Written for Wonka Vision Magazine, Issue #43
You may not be familiar with Feist, but my guess is you're familiar with the iPod TV commercial featuring her hit single, "1234". No? What about the video that appeared on that very same commercial starring the cast of dancers in colorful leotards? Ah, yes. Now you're with me. Indeed what you saw was not drug-induced. Those leotards really happened and the artist behind them--in particular the blue one--is none other than the songstress born Leslie Feist.
For those already familiar with the artist, a packet of gold stars for you. But what else do you know about her? Readers beware: Feist is far more than another pretty face in pop music. And she’s more than a one hit wonder, too. And, well, here she is in 1, 2, 3, 4.
One or Punk Beginnings… Feist got her start in music when she founded and was lead vocalist for Calgary punk band, Placebo (not to be confused with the British rock band). An old video of the band performing live shows the 18 year old singer grunged-out in combat boots with a pierced septum and straggly red hair. But what's most noticeable here is Feist's vox. While we know the singer's voice to be sweet and delicate, here we find her belting, even shouting at times, in a way that would have made Eddie Vedder take notice.
In fact, after 5 years of this vocal strain, the singer began to loose her voice. She eventually became temporarily mute due to vocal chord damage and was forced to take an indefinite break from Placebo. She moved to Toronto in 1998 where she began seeing a specialist and focused on healing her voice. This was the beginning of to the Feist we know today, as the artist used this time to simply play the guitar and write songs.
Two or Friends in High Places… In Toronto, Feist shacked up with a friend of a friend by the name of Merrill Nisker, though others might know her as the outrageous electro-punk musician, Peaches. She began working the back stage at Peaches shows, eventually hitting the road with the artist and a sock puppet, calling herself “Bitch Lap Lap”. When the two toured Europe together, they stayed with Justine Frischmann of Elastica and M.I.A. How’s that for creative inspiration?
Oh, and then she formed indie blockbuster band, Broken Social Scene, with Brendan Canning and Kevin Drew. That same year saw the release of The Red Demos, which would later become her major label debut, Let It Die, after wish she moved to Paris and collaborated with the Norwegian duo extraordinaire, Kings of Convenience. Feeling enlightened yet?
Three or So Many Awards… Soon after Let it Die, the accolades began pouring in. She won two Canadian Juno Awards for "Best New Artist" and "Best Alternative Rock Album". Her album went platinum in Canada, gold in France. And this was only the beginning. Later in the states she would release The Reminder, which would climb to No. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100. And then came “1234” which was named one of the 10 Best Songs of 2007 by Time Magazine as well as awarded Juno “Song of the Year”. And let’s not forget the aforementioned placement on iPod commercial.
Four or Thank you, iPod… After the airing of the commercial of “1234” sales for the single went from 2,000 downloads a week to passing an astonishing 73,000 downloads—a number I can hardly fathom. She later wrote and performed a version of the hit for Sesame Street. The song was about the number 4, helping children learn to count. The appearance was, perhaps, my favorite Feist moment of all, as it seemed to portray both her sublimity and humanity at once.
But she’s taught the world so much more than counting to 4, hasn’t she? Feist was driven to do music. She surrounded herself with strong, creative women and was open to where the world would take her. 1, 2, 3, 4 and to infinity.
Feist on Sesame Street
"1234" performed by Sycamore High School