February 14 — “Valentine” by Lois

Lois Maffeo

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Valentine” by Lois (1992, from the album Butterfly Kiss)

Lois was a singer/songwriter living and working in Olympia, Washington in the early and mid 1990s. She mostly went just by her first name. Sometimes, when she played with a full band, she’d go by “The Lois”. By the end of her career, she used her full name Lois Maffeo. Under that moniker, she released one record with Brendan Canty from Fugazi. Either way, she was one of the prominent members of the Olympia scene, the “cuddlecore” scene. I think for a while there, she was the face of K Records. Okay. Maybe not. Beat Happening was the face of K Records, but she was right there.

She was one of the most prolific but least photographed musicians of the indie rock uprising in the 1990s. In 1990, she was in a band called Courtney Love, who released three very good 7″ records but never an album. Her bandmate in that operation was some dude who did not go on to make a name for himself. After that, Lois went solo and released four proper albums between 1992 and 1996. She also toured extensively and collaboated with other musicians for one-off 7″ records and things like that. She took a break from making records for a couple of years, then re-emerged in 2000.

That Record —The Union Themes— that she made with Brendan Canty marked the end of her career as a full-time musician. She did make one more record in 2003 as part of a duo called Owl & The Pussycat. The other member wasn’t somebody that I know of, and I’ve never even heard the record.

While each of Lois’ four records are referred to as “solo”, she was never actually going it alone. She would tour solo, but she always had support on the albums. On the debut record Butterfly Kiss, she had Molly Neuman of the riot grrl band Bratmobile on drums and Stuart Moxham of the short-lived Welsh band Young Marble Giants on bass. That lineup would change from album to album, but there were always members of other relevant bands playing with her.

I can’t say for sure that Butterfly Kiss is my favorite Lois record, but I also can’t say that it isn’t my favorite. I can safely say that while “Valentine” is a fine song, it’s not my favorite. It’s just appropriate, in name anyway, for today. It’s not so much about Valentine’s Day as it is about being infatuated with someone and wanting them to feel the same. Without having to press the issue.

Unamplified acoustic guitar and brushed drums. That’s pretty much the forumula for a lot of Lois songs. At least on the first two records. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if I can find fault in these records it’s that they’re too little. The drums aren’t heavy enough. Neither is the guitar, for that matter. This record, especially, is so minimally produced. There are so many imperfections, but in a weird sort of way, they’re kind of endearing. There are some missed drum beats, some points where her singing goes all warbly and off-key. The guitar is way too low in the mix. Then again, this was K Records. They were never about perfection. They were about attitude. No flashy expensive production studios and million dollar budgets. Punk rock. Even if it’s soft and cuddly, it’s still punk rock. Still, I’d love to see what Kevin Shields would do with a remix of this.

I always liked the wordplay of Lois songs. I particularly like the bit in this song

It’s a big old house and there’s not much room
but there’s nothing that I wouldn’t say to you

“Valentine” by Lois

Buy Butterfly Kiss from K Records here.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

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