Interview – Featurette

Electro-pop duo Featurette released their sophomore album Dream Riot on January 17, 2020.

Singer Lexie Jay and drummer Jon Fedorsen released their debut LP Crave in 2016 and haven’t stopped creating or performing together since. Through countless radio plays and numerous live shows, including a sold-out headlining show at Canadian Music Week, Featurette continue to make a name for themselves on the Canadian music landscape.

In 2018 they were selected as a top 10 finalist for the Allan Slaight JUNO Masterclass. To top it all off, most recently they’ve shared the stage with acts like Alessia Cara, Scott Helman, and Walk Off The Earth.

We caught up with the duo to talk about career highlights, their sophomore release, and what lies ahead in 2020.

How would you describe the whirlwind you’ve both had in the last few years?

It’s been such a well-rounded experience so far. I feel like we’ve really got to see this whole industry from so many different angles. When we did our first release CRAVE, right off the bat it was so intense with touring, press, social media, competitions, radio – we got to experience so much! Then we went back into the studio for a whole year, and there were honestly times when we felt: are we even still a band? It’s like falling off the face of the earth, and it happens so quickly! Of course, there were still shows in that year, and we even toured but compared to the buzz we had when we released our first work and the singles to follow, it was all so quiet and introverted. Truly the other side of what being a musician is all about.

We spent a lot of time reaching inward. Developing our story, our sounds – even our message. We refined and worked on our project and I think it was well worth that anxious feeling of ‘are we doing enough’ because now that we’re on the brink of release again, we can feel that energy coming back. The buzz is building, the press is responding positively so far, we can feel our fans behind us and we’re ready to give it our all!! Breaking that seal with the release of “Million Things” in May last year, the first tease we sent out into the world from this new album, was like heaven. Finally, we feel like we’re ready to take the next steps, and here we are – moments before the release, feeling that again and wondering what lies ahead. Very exciting, we can’t wait to do it all again!

What’s your favourite part about making music together? What makes your dynamic work so well?

I think my favourite part is when you get into the mood, like really deep into a song, or even just a vibe track, and you could swear you’ve only been in the studio for an hour, and then it’s 5 am. That’s the best. Sometimes you listen the next day and its total crap, and sometimes you wake up to a completed track that just needs production and it’s like – Woah, we made that.

And the dynamic works, I think, because we’ve got a lot of bases covered. Jon’s the rhythm section, and truly knows his craft since he studied jazz drums – he has a lot of interesting ideas that don’t stem from the rock genre, so we get some cool opportunities to make different sounding grooves in our songs. I studied opera, which taught me a lot, and actually comes into practice in the alt/pop world more often than you might think! Not necessarily in the delivery (lol) but definitely in the harmonies and counterpoint. It makes the writing easy for sure that we both have deep musical backgrounds, and then similarly challenging since our backgrounds are so different. We sometimes find we’re speaking two different musical languages… either way, it works because we both enjoy the same style of music: electronic, intense, dark, hooky music, which is what we’re writing now.

With all of the success you’ve had so far, is there a moment that stands out?

There are so many moments that stand out, honestly I feel like we just got started at this somehow because they’re all so fresh: duetting with Alessia Cara, Opening for Dear Rouge and Walk Off the Earth – our first sync in a feature film, and many others. But I’ve never told this story and this moment shook me to my core!

I was driving Jon and I back downtown after a night at the studio with our producer, and our song Give A Little comes on Indie88 out of nowhere. It was like 2 am, and one of the first times we heard ourselves on the radio, certainly the first time we’d caught Give A Little out of the blue. So obviously I was amped, who wouldn’t be?? And I was driving a little fast- I mean I was on the highway, I was excited, adrenaline pumping… you get the picture. And I see a cop on the shoulder of the highway up ahead. And I look down at my speedometer. And I’m doing 40 over. I mean, the speed limit on the Gardiner is 90, and EVERYONE goes 110-120 when there’s no traffic cause you gotta keep up with traffic flow right? But I was doing 130, and I was *the only* car on the road. *gulp* So I hit the breaks and slow down, realizing my error, and hope that I’m clear.

I drive by the cop (trying so friggin hard not to look suspicious and failing so bad), and they pull out after me and my stomach is in my throat…then the blue and red lights go on. I pull over, and this is literally the first (and only as of yet!) time I’ve been stopped by the cops. Like my record is clean as a freshly windexed window. So I’m freaking out, and I roll down the window, and the lady asks me if I knew how fast I was going.

Of course, I reply I didn’t realize, but I do now. And she asks me why I was going so fast and I like CRANK UP the radio and say “I JUST HEARD MY SONG ON THE RADIO FOR THE FIRST TIME AND I’M SO SORRY AND I WILL NEVER DO IT AGAIN!!” (Which I’m sure came off as inaudible sniveling at this point.).

She leaves with my info and comes back and by the grace of all that is good, she took pity on me and issued a warning which, omg I was going way too fast for! Could have lost it all folks. But now I know: your song comes on and catches you off guard?? PULL OVER! Then I can Instagram it instead of scaring the life outta me! Holy bananas. Probably not the answer you expected here, but I like to keep it fresh 😉

Were there significant differences between how you approached writing and creating this album, compared to your debut?

I think the biggest difference is that 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 just almost make art for art’s 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 this thing, kind of our own mini-movement, that we feel a responsibility to in a way.

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, it has to be productive and cooperative. This is very similar to that. We can’t just abandon our ’sound’ that we’ve started to find. We have to lean into it. Refine it. Focus on our message and our story and really 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. Yes, we made that, and now, this.

The music video for “White Rabbit”, one of your latest singles, is visually striking – talk to us about the concept behind it and its relation to the song.

This is an excellent follow-up question actually because it very much links to our last answer. In focusing on our message and our story, we found we wanted to further develop the idea of FEATURETTE (the band), producing mini ‘featurette’ (the adjective) music videos.  That’s why it was so important to us that every single release we came out with this past year gearing up for our album release, had a music video attached to it. And each in a very different world.

We wanted the visual for the song to go one step further than reflecting just our style and aesthetic as a band, but also reflecting the song and sound design in it. “White Rabbit” sonically speaking, is both vibrant and sparse. It uses silence as a weapon, but the tones themselves are rich and striking when they do play, and we tried to reflect this in the visuals. It’s extremely memorable, as is the song. The video is set in the post-apocalyptic world that’s described in the song. The lyrics reference near-constant images of nature and power, and the idea behind them is that humanity is focusing solely on the self right now, where we need to shift our collective consciousness to the whole, or we’re going to run out of time to do so.

I’m very passionate about efforts toward sustainability and starting to put nature first as a focus of our materialistic culture, and I wanted to picture that in the video as well as the song. The white rabbit is a reference to Alice in Wonderland, the imagery behind time running out. “Always it’s all about you…  And always you find your way through, this time you don’t.” I think it speaks for itself in saying, I don’t believe we’ve got infinite time, and I do think we need to start paying attention to these warnings our planet is giving us, immediately if not sooner. Which is exactly why we chose to write about it.

What’s your favourite track from Dream Riot that you can’t wait for fans to hear – and what makes that particular song stand out for you?

Other than “Million Things” and “White Rabbit” which have already made their debut, our feature track for this album, “You Do You”, is a song I couldn’t be prouder of. This song hit me like a ton of bricks while I was literally taking a bath, and I heard the lyrics and melody with such force I nearly killed myself jumping out of the tub to grab my lyric book and get it down! It’s got such a great story.

“You Do You” is inspired by a fan, now friend, of the band named Sarah. She’s been dealing with the growing pains of adolescences, which we all know can be brutal. This is something that resonated with me when I met her, as I also experienced bullying, anxiety, and depression in high school. It’s a dark time for many, some more than others of course. Sarah’s confided in me over the years, and we agreed that we wanted to tell our story.

Lyrically speaking this song is full of powerful images, it’s written as a direct message to her: “Girl you make your breaks, even if you run into mistakes – girl you gotta find another way. Every single day, just You Do You.” We couldn’t resist this one as the album single because the story is just so meaningful to us. So we brought it to life in a music video, true to form! We rented out the old 11th division abandoned police station in the Junction, right before the holidays, to shoot a very DIY music video that came together serendipitously.

I invited a bunch of our friends out to showcase them as role models, to surprise Sarah. She actually hasn’t seen the music video yet and doesn’t know what I did with it, but she does know the song is written for her! We were trying to show Sarah the ‘everyday warrior’ basically. Just a bunch of regular people who are straight-up killing it in their own lives, and suffered through tough times as well, but came out the other side a stronger person. We wanted to show her it gets better, and that she can be strong and find her way. Most of all, we want her to know that we believe in her, and how grateful we are that she believes in us. “You Do You” is the anthem for the underdog, proudly driving home the message: You are enough, just the way you are.

What else does 2020 have in store for FEATURETTE?

Our full-length sophomore album Dream Riot comes out, available on all platforms where you listen to music, on January 17th of this year! The feature track “You Do You” is an absolute banger and we really hope you love it. The music video for this song has never before been seen, and we honestly think it might be our best yet. We’ve got a festival headlining slot with Wintersong the VERY next day, January 18th, we’ll be on the main stage playing right before The Sadies! More festivals and touring dates to be announced as the year unfolds! As for the rest, we’ll see where the music takes us, as always. Can’t wait you guys, gonna be a fun year.

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