1,2,3,4...5 albums in and Canadian born Feist is still finding herself and giving us kick ass tunes that pack a punch.
Leslie Feist is a chameleon of sorts in the music industry, always adapting as she wishes and when she wants. She's been in the scene a long time, starting her first band in 1991 at the age of 15, a Calgary punk band called Placebo with no connection to the British rockers themselves. They won a battle of the bands competition in 1993 and opened the Festival Infest that year. From then she moved on to play bass in 1996 in Noah Arkweld, the solo project of Noah Mintz of hHead, despite her having no previous bass experience. In 1998 Feist then became the rhythm guitarist for the band By Divine Right and toured with them for a few years in the late 90’s while also doing some live performances by Bodega.
In 1999 she moved in with Merill Nisker aka crazy cat Peaches (imagine how nuts it would be living with her) into an apartment in Toronto. She took on a role working backstage at Peaches gigs, using a sock puppet around set and calling herself "Bitch Lap Lap". She appeared as a guest vocalist on album The Teaches of Peaches and featured in a number of videos including “Lovertits”.
It was during this period that Feist released her first studio album, Monarch, a 10 song composition that described by Pitchfork, "did little to communicate the swaggery gleam of her stage persona".
In 2001, she self produced The Red Demo’s which was a seven song compilation and has since never been commercially released. The Red Demo songs later became part of what is know as her major label debut, Let it Die. The album featured both original compositions and covers, and put her name on the scene as a notable singer and songwriter. For this album she won "Best New Artist" and "Best Alternative Rock Album" at the Canadian Juno Awards in 2004. After the recording of Let It Die, Feist moved to Paris and during this time collaborated with Norwegian duo Kings of Convenience as co-writer and guest vocalist on their album Riot on an Empty Street. She also co-wrote and sang "The Simple Story" as a duet with Jane Birkin on her album Rendezvous.
It was then that she joined a group of old friends and formed a revised version of Broken Social Scene, the Toronto indie group. She was supposedly forbidden to play guitar by de facto bandleader Kevin Drew and instead contributed vocal and went on to record You Forgot It in People with the band.
In 2006, Feist contributed backup vocals on track "Give 'Er", from Peaches' album Impeach My Bush and she also sung on two tracks "La Même Histoire" and "We're All in the Dance" for the soundtrack to the 2006 film Paris, je t'aime.
Around this time she got back in the studio with a number of friends and touring bandmates and eventually in 2007 she released her third album The Reminder. To date, this is still her most successful album. It was that ad that really kicked things off for her though. You know the one. Apple signed Feist to feature the song "1234" (co-written with Australian Sally Seltmann) for the advertisement of the Ipod Nano. It was catchy as f*ck and yielded her an unheard of number in the U.S charts for an indie artist. and intense attention The album went on to Gold status in the U.S with over 1 million copies sold worldwide and won her the album of the year at the Juno Awards in 2008. She performed the hit on Sesame Street in 2008 as an alternative version to teach children how to count to the number 4.
After her strenuous touring and promotional schedule, she announced in October 2008 that following the success of The Reminder she needed to step away from the pressures of the music industry to consider her next career move and "rest for a minute". She made a guest appearance on the track "You and I" on Wilco's album in 2009 and also featured in the television film "My Musical Brain" with neuroscientist and writer Daniel Levitin, based on Levitin's bestselling book This Is Your Brain on Music. She collaborated with Grizzly Bear on the song "Service Bell" for the AIDS charity the Red Hot Organisation as well as with Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie on a cover of Vashti Bunyan's "Train Song" for the Dark Was the Night album.
She appeared in the short film directed by Kevin Drew, a Broken Social Scene bandmate which focused on her song “The Water." The film was streamed on Pitchfork in March 2009 and in an interview with them she described the experience of being in this movie as "watching a movie while being in a movie."
There were rumors she would ever play with Broken Social Scene again but in June 2009 Feist re-joined the group at a North by Northeast performance celebrating the launch of the band's biography entitled This Book Is Broken, in which she is prominently featured. She also performed with BSS during their concert at Toronto's Harbourfront Centre, which was filmed by director Bruce Macdonald and released as This Movie Is Broken. She sang on the Broken Social album Forgiveness Rock Record which was their last release in 2010 until their upcoming number in July this year.
Look at What the Light Did Now, directed by Canadian film director Anthony Seck, was a documentary film released about the creative process of making of The Reminder. The film focused on the recording of the album as well as the development of the tour through puppetry and projection. The film includes interviews with band members, producer Chilly Gonzales; Broken Social Scene bandmates Kevin Drew and Andrew Whiteman; and video director Patrick Daughters.
Back to Paris in July 2011, Feist performed with Radiohead's Colin Greenwood, Air's Nicolas Godin, The Hotrats and Soap&Skin, covering The Velvet Underground and Nico's "Femme Fatale" at an all-star gig "The Velvet Underground Revisited" which took place in Cité de la Musique. Her fourth album Metals was then released in September 2011. It was big and bold, an album recorded in a studio built on the side of a cliff in Big Sur and as she put it, the album was "the movement of a lot of humans." A left turn from The Reminder as stated by Producer Mocky. There was no standout track on Metals as people noted in comparison to The Reminder, it was more even, rounded, more a book of poetry than a novel with the ups and downs. Let the record show though that there were some great songs still - "The Bad In Eachother" and "Bittersweet Melodies" really pulling at those heart strings.
Feist made a cameo in the 2011 movie The Muppets, afterwards stating that working with the Muppets was a career highlight. Back to Broken Social Scene in 2013, Feist headlined, along with Broken Social Scene at the Arts & Crafts Field Trip Music Festival to commemorate the tenth year anniversary of Arts & Crafts record label.
Almost without any warning, fast forward to April this year after a few years of silence and Feist dropped Pleasure, her fifth studio album, preceded by a release of the lead track by the same title. The day before it’s release she introduced the album at Trinity St. Paul, Toronto, performing it in it’s entirety (in reverse order) as well as some of her earlier work. The album has been greatly received and people are flipping out over her return to solo work.
Talking with Zane Lowe on Beats 1 she described her feelings on that so called break between albums. With Metals being such a heavy and large scaled group project she decided to strip back and go solo for a while "I remembered I toured solo for so many years and I would just sort of yank my guitar and suitcase with the amp in it and I would just get on people’s buses and open for them, and I cut my teeth doing that for years and I wanted to sort of fess up and make sure that I could still do that".
If Metals was a stripped back version of The Reminder, Pleasure is what's left of burnt down house. It’s subtle and quiet yet packs a punch. She clearly went through a very emotional time during the break and that's portrayed through the simplicity of just Feist, her guitar and Monky. There's no big movements yet there's big feelings dealt out in the simplest ways. It's outstanding how she still manages to get in your head, make you feel like it's your heartbreak and vulnerability. she's singing about Titles like "I Wish I Didn't Miss You" hit home. It’s raw and intimate like all her other work, tackling big themes and asking us all questions we weren't necessarily prepared to answer yet. "It can feel heavier than Metals when you’re by yourself, because you can make so little seem like so much...the album may have started from a place of loneliness, but it landed at potent, positive solitude" she said in a recent New York Times interview. “I know less now than I ever did about how life is supposed to go. It’s relaxing". As for the simple album arrangement she described it as “the natural reflection of my state of mind...There’s something about just letting one string do its thing. I mean it’s a bar chord but if you just let it restrain itself from the full bar there is something kinda super binary about it just a little laser beam of simplicity." (NY Times)
In essence she reached a point where she needed simplicity. Pleasure is like opening one of those life quote books and discovering something that changes the way you see things. As she said to Zane Lowe, "at the end of the day our motto is kind of “how to hit what and how hard,” the point of the album being to hit hard at the listener. "I wanted not full chords, just like tiny voicings, nothing rich, nothing full. A little bit more like a pencil drawing than a full expressive water color." Her description in Spin Magazine would be the best way to put it, “Pleasure and pain, or anticipation and satisfaction, they’re just all in continuum. You could desire something and be waiting for it and wanting it...And then as soon as you get it, that satisfaction just plants a new seed for new wanting. This sort of this straddling of the knowns and unknowns of the past and the future, in a way, is when you get deer-in-the-headlights. You’re stopped dead still, and you don’t know what to do next. That moment of, “Well, wait a second, the weight of all humanity, and the weight of my life, and the weight of my choices feels like it weighs as much as, you know….and all the things you don’t know, about the people who made choices that came before you that now have caused you to be here, you know?"