Feist: Metal Mettle

Text Hidzir Junaini
Image Mary Rozzi

After the monumental mainstream success that was The Reminder, who could blame Leslie Feist for wanting to take a little break? While her artful poignancy in Let It Die achieved critical adulation and her status as one of Broken Social Scene’s leading ladies was met with cult reverence, nothing could have prepared her for the maelstrom that would come with commercial superstardom. So Feist retreated, regrouped, and before long, that mettle was rediscovered within her elemental opus Metals. JUICE got chatty with a rejuvenated Feist just before her showing at Laneway Festival in Singapore…

Hi Leslie! Will Laneway mark your first time in Singapore? 
I had a layover there once, in between Berlin and Sydney. We spent 12 hours walking through the city. We found a flea market, good coffee and the harbour.

What can fans expect from your live show here?
Even I never know what to expect… everything changes depending on the people in the audience and I’m curious to see what Singaporeans are like!

The Reminder was obviously a monumental success, which must have been exhilarating but also exhausting. Did that give you pause before jumping into a new record?
After seven years of touring I was totally depleted. Things weren’t slowing down so I drew a big thick line eight months in advance in the calendar, and after that I would stop completely. When I hit that wall, it was a dead stop, and I collapsed with my suitcase next to me. I took a couple years to myself. It was nice to stay in one place and forget about music for a while. I was curious and fresh again when I sat down to write last autumn.

What was the goal, in terms of sound or feel, when writing the new record?
To be honest about what I was drawn to and what I wasn’t… and to work to find that palette.

We realised from watching Look At What The Light Did Now that location is a huge part in your recording process. Was it the same thing with Metals?
In a way, yes. We chose to record in a barn in Big Sur, which was a 45-minute drive from the main road and surrounded by rugged nature. It wasn’t so we could hear the location in the album, but more so we could hear the room and the state of mind of the people who play on the album. I chose Big Sur because I already knew what the album’s central core spirit was, and that Big Sur would amplify that.

Why is it called Metals?
Look up the definition of the word mettle; add an elemental foundation and the weight of many years… that’s why. Metals was one word that could give each song its own tool or weapon to expand its own identity; to make it mellifluous, mercurial, more responsive, or more malleable. It could give one song a sword in its hand and give another this dazzling precious cover.

Another element played a big role in a short film you acted in called The Water. What was the inspiration behind that?
Kevin Drew had the idea, and asked Cillian Murphy and David Fox to be involved. We’ve been in Broken Social Scene together for 10 years and he’s a sort of director in that… so I knew he’d find something interesting in a film context.

Collaborations are a big part of your music too. Is there anyone in particular who you’d really want to work with, but haven’t had the opportunity to?
We’re trying to make a split 7” with Mastadon. To hear how they would interpret one of my songs, and find a way to bring something invisible out in one of theirs, would be the most unexpected and interesting thing I can imagine. 

Catch Feist at Laneway Festival 2012 on 12 February Fort Canning from 1.30pm to 1.30am. Tickets cost $135 (excluding booking fee) and are available at all SISTIC authorised agents. Find more info on the festival at singapore.lanewayfestival.com.au.

Listen to Feist at www.listentofeist.com.