Beyond the final fantasy
Best known for his work released under the name of Final Fantasy, a name inspired by the popular role-playing video game, Canadian musician Owen Pallett’s more recent output has been released under his own name.
A proficient violinist, vocalist and composer, Pallett’s musical inclination was influenced at an early age by his church organist father, and he composed his first musical piece aged 13.
Pallett is particularly renowned for his engaging live performances, which involve him playing the violin through a loop pedal and constructing the songs layer by layer.
Aside from his solo career, Pallett, whose album He Poos Clouds won Canada’s prestigious Polaris Music Prize in 2006, is also an in-demand composer and collaborator. He has composed film scores and operas, remixed songs for the likes of indie bands Grizzly Bear, Stars and Death from Above 1979, and recorded and toured with several bands, among them Grammy Award-winning band Arcade Fire.
Last year, Pallett released his third album Heartland, which received positive reviews from leading music magazines, some even describing it as his finest work to date.
The album has a strong orchestral prominence, and is a song cycle inspired by what Pallett describes as “the beginning, middle and end of a relationship… sung from the point of view of the object of my affection”.
Owen Pallet will be performing live at San Gejtanu Band Club in Ħamrun on May 1. Tickets cost €15 (€18 at the door) and are available from Coach and Horses, Msida, D’Amato Records, Valletta, and Sugu, Vittoriosa, or by calling 9924 2815 or 9945 9555.
The concert starts at 7 p.m. with an opening performance from local indie folk band Stalko.
Does your connection with Arcade Fire tend to overshadow your own solo career? How difficult is it to differentiate between band and solo work, especially when it comes to coming up with new ideas or songs?
Not really; those guys are my brothers and I’m happy for their success. People who come to see me play know what I’m about, they don’t come expecting Sprawl 2 or something. Some people find out about me through their friends, or the radio or a blog, and others find out through my work with Arcade Fire.
Heartland is your first outing on Domino. What does being on a label which has launched so much significant music mean to you?
Domino is a perfect label for me because it puts equal emphasis on its meal ticket bands like Arctic Monkeys, for example, their legacy releases like Orange Juice, as well as smaller artists like me, Max Tundra or Cass McCombs.
I’m not with them because they licensed Arise Therefore, I’m with them because they’re a good label with good people.
I’ve read that Heartland is the product of over nine months’ work in four countries. Was this a planned strategy and did working in different countries influence you, the music or the album’s concept in any way?
No, it wasn’t planned. I tried to take Heartland one step at a time, and I took my time with each step. I wrote lyrics, wrote songs, did demos, did beds, sang vocals, wrote arrangements, tracked orchestra, edited, mixed, mastered, in that order.
It just took a while to complete each process because I was always in some new place working on somebody else’s record or touring or something. Although the record might sound international on paper, I think it represents a particularly monocultural sound… the sound of a gay white dude who lives in a cold country.
What inspired the ‘adventurous’ spirit in the ‘electronic music approach’ during the writing of the album and then executing it with an orchestra?
I’d been writing a lot of synth-based music using some old synths that I found on eBay. The orchestral writing was informed mostly by synthesis. E Is For Estranged, for example, was me trying to mimic the sound of a four-pole filter with 50 different string parts. Lewis Takes Action has a woodwind section voiced like a ring modulator.
The inspiration for this approach was just borne out of some records I love – Silver Apples, for example. Portishead made a Silver Apples record with 3 in their way.
Heartland is my own version of a Silver Apples record.
What’s lined up for your performance in Malta next week?
I’ve recently been performing with a three-piece band and we’re sounding great, but seeing as I’ve never been to Malta before, I’m coming over to give a solo performance.
I play violin and synths and construct songs from the three albums, EPs and singles using live looping and multi-tasking. I wrote some software and it’s pretty to see in action, so I’ll probably be projecting it so people can see how it’s done.