You don't rush Leslie Feist. The singer-songwriter-bandleader is a woman of meticulous moves and carefully chosen words, not to mention an absolute distrust of anything related to celebrity. That might be why it routinely takes her at least three years to follow up a record; in the case of her latest gap, it's been six between 2011's Polaris Music Prize-winning Metals and the new record, Pleasure (out April 28 via Universal).
Feist doesn't half-step, coz she's not a half-stepper. She might delight in playing a supporting role in other people's projects, but to kill time she's not about to toss off her own electro record à la Peaches, or a rock record like her old bandmates By Divine Right, or even a metal record like her cover of Mastodon (the two acts split a seven-inch single, in which they covered her "A Commotion" in return).
"I don't know that I know how to be relaxed about it," she laughs, when asked if everything with her name on it must necessarily have a weight to it. "I don't know if that's the place in life to be relaxed!"
She's taking that approach even to her work with Broken Social Scene, with whom her designated role always seemed to be showing up at random, dropping a bomb of star power on the stage ("Pffft," she responds to this suggestion), and then splitting whenever she felt like it. She never wrote a song or played guitar with that band; much like fellow control freak Neko Case in the New Pornographers, that was not her designated role.
Now, she says, "It is hard to come in and sing a song from 15 years ago that was a little bit Neil Young-esque, where I did a pass with placeholder lyrics and I'd say, 'Okay, now that I know what the melody is, let's write some lyrics!' Only to be told, 'Nope, that's it, that's the one.' So for 15 years, having to squint at what my stream-of-consciousness was that day, I'd had a hard time showing up — and I'm not a guitar player in that band."
That all changed, for the better, on the new BSS record, due out this summer. "I said 'I really want to be involved, but I need to contribute something that means something to me,'" she says. "I went to the Bathouse [studio, owned by the Tragically Hip] and spent four days with people I've known forever, people with whom you're both visible and invisible — there's no self-consciousness. We wrote this song in three passes that's on the record. Then I paused and wrote the lyrics, so there is a story that will matter to me.
"There has to be an anchor to go to every day when you're approaching the song again. It's all I do — I might as well do it in a way that matters to me. If it matters to other people afterwards, I'm very grateful. I'd feel hollow if it didn't mean anything to me at the onset."