This one’s a bit odd. I interviewed Owen Pallett twice – once via email and once over the phone. This is the first of the two, and one that I begrudgingly put together. I felt like he was really rude in his responses and didn’t give me a great deal to work with. By great contrast, by the time I interviewed him in 2010 he was really sweet and kind and thoughtful. Maybe it was just a matter of losing tone over the medium of text? I don’t know, but I felt I did alright here, given the circumstances. I still love this man like it’s going out of fashion. Apparently, he’s going to have a new record out soon. Make it so.
– DJY, July 2013
The name Owen Pallett on its own may not mean anything to your ears. It may, however, be a case of famous-by-association for many music fans: the Arcade Fire, The Last Shadow Puppets, Grizzly Bear,Fucked Up and the Hidden Cameras are just some of the acts Pallett has worked with. He is very much the background player, rarely taking to any kind of limelight.
When he does get the time to create his own music, however, it is under the moniker of Final Fantasy (yes, after the video game). Back in 2005, as a self-described “nobody”, he quietly released his debut record, Has a Good Home. Then, in 2006, Pallett wowed critics with a baroque pop masterpiece follow-up, with possibly the most inelegant, antithetic possible title for such a work – He Poos Clouds. Just because it’s been such a long time since that record, however, don’t think for a second Pallett hasn’t kept himself occupied.
“Since He Poos Clouds came out, I’ve done [we can assume, at this point, he has taken a deep breath before continuing] a film score, three classical pieces, two Final Fantasy EPs and a 7”, and orchestral/string arrangements on 15 different albums,” he recalls of the past few years in an email response to FL’s questions. “I’ve also learned how to cook Thai food, which caused me to gain 5-10 pounds.”
Even amidst so many projects, Pallett still finds the time to tour Final Fantasy, which is making its way to Australia this December. The live Final Fantasy experience is that of a unique loop pedal system centralised around Pallett’s predominant instrument of choice – the violin. Owen claims that a former bandmate was responsible for introducing him to this distinctive layering technique.
“Matt Smith, of the band Nifty and my former band, Les Mouches, is pretty much 100% responsible for introducing me to looping,” Pallett explains. “He guided me through expanding my set-up, and his own looping shows with Nifty are a blessing and an inspiration.” He also notes that he no longer uses loop pedals. “I’m doing multi-phonic looping now,” he notes. “Lots of fun foot-tapping and amplifiers.”
Not just Pallett’s own work appears in his sets, either. Final Fantasy has also paid homage to several other acts, notably recent visitors to our shores, Bloc Party. A video of Pallett using his looping system to coverSilent Alarm cut This Modern Love has been viewed over 100,000 times on YouTube, and came about through mutual appreciation of one another’s work.
“Kele [Okereke, BP frontman] cited my first album as one of his favourites of 2005, which was a major compliment, considering I was a real nobody. I really liked Silent Alarm, so I started covering This Modern Love.” He also notes that when he finally met Okereke for the first time, the two were so nervous that they “had a stutter festival.” “Stuttering begets stuttering,” he states. “Did you know that?”
Don’t be expecting any further covers from Pallett if you happen along to any of the upcoming Australian shows, however. “There aren’t any new songs I’m that excited about,” he confesses. “I like [The Dream’s single] Shawty is a 10, but that was last summer. Besides, everybody is doing the novelty covers these days. The novelty has worn off.”
Another thing you probably won’t see Pallett do anytime soon is discuss his sexuality in depth. In an interview with Toronto music magazine NOW back in 2005, he stated in passing that being a homosexual, and even identifying as a queer artist, did not necessarily equate to “gay” music and/or themes. “As far as whether the music I make is gay or queer? Yeah, it comes from the fact that I’m gay, but that doesn’t mean I’m making music about it,” he ruminated to writer Sarah Liss. A request for him to reflect on this mindset at this stage in his career, a few years down the track, surprisingly, leads to a dead end. “No answer for this,” he says, before dubiously adding: “I’m not interested in ‘gay.’”
Regardless of what the man may be currently interested in, one can safely assume that his upcoming shows (which includes an appearance at the Meredith Music Festival) will be some of the most talked-about of the festival season. Don’t miss your chance to see one of the great young minds of modern music at work.