Owen Pallett

SHARE ON

Michael James Owen Pallett (born September 7, 1979) is a Canadian composer, violinist, keyboardist, and vocalist, who performs solo as Owen Pallett or, before 2010, under the name Final Fantasy. As Final Fantasy, he won the 2006 Polaris Music Prize for the album He Poos Clouds.

From the age of 3, Pallett studied classical violin, and composed his first piece at age 13. A notable early composition includes some of the music for the game Traffic Department 2192; he moved on to scoring films, to composing two operas while in university. Apart from the indie music scene, he has had commissions from the Barbican, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, National Ballet of Canada, Bang on a Can, Ecstatic Music Festival, the Vancouver CBC Orchestra, and Fine Young Classicals.

On his Final Fantasy releases, Pallett has collaborated with Leon Taheny, who is credited as drummer and engineer. Following the release of Heartland, Pallett has toured with guitarist/percussionist Thomas Gill and more recently with his former collaborators in Les Mouches, Rob Gordon and Matt Smith.

Pallett has been noted for his live performances, wherein he plays the violin into a loop pedal. Pallett uses Max/MSP and SooperLooper to do multi-phonic looping, which sends his violin signal to amplifiers across the stage.

In January 2014, Pallett and William Butler were nominated for Best Original Score at the 86th Academy Awards for their work on Her.

Career

Solo work

The name Final Fantasy, under which Pallett recorded prior to the release of Heartland, was a tribute to the well-known video game series, although he said that it is not one of his top twenty favorite games.

Pallett’s debut album, Has a Good Home, was released on February 12, 2005, by the Blocks Recording Club, a cooperative, Toronto-based record label of which he is a founding member. “An Arrow in the Side of Final Fantasy” borrows the music from the Space Zone’s final level in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins. “Adventure.exe” from this album was used in a series of 2006 commercials by Orange in the United Kingdom. Pallett did not intend to sell the song for this purpose, but its use was authorized due to an alleged miscommunication with his record label, Tomlab. All of Pallett’s income from this use is donated to Doctors Without Borders.

Pallett’s second album, He Poos Clouds, was released in June 2006, though the video, directed by Jesse Ewles, was released on March 1, 2006. The album consists entirely of string quartet arrangements. Eight of the ten songs are about each of the schools of magic as described in the rules to the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. The album was named winner of the 2006 Polaris Music Prize. Uncomfortable with receiving a prize sponsored by a mobile phone conglomerate, Pallett gave the money away to bands he liked who needed financial assistance.

On November 11, 2006, Pallett posted to a fan forum to announce a new album, tentatively titled Heartland. Subsequently on July 9, 2007 on the CBC Radio One program Q, Pallett said that the album would be released no earlier than mid 2008. In the same interview he confirmed that it would be titled Heartland, and that it was an album about nothingness.

In 2007, the song “This Is The Dream of Win & Regine” was used in a commercial for Wiener Stadtwerke without Pallett’s permission. Instead of litigation, Pallett and his booking agent Susanne Herrndorf approached the company for sponsorship for a music festival of their curation. The resultant Maximum Black Festival featured Final Fantasy, The Dirty Projectors, Deerhoof, Frog Eyes, Max Tundra, Six Organs of Admittance and others. It played Vienna, Berlin and London. In September 2007 they did a Take-Away Show acoustic video session shot by Vincent Moon.

In October 2007 Final Fantasy released a vinyl 7″ on Tomlab’s Alphabet Single series ( The Letter “X” ). The two tracks on “X”, recorded in Montreal with Zach Condon, of the band Beirut; predate the album He Poos Clouds. The tracks – “Hey Dad” and “What Do You Think Will Happen Next?” are both played regularly at live shows. The song “Hey Dad” contains a melody borrowed from the Nintendo video game “Super Mario Bros. 3“; specifically it is the music from the “Coin Heaven” bonus/hidden stages. Also, the song is quite similar in melody, lyrics and tone to another of Pallett’s songs – “→”.

In March 2008, Owen Pallett under the alias Final Fantasy, collaborated with Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste on a cover of Björk‘s “Possibly Maybe” as part of Stereogum‘s tribute to Björk’s album, Post.

In Fall 2008, Pallett released two EPs. The first one, Spectrum, 14th Century, was a collaboration with Beirut. The second EP, Plays To Please, found Pallett paying homage to fellow Torontonian Alex Lukashevsky, his group Deep Dark United, and his unique personality. On it, six Lukashevsky originals were reconfigured for a 35-piece big band, the Toronto-based St. Kitts Orchestra (which includes Drumheller‘s Nick Fraser, Paul Mathew of the Hidden Cameras, and a whistling Andrew Bird, among others).

On December 18, 2009, Pallett announced “I am voluntarily retiring my band name” and that Heartland “will be issued under my own name, Owen Pallett” to “definitively distinguish my music from Square Enix‘s games”. The album was released on Domino Records on January 12, 2010. It was mixed by New York producer Rusty Santos. Also he played Primavera Sound Festival 2010. In August 2010, Pallett announced the release of a four track EP entitled A Swedish Love Story on September 28 via Domino.

On November 12, 2012, Pallett tweeted that he had been working on a new album called In Conflict. For several personal reasons, Pallett delayed the intended fall 2013 release date for his fourth full-length album, ultimately released May 27, 2014.

Other contributions

Pallett’s previous projects included a 3-piece Toronto-based band, Les Mouches, now defunct. He also played fiddle for a short time with the Celtic rock band Enter the Haggis. He was once the violinist of another Toronto band called Picastro, and briefly played keyboard in SS Cardiacs (with Leon Taheny, Jessie Stein and Michael Small in 2005). Pallett has also recorded and toured with Jim Guthrie, The Hidden Cameras, Royal City, The Vinyl Cafe, Gentleman Reg, and Arcade Fire (he co-wrote the strings arrangement for their albums Funeral and Neon Bible). One of his songs, “This Is the Dream of Win & Regine”, was inspired by the principal members of the latter group, Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, and is a play on a Dntel song called, “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan.”

Pallett contributed remixes for the bands Stars, Grizzly Bear and Death from Above 1979. He also wrote string arrangements for the Canadian bands Immaculate Machine, on their 2007 album, Fables, and Fucked Up, on their 2006 album Hidden World. He also wrote the string arrangements for the Beirut album The Flying Club Cup, as well as provided vocals for the track “Cliquot”. Most recently, he provided orchestration for the side project of Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner and former Rascals frontman Miles Kane, as The Last Shadow Puppets, entitled The Age of the Understatement. Pallett also conducted the London Metropolitan Orchestra in the recording of this project.

In June 2009 at Luminato, Toronto’s annual festival of arts and creativity, Pallett provided part of the live soundtrack for the outdoor screening (at Yonge-Dundas Square) of the 1919 silent German horror film Tales of the Uncanny (Unheimliche Geschichten), alongside Canadian instrumental band Do Make Say Think and electronica music artist Robert Lippok from Berlin, Germany.

On October 17, Pallett posted on his Twitter page that he had just completed “10 days on the best album I’ve ever had the pleasure of working on”. This was ten days after a previous comment suggesting he was in the studio with Arcade Fire, who were working on their 2010 album The Suburbs at the time. It later received a Grammy Award for Album of the Year.

In 2009, Pallett worked with Win Butler and Régine Chassagne on the score for Richard Kelly‘s film The Box. Pallett was also initially set to score Rabbit Hole, a film by John Cameron Mitchell, but in the end the film was scored by Anton Sanko. In late 2010, Pallett was named as composer for T Magazine‘s “Fourteen Actors Acting” project; he received, alongside the producers of that series, an Emmy Award for “New Approaches to News & Documentary Programming: Arts, Lifestyle and Culture“.

Pallett collaborated with John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats in 2012 when several songs from the Transcendental Youth album were performed in concert with the all-female vocal quartet Anonymous 4 and featured Pallett’s arrangements for piano, guitar and voices.

Pallett scored the 2013 film The Wait directed by M Blash.

Personal life

Pallett was born in Mississauga, Ontario. He received an Honours Bachelor of Music for Composition from the University of Toronto in 2002.

Pallett believes his work is implicitly influenced by his sexuality, saying, “As far as whether the music I make is gay or queer, yeah, it comes from the fact that I’m gay, but that doesn’t mean I’m making music about it.”

Patrick Borjal, Pallett’s boyfriend, began working as his manager in 2006, and formed the management company Boyfriend Management.

Pallett’s uncle, actor Jim Pallett, starred in the music video for the 2014 single The Riverbed.

Artist information provided by WikiMedia

Leave a Reply