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"I think I prefer the constant renewal. It's almost like sandpapering down any details or any contour of familiarities. The moment something chisels its way in to create a shape, a procession of different days and different cities will wipe it clean. And I don't think I can live this way forever, but I really love it right now."
Change is a dangerous thing in the world of music. Just ask Robbie Williams, when he tried going electro, if it was worth it (if he says yes it's a lie!). It's tricky to move from one style to another whilst retaining the core of your music, the part which keeps your fans supporting you even when you move from one genre to another with no sign of slowing down. For Leslie Feist though, change is not dangerous, it's just a part of life.
Born in 197-something in Nova Scotia, she first came to prominence as a member of Placebo (not that one, this was a band from Calgary), who won themselves a place opening for The Ramones (yes, that one) in concert. As lead singer, Feist was in the spotlight for a long time, and after five years had to leave music for a short while to recover from damaging her voice. After a year away, she returned in 1999 and kept herself on the sidelines this time, playing guitar for By Divine Right. This was also the year she released her first album, Monarch (Lay Your Jewelled Head Down), sadly now out of print, which was partially financed by the Canadian Government, of all people.
It was in 2000 that things started to really happen. Feist moved in with two friends of hers, Peaches and Gonzales, and appeared as a guest vocalist on Peaches album 'The Teaches of Peaches'. Calling herself 'Bitch Lap Lap', she joined Peaches onstage, manipulating a sock puppet and mystifying most people who saw the performances. "The point of my character was that she was an incompetent rapper. I had a sock puppet, I wore an aerobics leotard, and I basically backed Peaches up as her B-girl," she says, which doesn't really explain why, but at least it's accurate.
As a well-known face in the Canadian Indie-Rock scene, it was a rite of passage that she was invited to join Broken Social Scene, a super-group who do for Canada what The Reindeer Section do for Scotland, but with more guitars. Accepting the invitation, she recorded songs for all three of their albums and toured extensively with them, playing guitar and singing accompaniment. "It was amazing and fun being the girl off on the side, biting into playing these great rock 'n' roll songs [but] not having to bite so hard into all the rest of it." Even then though, her on-stage charisma and elegance gained her many admirers, and she managed to get one or two songs of her own, such as 'Almost Crimes' and half of 'Windsurfing Nation'.
Still living mainly in Europe, her second solo album Let It Die was recorded in Paris in 2002/03, and mixed jazz, bossa nova and soul styles. "I was living kind of out of a suitcase for 15 months. I wasn't really living anywhere while I made Let It Die." The constant movement inspired her writing, however, and she worked off the isolation rather than being slave to it. Helped by flatmate Gonzales, after two years of recording odd songs and demos she realised that she had enough for an album, and cut them down in her own unique way. She says, "I thought, 'Oh, I don't want it to sound like a compilation or something.' So I just wrote all the songs out. I kinda drew a colour wheel that goes black to white. I drew a really thick black tone, and then it sort of went from dark gray to light gray to white. I just put the songs in next. Black meant tempo and thickness of arrangement with the most instruments, or it could have meant lots of other things." Eventually she was down to six original songs and five covers, and a finished album.
Released in 2004, the first half of the album was original material, the second half was made up of covers of bands such as the Bee Gees. The album was hailed as a success and earned her two Juno Awards, the Canadian equivalent of The Brits. The most famous song from the album is almost certainly Mushaboom, and has since featured in advertisements for Lacoste. The single has also been remixed by The Postal Service, which was the highlight of a remix album released in 2006, called 'Open Season'.
Feist's newest album, called The Reminder, was released in April 2007, with songs 1234 and My Moon My Man gaining instant popularity due to their release as videos on Youtube. Recently Feist has gained a reputation for dancing, after dancing in the videos for both her previous videos, 'One Evening' (where she performs a ((hopefully)) improvised dance routine with a strange looking foreign dude) and 'Mushaboom' (where she kept floating away from her dancers, and Peaches has to hold her ankle to hold her down), with Pitchfork running a story saying "Guys, Feist listens. She listens and she cares. We asked for more dancing, and she provided".
She really does. The first video from The Reminder sees Feist dancing at first on her own, before being joined by an army of jumpsuit-wearing dancers who appear from nowhere and organise a carefully choreographed dance routine. Filmed in one long take, the video quickly became famous on Youtube, and was followed by a second video, 'My Moon My Man' which sees Feist dancing on an airport treadmill, where she is eventually joined by several suited dancers and everything breaks down into an airport shuffle-boogie.
Change is a dangerous thing for an artist; but Feist moves effortlessly between styles of music, just as she moves from place to place, her life mirroring her music.
Songs to Try Out:
Initially: My Moon My Man; Mushaboom. Second Cut: One Evening; 1234 Third Leg: Secret Heart; Windsurfing Nation (with Broken Social Scene). If you like these songs, her third album 'The Reminder' is on release now.