Toronto-based electro-indie-pop duo Featurette (think Phantogram meets Tove Lo), which features vocalist Lexie Jay and drummer Jon Fedorsen, spent most their 2014 creating their 2-part album Crave.
The emotionally charged, heavy hitting electro-pop coming from Northern Europe, New York and New Zealand influences the dancefloor-friendly effort, which will be premiered on December 3rd at The Burdock in Toronto. We recently spoke with the duo about the creative process, and inspirations behind their new album, musical compatibility, and their future.
How important do you think grants like FACTOR are to indie artists, being able to create music like they want?
Lexi: Most important, we got a full grant for our first album that we just released last month and it was integral. You can put things out for sure, but if you want the proper production and you want to be able to afford things that are going to make your album go the next distance, you want to be heard by somebody and you want it to be noticed, and to sound proper and that’s what allowed us to do that.
What would you say to anxious fans about a follow-up album?
Lexi: Just know that where we started was Crave and now we’re picking up from where we left off. What ends up on the next album, for the people following that process, is going to be a completely different animal, which is cool. It’s still going to be this Featurette style, but we’ve started in such a more developed place than when we started our first album, that I’m very excited to see where it ends up.
Jon: That being said, we were still very excited about Crave, but we’re pushing this for quite a long time, so that’s going to be really refined and really polished.
What was it like working with Josh Sadler-Brown and Marc Koecher? What did they bring to the album?
Lexi: In a lot of ways, they brought everything. We brought them, completed, got out and were very happy with these songs and then they took our songs and tore them apart limb from limb and were like deal with it.
I have no idea what our music even sounded like before, but I think it might have been bad compared to what we ended up with. We loved everything we came in there with, we will never do that again, I’m going to be so open minded when I go back into the studio and it all gets torn apart.
Where we ended up was amazing though, we couldn’t have been happier and I think although it was a painful process, we evolved into a new thing and it was totally right in the end. They were so integral to the process.
You started the band back in 2012, how did you two get together and what sparked up the musical compatibility between the two of you?
Jon: I’ve been playing in bands for a while now and as a drummer it’s great, but limiting. I’ve always been writing.
Drummers are known for trying to make their mark on the music of a band. People make fun of drummers constantly for wanting to chime in with a band and get their writing credits. It’s always a disaster.
My brother moved to New Zealand and he left a bunch of his music equipment. One day I said I just want to play guitar, wouldn’t it be great not lug these drums around every day.
Lexi: We met working in music actually, it was teaching at a shameful band camp. It’s where we have a lot of fun and laughs in the summer time and we make a couple bucks along the way. He was running the drum program and I was teaching violin at the time and then went on to do other things for that camp. So we just started jamming together because it’s a camp, there’s a lot of down time, it’s not too regimented and we both had guitars out. We started playing together and we thought we were going to be a folk band, but that was not a thing. As it turns out we both suck at guitar.
How does it feel to be nominated in the best pop category for the 2015 Toronto Independent Music Awards?
Jon: We were pretty honoured about that. The fact that people even know who we are was the greatest thing. It was like wow, we’ve only been playing since January, this album hasn’t even been released, it was fabulous.
Lexi: We haven’t really even been around really at all; we were just thrilled to be nominated and better luck next year.
You’re strongly influenced by music originating in Northern Europe and New Zealand, are there any groups in particular that have directly influenced your music?
Jon: When we started doing this band, Gotye and Lorde were coming out and it was sort of a breath of fresh air. It showed that [with] pop music, you could still be popular with things that were a little bit off the beat and path and off the shiny dance EDM thing.
At the time, I was visiting my brother in New Zealand for the first time and while I was there, those songs were huge. There was a big explosion of it down there. When I left Canada I asked my musician friends for bands that I had never heard of, that I put on a playlist. So when I was there, I was listening to music I had never heard of for the first time and those bands are very electronic based and they influenced the change from the folky stuff to the electronic stuff, so for me that’s the connection I have to New Zealand.
Lexi: The northern Europe stuff [is] Tough Love, Bjork, just freaky sounding ladies that made it happen. When Tough Love started hitting it big, people were freaking out about how new her sound was. There were things like that in the states, nothing big in Canada, but they weren’t as developed or as dark and I think that’s what sort of lead us to finding the dark minimalism thing. Not to say all our songs are minor and super down, just a little more power from the dark side.
You’ve spent the last year writing and recording your two-part album, what was that process like?
Jon: The process was very lengthy. Getting Josh and Mark together in the same country was extremely challenging. Josh is working a lot of time in the states doing amazing things and Mark is a genius. Very smart and talented people, so what took a year was us doing sessions in the spring and sessions in early summer, but during the summer they were working on different projects, so we revisited it after. It just took quite a long time going back and forth remotely.
Did you throw any specific or personal themes into the albums?
Lexi: The album itself has a story and it’s called Crave because of craving different things along the way. Going through life and in this sense it’s going through a relationship and fully experiencing the beginning, middle and end of a relationship and craving what happens along the way. So it starts with, like most do, craving the lust side of things and passion and just closeness to another person. Then you crave more intimacy and more love, but you don’t get it maybe, which is where the album gets dark and the end of the first EP and then in the second half, you’re craving finding yourself. You’re craving resolution and self actualization and just not needing to need somebody anymore.
I had a fan of ours write us a Google doc on what he thinks all of our songs mean and the last two songs, he speculated that maybe she meets a new person in the second half, which may or may not have happened and she’s starting the cycle again. When I wrote back to him, I told him that the person she meets is herself, she looks in the mirror and figures out that she doesn’t need that second person to make her feel complete, or happy, or bring her down or back up. It’s all her in the end that is going to do that for herself, so that’s what the last two songs on the album are about.
What do you think comes next for Featurette and did the past year send you any feelings of self-growth or growth between the two of you as a duo?
Lexi: I feel like we found our sound and ourselves. I feel like we had the growing pains in the recording process, so when we came out of it we were [complete]. The first show I think came a week and a half after we actually got the music and were able to rehearse. We had no prep going into our first ever show, which was headlining a Friday night at the Hard Rock Cafe. Not to say we were playing for a packed house, but there were a lot of people there and it wasn’t embarrassing but I was shocked. Opera and Pop are very different.
When we were recording the album, I had no idea how to sing in the pop style, I was tracking things in a voice that wasn’t even developed in my opinion, pop is a whole different thing and I had nobody to teach me. I was learning the opposite instrument vocally.
You’re premiering Crave on December 3rd, how do you think the songs will translate from the album to your live performances?
Lexi: I think it’s going to go great. We’ve been performing the album now since January and in January it was really rough, it was my first show ever. I come from the opera world, so it was a totally different flavour, there was nothing like I had trained for.
Since then though, we’ve played some great shows, opened for some bigger names and we did a bunch of festivals this summer. I get it now, I cannot wait for this December 3rd show, and I’m stoked every day.
Now more than ever, we thoroughly understand that story and that concept of writing a Featurette song, like a mini movie because we just made two music videos last week and they themselves are a featurette.