Owen Pallett

Pallett became involved in Toronto's indie music community when he joined the band The Hidden Cameras in 2002. For a short time, he led his own trio, Les Mouches, and was a member of various other bands such as Picastro and Boy Magic.

Owen Pallett

 Owen Pallett (Michael James). Singer-songwriter, violinist, composer, arranger, b Mississauga, Ont, 7 Sep 1979; B MUS (Toronto) 2002. Raised in Milton and Mississauga, Ont, Owen Pallett began playing the violin at age three. Strongly influenced by classical composers such as Dmitri Shostakovich and Béla Bartók, Pallett began composing music for one of his brother's video games when he was 13. In high school, he wrote his first opera, played in bands and began performing solo violin shows. Pallett later attended the University of Toronto and graduated with a degree in music composition. Uncertain about a career in classical music, he worked 2004-5 as a programmer and violinist on Stuart McLean's "The Vinyl Café" radio show on CBC, and played gigs at bars before entering the indie music scene. Performing under the name Final Fantasy for many years, Pallett developed a signature blend of avant-garde and orchestral pop that has garnered him international attention. His live shows have a reputation for being unpredictable, intimate and mesmerizing.

Early Career

Pallett became involved in Toronto's indie music community when he joined the band The Hidden Cameras in 2002. For a short time, he led his own trio, Les Mouches, and was a member of various other bands such as Picastro and Boy Magic. While Pallett was making a name for himself as a performer, he also worked as a studio musician and arranged the strings on Arcade Fire's 2004 release, Funeral.

Final Fantasy

In 2004, Pallett adopted the stage name Final Fantasy as a tribute to the Japanese video game of the same name. It was in that period that he began experimenting with a sampling unit during live sets. Violin, vocal, guitar, and keyboard samples, as well as looped live sounds, soon became an extensive part of his act. In 2005 he released his first album, Has a Good Home, as a part of the Blocks Recording Club workers' co-operative. It was then released on the Tomlab label, which introduced Final Fantasy to listeners across Europe and greatly expanded Pallett's fan base in France and Germany. The album was also well-received by critics in Canada and the US, where Pallett was commended for extending his classical training to the indie pop forum. In the New York Times, 11 Dec 2005, Carl Wilson wrote: "Mr. Pallett's art is born of contrast, not only between pop and contemporary composition, but between the organic and the electronic, the fantastical and the domestic, the abrasive and the sweet."

In 2006, Pallett released his second album, He Poos Clouds, which was partly based on the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons. The album earned him the inaugural Polaris Music Prize. Pallett donated the majority of the prize money to Blocks Recording Club. He spent the next few years promoting his album and writing string arrangements for various musicians. Between 2006 and 2009, Pallett collaborated with an estimated 30 different musicians and bands.

In 2009 Pallett retired the stage name Final Fantasy to avoid copyright infringement. His album Heartland was released in 2010 under his own name and under new record labels Domino Recording Co. and For Great Justice Records. The album was recorded in four countries and features the Czech Symphony Strings. To promote Heartland, Pallett toured Canada, the US, and Europe with guitarist and percussionist Thomas Gill. The album was nominated for alternative album of the year at the 2011 Juno Awards.

Other Projects

Along with writing string and orchestral arrangements for Arcade Fire's albums Funeral and Neon Bible, Pallett also helped arrange and write string and orchestral parts for Grizzly Bear's Yellow House, Beirut's The Flying Club Cup, The Last Shadow Puppets' The Age of the Understatement, Pet Shop Boys' Yes, and the Mountain Goats' The Life of the World to Come. In 2008, he wrote a piece entitled "Welcome to Kelowna" for the CBC Radio Orchestra in Vancouver. Along with Win Butler and Régine Chassagne of Arcade Fire, Pallett also composed music for the 2009 film The Box (Richard Kelly, director).

Selected Discography

Has a Good Home. 2005. Blocks Recording Club, Tomlab TOM 54

He Poos Clouds. 2006. Tomlab TOM 69

Heartland. 2010. Domino Recording Co., For Great Justice Records

Further Reading

  • Wilson, Carl. "The world's most popular gay postmodern harpsichord nerd," New York Times, 11 Dec 2005

    Polkinghorne, Silas. "Pallett serious about fantasy genre," Saskatoon Star Phoenix, 14 Sep 2006

    DeMara, Bruce. "You'll hear about this guy," Toronto Star, 24 Sep 2006

    Fricke, David. "Neon Bible," Rolling Stone, 8 Mar 2007

    Perusse, Bernard. "Not abandoning his fantasyland," Montreal Gazette, 6 Feb 2010

    Warner, Andrea. "Final flight of fantasy," Exclaim!, Feb 2010

    Devlin, Mike. "The fantastic Mr. Pallett," Regina Leader Post, 8 May 2010