love her very much. The inspiration came from memories of my childhood and Italian tradition/family bonds. I was also watching a lot of John Waters films. The whole video was a family affair, the cast is all family, the house we shot in was nonna Felice’s. My cousin supplied us with lasagna. My zio gave us all fresh tomatoes from the garden. It was the perfect day that embodied exactly what this song is about. Magda did a beautiful job capturing that very specific feeling we were trying to evoke.
Kara Lane “Malocchio” Credits
Director: Magda Sokoloski
Production: SOMEBODY Studio, Karim Olen Ash, Dwayne Kennedy, Joanna Spyrlidakis
Hair: Ali Harcourt
Make Up: Lacey Day
Styling: Dwayne Kennedy
Production assistant: Alex Makubuya
Production assistant/BTS Still Photographer: Jackie Ashton