If Final Fantasy means no more to you than a videogame franchise, meet Owen Pallett. If you haven’t heard of him before, you’ll probably have heard him – even appreciated his string arrangements on many an indie record.
The thirty-year-old violinist is one of those musicians that everyone wishes they could boast on their sleeve notes. His CV reads like a particularly awesome room at ATP Festival: Beirut, Fucked Up, Death From Above 1979, Holy Fuck, Grizzly Bear and especially The Arcade Fire, have all been touched by his golden bow.
This is an excerpt from an article that appears in the February issue of Clash Magazine. Pick it up in stores from January 11th. You can read the full issue online HERE and subscribe to Clash Magazine HERE.
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As Final Fantasy, Pallett is an artist in his own right too. The Canadian-based composer has released two solo albums alongside his many musical contributions. His first, ‘Has A Good Home’, was unleashed in 2005, but it was with his sophomore effort a year later – the delightfully titled ‘He Poos Clouds’ – when his searing compositions made hairs stand up. It elevated his songs out of their formerly sparse and bedroom-songwriter style and won the 2006 Polaris Music Prize – Canada’s answer to the Mercury Music Award.
This month, however, Final Fantasy finally returns with a new album, the gorgeously cinematic ‘Heartland’, a glittering love letter to strings, on a new label, Domino. It has been three years coming.
In a lounge bar in Bloomsbury, Clash meets Pallett, all dressed in black with his hair slicked back. He looks every part the sophisticated artist – and, like a true artist, he’s having a hard time dissecting his latest opus.
Owen Pallett – The Great Elsewhere (Live)
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“I wish I could say that almost everything I’ve worked on up to this point has not been a chore. This record was a total fucking chore,” he says, leaning back in his chair. “I think that it’s just because it’s very personal and I got so involved in it that at a certain point I felt like I’d lost a large part of myself. I brought it into being and then it tied me up and raped me. And I feel good now that I’m kicking it out of the house because I started to lose myself a bit.” It explains, in part, why Pallet’s orchestral pop masterpiece has taken so long. It also explains why he is evasive.
In 2008, he gained further notoriety for his work on Last Shadow Puppets album ‘The Age Of The Understatement’. Following that, Mark Ronson flew him over to Budapest to score the string parts for The Rumble Strips’ ‘Welcome To The Walk Alone’. These were not cookie cutter production line popstars, but international names whose camp and alternative approaches to music and image complemented his. You get the idea that Owen wouldn’t put his name to a JLS album.
The Last Shadow Puppets – The Age Of The Understatement
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Will Pallett ever truly connect with the pop world? Certainly not – his distaste for its consumerism will almost prevent that. Here’s another great thing about him: he’s somewhat of a DIY evangelist. He gave the money he won from the Polaris Prize to struggling bands because he didn’t like that the award was sponsored by a corporate brand.
He admits that, in some circumstances, he’d succumb to the corporate beast, but then you get the impression that it’s necessary in order to fund nine months’ worth of recording. “Historically it’s been completely gauche to sell your song. I remember when The Shins did it with McDonalds and everyone was like, what the fuck? But the only people who are paying for music anymore is advertising agencies,” he says. “Somebody’s got to pay for it! I’ve sold my songs to commercials but I try and be choosy. I recognise that there are certain songs that come from a specific place and that I really don’t want to have associated with a brand. And other songs where I’m just like, yeah, gimme money. And honestly, I’m a whore. We’re all whores! If someone were to offer my any amount of money, I can easily say to you right now I will never, ever, ever license this incredibly personal song that means a lot to me to a Humvee commercial. But if somebody were to offer me a million bucks then I’d ride that Humvee. I’d ride it naked!”
Perhaps there is a concept album in that too.
Words by Kate Hutchinson