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Interview Extras: Owen Pallett

On Björk, Babies, and the World’s Best Tapas Bar


“I’m kind of like the bridesmaid,” laughed Owen Pallett when we asked him about playing opening act for Arcade Fire this Monday at the Santa Barbara Bowl. “It’s like, ‘Well, Owen’s already there. Let’s get him to do it.”

Though he’s been playing keys and strings with his Arcade Fire friends since their Reflektor tour began last year, Pallett’s got plenty of his own new accolades to brandish — including a stunning, swelling, and thoroughly well received new album titled In Conflict. Right before he takes the stage with his longtime pals, the singer-songwriter-violinist delivers an opening set that you really don’t want to miss.

Sure, he may be Arcade Fire’s perpetual bridesmaid, but we still wouldn’t mind taking him out for drinks. Below, we offer up the next best thing — excerpts from our lengthy, insightful, and kind of all-over-the-place phone chat.

On touring with Arcade Fire instead of plugging his new record: “It’s been a really big adjustment. But the whole reason I decided to do it was for my own personal development. That said, there were a million reasons to do it outside of personal development. These people are my friends and this is a major cultural thing that they’re doing. Arcade Fire, whether you like them or not — and I fucking love them, obviously — they’ve had a profound effect on the way that we listen to music, the way we write about music.”

On defining his music: “When you get down to it, I’m a singer-songwriter, but “singer-songwriter” isn’t a genre, it’s a description of an act. I think it’s used to imply something that vaguely sounds like Joni Mitchell? But ultimately was Joni Mitchell a pop musician? A rock musician? A folk musician? A jazz musician? She was a synthy musician in the ‘80s. Singer-songwriters have to make those genre decisions.”

On fatherhood: “The thing that has been affecting me for the last five years about queer parenthood is that even though the result is equally as viable and as important and as healthy as any so-called traditional forms, the beginning of parenthood for queers is very very different. It begins with administration. What I’ve started to do is cultivate a more non-committal attitude towards it [laughs], which is the attitude most straight people have, and I think so far it’s been really healthy. I would love a kid more than life itself, but I’m just going to kind of see what happens.”

On being on the inside of the music biz: “I guess I have become a little numb to notions of access because I work in the industry and I come in contact with these people. But then I take a step back and think about what it must look like to people not in the industry and it’s completely crazy. It’s crazy that Björk might be a person that you have a drink with.”

On Brian Eno: “He’s basically the closest thing I have to a deity, but for very specific reasons. His songwriting, specifically his five vocal records are really important to me. The way that he deals with language and the way that he sings, he’s been a bit of an enabler for me to feel like I can make records even though I can’t sing like Roger Daltry. He made me feel like even though I’m not a rock singer I can make rock albums.”

On his hypothetical future restaurant (and his favorite meal ever):One thing I would love to do is a classic French spot with very normal rural French prices. I don’t know if it would be Bistro style or not, though. But I also don’t think I couldn’t open a restaurant until I find a way to do it better than Quimet & Quimet. It’s in Barcelona and they only use preserved ingredients. The cheese is fresh and the fish is mostly smoked, but everything else comes out of jars. It’s all perfectly picked and preserved and saved and delivered and year-round it’s always perfect. It’s tapas style, so it’s little bits of bread topped with a slice salmon and a drizzle of honey and a sprinkling of caviar and at the end of the meal everyone’s paid maybe 20 or 30 euro. It’s absolutely my favorite restaurant in the world.

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