Published Oct 03, 2011In 2008, Leslie Feist was on the other side of seven years of non-stop touring, thanks to the phenomenal worldwide success of her back-to-back platinum-selling albums Let It Die and The Reminder. She was rootless, tired and ready for a break. What her fans didn't know was that she was actually contemplating something far more permanent than a break.
"I didn't want to play music anymore," Feist tells Exclaim! "When I first got off the road, it was of the mindset that I don't care about the future, I just care that today I am not on tour anymore. I'm not picking up that guitar over there and it's sort of squinting at me and I'm going to squint back at it but I'm not going to play it. It's not that I hated music, I wanted to do other things, some normal stuff. I took enough time off that there was a fresh, mental clean slate. That guitar I was squinting at, eventually I picked it up. Eventually I got curious about it again. And then not only was I curious but I got completely ignited and I was back."
And she has come back in a hell of a big way. Metals, due out Tuesday (October 4), features bold drums and twinkles of flute, with detours into noise rock and slinky jazz. Feist wrote most of the songs last fall, then called in the reinforcements: longtime friends, collaborators and fellow musicians Chilly Gonzales and Mocky, people she trusted to help facilitate her fresh start.
"Of all the people on the planet, I knew they were the last two on earth that would want me to recreate Reminder-type tones," Feist says. "Like, 'Yeah, The Reminder, that was ten seconds in the total story, so why would we?' I knew there was going to be the chance to really begin again. This record is not about recreating a past or reacting to it, too much."
Gonzales has nothing but praise for the ways in which his old friend has grown as a musician. Speaking to Exclaim! from his home base in Paris, he offered his analysis of Metals.
"The songwriting is less conventional than before. She's being much bolder about getting away from default song structures than I could probably ever be," he says. "The songs sound simple but are actually more complex than one would think. She would play me a sketch, and I would feel as if I had understood the song -- but when I tried to play along, I noticed a lot of counter-intuitive details... Her singing and guitar playing are just off the charts now since she toured so much.
"Having so-called 'credibility' -- my fingers can hardly type the words -- and big success is a huge boost to her confidence. Between the first two albums she went far into 'owning' every note of the album and was rewarded by all that love -- so the leap between [The Reminder] and [Metals] is a bigger and more sure-footed leap. The wind is at her back now."
The Feist-loving world will officially get this return tomorrow, when the album is released via Arts & Crafts in Canada. Feist is also supporting the record with a tour, which includes several Canadian dates. You can see the schedule here. And if you're in Toronto, there's a kick-off show on October 8 with Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, Grizzly Bear's Ed Droste and Constantines' Bry Webb, among others.
For more on Feist and her Metals, read this month's Exclaim! cover story here.