Just to know you and read you from across the field / I would burn it all down to do that just once
Hero Magnus ’23 has been busy.
After dropping several singles on Spotify during the early days of quarantine, the singer-songwriter released an EP on Friday, March 16. The new mini album is composed of five alternative rock singles, all written by Magnus and produced by her long-time friend Zac Towbes. With funding from the Slifka Center, Magnus was able to focus on writing music during the summer and part of her gap year in Nashville, researching and exploring Jewish and other queer stories as inspiration. This theme became a hallmark of Magnus’ work after she took “Sexual Minorities from Plato to the Enlightenment” with Igor De Souza, lecturer in English at Yale. Though her songs are very much grounded in her own queer experiences, Magnus hopes that her universal theme of love will reach all audiences.
“Queer history is a grounding theme for this work, because it helped me to expand my imagination of what love and sexuality can look like,” Magnus told the News. “This is a concept that I wrote for my community, but it’s also for everyone.”
Central to several of Magnus’ singles are queer stories found in ancient mythologies. In “Iphis,” the singer-songwriter dives into the Roman myth of a child born as a girl but raised male and later transformed by a goddess into a man. Harmonized lyrics like “Make me a man / So I can marry the woman I love” unfold a plot of sacrificial love amidst interwoven layers of electric guitar, piano and bass. Magnus added that this was her first foray into gender-bent and male narrators, which has been particularly refreshing for her.
Magnus says that “Make Me a Man” is a turning point for her career in that it moves out of her “folksy, singer-songwriter era” and closer to the kind of music she would like to put out in a full debut album. Living in Nashville and performing with her favorite artists like Lauren Weintraub have allowed her to write with a renewed “dynamism,” bringing in new sonic textures and genres.
“I’ve been influenced pretty heavily by the country storytelling that I was around, giving you a clear metaphor to hang on to,” Magnus said. “There’s something refreshing about being handed the central metaphor and getting to build something clever and sweet off of that.”
This EP also differs from her previous work in that the five songs “thread together” to form a cohesive work of art, a process Magnus says she particularly enjoys. “Plato’s Song” and “Museum Person” have linked expressions of “inappropriate” love. “Yours First” romanticizes the trope of “u-hauling” in the woman-loving-woman community, and the EP’s interlude “Body Song” takes on experiences of caring for the bodies of those you love.
With the new release under her belt, Magnus is moving to Los Angeles next month to produce even more music. She has plans to record a second EP in a friend’s home studio. In the meantime, the indie rock artist is continuing to engage her listeners online, having gained a following of more than 16,000 fans on TikTok over quarantine. Magnus says she’s been able to hold discourse about Jewish history and anti-Semitism as well as her music through the platform.
“I appreciate the ability to share my music, and share my stories,” Magnus said. “It is a real privilege, and I’m really happy to have this particular outlet to engage in on a more personal level.”
Isaac Yu | firstname.lastname@example.org