The first Spotlight of the new year sets its sights on Featurette. We had a chance to talk to Lexie and Jon about the release of the of their new album Dream Riot. They got to team up with producer Marc Koacher again who also worked on the debut album. Check out what they had to say about the music industry and their new album.
What do you enjoy most about being a musician? What do you hate most?
We enjoy almost every aspect of the musician end of things. But of course creation/composition is definitely one of our favourite parts. We love working out the problem of what a beat or bass line can become or grow into. There’s such an infinite possibility to that, which really intrigues us! Second to that, is probably creating a storyboard and art for music videos. It’s amazing to watch your creations come alive with video footage. It can be a very hectic time, but so rewarding when you get to see the final piece.
I think the part we have difficulty with is not knowing what lies ahead. Probably for most musicians at our level, you can try to make as many goals and dreams as you like, but actual planning is so reliant on different facets of the industry, it can be difficult to have the ‘look-ahead’ that we’d like. At the end of the day, the best way to work through those insecurities and that feeling of ’what now?’ is to turn it into excitement for the future. It’s a challenge, but well worth the reward when you get that really awesome show or a release that hits home with your audience. Those moments definitely make the waiting worth it.
You’ve been very vocal about your opinions on Trump and the devaluation of principles, how do you think things have changed in those 2 years, and what are your thoughts on the current changes occurring here in Canada?
Perhaps more than just Canada, these are issues we all need to start thinking about globally – our latest single “White Rabbit” speaks a lot to that truth. It explores our world once we’ve progressed further down our current path, or continued to put our collective head in the sand about major issues like climate change and the impact that not living sustainably will have on our planet. “White Rabbit” is a song filled with images of nature, that we’ve pictured in our music video set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
The ‘White Rabbit’ is a play on the character in Alice in Wonderland, famously saying “We’re late, we’re late, for a very important date!” We’re trying to draw attention to the issue of running out of time to make changes as a society. Because it’s not about a few people doing things like ‘zero-waste’ perfectly – not at all, moreover it’s about everyone doing their part imperfectly, and educating themselves about what they can do to make many small changes in their own lives that will collectively have a much bigger impact. It’s something we’re passionate about, and will likely continue to speak out about.
You draw heavily on very dreamy synths and from the shoe-gaze movement, with strong comparisons to big acts like JUSTICE and CHVRCHES, what’s it like being placed in the same category as them?
We think it’s really cool! We’re honoured to even be compared. We’ve worked so hard to hone in on what our signature sound really is, and refine that from a sound design angle, which we hoped would put us in the same category as those kinds of acts. I’m super amped to put out this new record as it very much explores the synth sounds our audience comes to expect from us, but also leans more toward the future bass movement and instrumental electronic music. Some more references you might be able to draw from on this new record are Flume and Petit Biscuit, it’s a really fresh sound. We can’t wait to hear what you think!
Justice was so cool, they really changed the way I was thinking about electronic duos when I heard them and was one of the bands I had on my playlist when I was in NZ when we started the band. We got the pleasure to hang with CHVRCHES for a hot minute when they were playing Toronto last year (I’m pretty sure I started to get into nerdy live-routing stuff with Martin to the point he politely excused himself to go to the bar hahaha!), but we really love how groups like them, that is to say electronic groups that are devised of so few members have really made their mark on the rest of us, worldwide.
To me, I think it’s flattering to be compared to them, but in practice I can say that the influences they have on us are more subconscious and get mixed in with a bunch of other things we’re listening to when we’re writing and producing, so it’s interesting to see that we’ve had a direct “recognizable” connection between those bands and us from a number of listeners over the years.
I think what that connection probably means is we’re melodic like CHVRCHES, Lauren and Lexie don’t really have similar voice types but a penchant for story-telling and their voices sound so great with the fullness of the synths around them- and percussive like Justice, with pulsatile rhythms and driving elements. I think all three of the bands have the same penchant for including some “ugly” sounds (as Lexie and I like to call them) that steers it away from pure pop and tells the listener they have to go deeper into what’s happening with the songs.
How do you keep your sound unique in a society that tries to pressure you into these Spotify-like categories?
Although we are influenced by things happening right now in music, I think we don’t really try to ‘write for’ any Spotify playlists. And maybe that’s one of our weaknesses, but it definitely allows us to have a sound that others don’t have, because we’re not trying to fit into those niche playlists. Some of our songs happen naturally, and that’s totally great, but we’re working hard to stand out, rather than fit in.
What do you think of the music industry now with the introduction of streaming services and how is this affecting artists?
For one, it’s not easy to make a living! It’s ever more important to try to be well rounded so that you can maximize all your different income opportunities, even if it’s just to fund your project and just put it all back into your art until you pop your head above the rest of the crowd and finally get that hit that blows up. If we relied on streaming alone, it would be kind of a crap shoot as far as what’s going to hit, what’s going to get on a good playlist, which song the curators will stand behind. Maybe even especially for our music since it’s so different, as you mentioned, from what’s happening right now.
I think we’re lucky that we’ve had some traction so far, and I really hope we continue to have traction and build our global audience that way. At this point we don’t know what our ‘in’ might be as far as getting to the next level.
If, for example, it’s our live show, and say we were to play a show in Berlin that really hit with that audience and started a whole Euro-Featurette movement, we’d probably never find that without that data from the streaming services, so in that way, it can be quite valuable, if not on a monetary level at the moment.
Streaming can get you in front of the audience that can take your career to the next level even if it doesn’t blow up at first on Spotify or any other similar platform. We think it’s super important to maximize those opportunities if we’re going to stand a chance of ‘making it’ – or whatever that means to us as we continue to grow.
In previous interviews you’ve mentioned you draw inspiration from visiting your brother in New Zealand back in 2012. How do you think your sound has evolved since then?
It’s evolved in leaps and bounds. The whole ‘influenced by that trip’ thing was because I asked my friends online for new artists and songs they liked so I could have a playlist that I hadn’t heard before for this adventure. Someone once told me it’s important that when you go to a new place that you make a new playlist just for that trip, because the new songs aren’t linked to any past emotions or time periods from your life, so you can have totally new impression of this place, and the music becomes the soundtrack for that adventure.
Then, every time you listen to those songs, it takes you back to that place. Pretty magical. At that point the bands on the playlist were Broods, (early) Lorde, Moderat, Telefon Tel Aviv, Passion Pit, Deadmau5, Tove Lo, Aurora, Phantogram, CHVRCHES, Miike Snow – and I think in many ways a lot of those sounds found their way into our music one way or another.
Since then we kept that electronic vibe, but not necessarily an 80s revival. We expanded our listening horizons to things like Flume, Petit Bisquit, Bülow, early Billie Eilish, San Holo, Odesza; and these new influences have started to infiltrate our sound design.
It’s more of a subconscious thing as we’re really not in the practice of chasing any trend, but we do find that tracks on our album like “Burn It Down,” “The Blame,” “DKMWY” and “White Rabbit” are doing some very different things from a sound design perspective than what we had in CRAVE. More glitchy. The synths themselves are as much a part of the drums and rhythm tracks as they are harmonic aspects. It’s super different and we’re excited to see what everyone thinks.
If you could only pick one person who would you say has influenced you the most?
That person would definitely be our producer Marc Koecher, who is pretty much the third member of our duo, haha! Even more so now that he’s actually played a few gigs on stage with us (spoiler if you haven’t seen it yet!). His sound engineering is a huge aspect of that ‘Featurette flavour’ that makes our sound so unique. He’s always listening to what’s out there (perhaps unlike us as we don’t do enough of that) and spends a great deal of time perfecting and layering synths.
He’s an absolute beast at sound design and without him and his positive energy, we think the whole project would be very different.
What is your dream collab, and why?
We think from the beginning it’s always been Phantogram. They were a heavy influence when we were making our first album CRAVE and just to see how far their music has come, it’s such an inspiration for us! We’d love to make that happen one day. – Lexie/Jon
FEATURETTE started back when you were both teaching music at summer camp, are you planning on teaming up with any organizations like girlsrocktoronto? And if so how do you balance fame and philanthropy?
That’s such a great idea and definitely something we should pursue in the future! We actually continued to teach at that band camp for years after we first met there, we love the idea of passing music on to the next generation. We’re definitely a while off from ‘fame’ haha! We’ll let you know when we get there, and at that point, we definitely plan on giving back.
Actually, we just shot a music video where a bunch of the students that we taught at that band camp make some cameos, and many of them are doing awesome art related things which is pretty cool.
What is the best music advice you’ve been given that you would pass on to someone else starting out?
Can’t be sure that it’s the best advice, but a piece of advice that’s stuck with us is to just keep making the music you want to make. It can be so stressful to chase trends and feel like you’re always going after a certain sound or look – we try our best to create our own sounds and develop the music that’s already inside of us. To anyone who’s making music and are finding they don’t know where they fit in, we’d say keep making your noise as loud as you can – eventually your audience will hear you, and because you’re making such an honest product, it’s going to resonate that much deeper.
To add to that, if you want your music to resonate and make an impact with your audience, you also need to make sure you’re open to their feedback. Don’t fall in love with the first thing you make, there might be someone who has more experience, who can help make your ideas even better. You think you wrote the best chorus ever? Make it your verse and then write something even stronger!
What’s the story you want to tell with your new LP?
Dream Riot is the culmination of the past year and a half of our lives. It’s a collection of stories, or featurettes if you will, that span a lifetime. There are stories of real pain, and songs of triumph. We touch on everything from relationships with the female perspective at the forefront of the narrative, to social media and mental health, to environmental concerns and climate change. It’s unapologetically us in our truest form.
I think most of all it really deals with the issue of fitting in, which is something everyone struggles with. In all different ways and throughout every painful stage of becoming ourselves, we long to find our place. A place to call our own; something uniquely ‘us’ that we can cling to when everything else is ever changing. With Dream Riot, we want to challenge this desire to fit in, we’ve worked hard to create a musical world all our own, focusing ever harder on standing out.
You’ve worked several times with Ian Macmillan for your music videos, can we expect any other collaborative projects between you both in the future? What’s it like having worked with someone who knows your work and your vision as intimately as yourselves?
You’re in luck! We just shot another music video for our album feature, “You Do You,” which is the single that’s going to be the face of this campaign. It was an unbelievably last minute ‘DIY-af’ video that turned out to be, potentially, one of our best yet! The song is inspired by a fan, turned friend, of the band named Sarah. Sarah is unfortunately dealing with bullying, anxiety and even depression in her high school experience right now, which is something she’s confided in us, and looked for advice over the years.
There are issues that are very close to my heart as I dealt with the same things in that period of my life. She gave us permission to have her as our muse, and share her story, which is what brought “You Do You”to life. It’s the anthem for the underdog, proudly driving home the message: You are enough, just the way you are. It’s about finding yourself, for yourself; because at the end of the day, you’ve got to be the one that has your back and stand up for what you believe in. Ian and our small crew of 5 captured it so beautifully.
“You Do You” Video
The video features role models, friends of ours, that we wanted to show Sarah as examples of what to strive for in life after high school, because there’s so much more good for her that lies ahead that she can go out into the world and make for herself. I think the 2 week turn around we had to make this video happen is a true testament to the team that Ian and FEATURETTE make – Jon and I were the producers/vision for this track, securing everything from location, to storyboarding, to art and props, to cast – catering, set design, special fx, you name it!
It was so home-grown and still turned out so beautifully. I think that really only works when you trust the person you’re working with, and Ian is just one of those people that we’d follow through thick and thin. We’ve shot 4 music videos with him so far (Bang, Million Things, DKMWY, and soon to be released You Do You), and we can’t wait to make more art with him in the near future! Love that guy.
What was your creative process for Dream Riot and did that change much from working on CRAVE?
The biggest difference between the two albums is that with Dream Riot we were starting from an evolved place, versus with CRAVE we were starting with a blank slate. CRAVE was very indulgent – we could go where the music and the stories took us, and basically make art for art sake. We picked the sounds we liked and painted a picture with them. But Dream Riot is so different from that. We’ve already created ‘our sound’ and we don’t want to abandon all that progress we’ve made. We have to stick to it, but evolve it at the same time.
It’s like in improvisation, there’s the ‘yes, and -‘ rule. You have to accept the action you’re given (yes), and build upon it. You can’t just reject it and do your own thing… that stops the flow of the scene, it has to be productive and cooperative. This is very similar to that.
Now is the time to refine our sound. How can we make it bigger and better than before and use it to draw even more focus on our message or our story. It was a great exercise for us in figuring out what we want to put out there, now that we’ve carved out a little tiny corner of the world for our project to live in. It took longer to make than the first record, but somehow we’re even prouder now than we were then. We’re proud of how far our sound has come, and we hope our audience loves it.
What do you want to tell your fans?
The most important thing we want to do is thank our fans for sticking with us! It’s been a while since our last record, and it means the world that our audience is getting excited again and giving us the green light that they’re digging the singles we’ve teased so far.
It makes us feel like this all means something, and that’s such a good feeling. We can’t wait to release our new art out into the world and give it away to all of you. We hope you’ll love it as much as we do! THANK YOU GUYS, WE LOVE YOU! We couldn’t do it without you.
If any of you ever want to talk about any of the topics we bring up in our songs, we’re here for you and we’d love to listen.
Thank you for making our sounds matter.
xx Lexie & Jon || FEATURETTE
Check out Featurette’s new music on “Dream Riot” now available on major platforms today!
To check out more from Featurette visit the website here for links to all her social media and music.
To get your own spotlight please contact us and lets tell your story