From Pitchforkmedia.com -
Profile: Final Fantasy
Story by Stephen M. Deusner | Photos by Sarah Ruba
Amazingly, violin was not Owen Pallett's first instrument. The one-man string section and Toronto music scene mainstay known as Final Fantasy actually learned piano before studying composition at University of Toronto. Fueled by what he calls "adolescent dreams" of impressing the guys he had crushes on, Pallett spent most of his college years teaching himself violin. After graduating, he began playing with bands in Toronto and Montreal. When friend and fellow violinist Patrick Wolf made plans to play the Wavelengths Series-- the weekly Toronto show that helped launch Peaches and Broken Social Scene-- Pallett threw together some songs and opened for him. Thus Final Fantasy was born.
The name comes from the video game, which Pallett admits he doesn't have the patience to play. "I like the idea of it, this big gay thing," he says, citing his interest in Japanese culture and literature. "The games are ridiculously overwrought and convoluted emotionally," which he admits also applies to his music.
At first, Final Fantasy was merely one project among many for Pallett, who stayed busy with Les Mouches, the Hidden Cameras, Picastro, and the Jim Guthrie Band. He also co-wrote the string arrangements for the Arcade Fire's Funeral, and his work with the band inspired his song "This Is the Dream of Win and Regine". In 2004, Pallett toured as part of the Vinyl Café, a CBC radio program showcasing Canadian musicians. The show skews toward a demographic slightly older than Pallett's typical audience, so he wrote some "pretty pop that would appeal to them" instead of songs about "cocks and legends" with lots of screaming.
Those tracks eventually formed Has a Good Home, his Final Fantasy debut. Produced by Leon Taheny, the album is a collection of wildly inventive songs-- some with an inevitable chamber-pop sensibility ("None of You Will Ever See a Penny"), others skirting closer to the nu-folk of Joanna Newsom ("Your Light Is Spent", and his cover of "Peach, Plum, Pear")-- all featuring his violin bowed, plucked, and looped into a sound that is at once ambitious and intimate. But Has a Good Home doesn't reflect his live shows. Most of the album's songs "are impossible to play live," he says, because of they're too complicated for one person to replicate on stage.
And, despite the drums, keyboard, and guitars on Has a Good Home, Final Fantasy remains an essentially solo live act: He plays occasionally with a drummer, but when he tours again with the Vinyl Café this spring, Final Fantasy will consist only of Pallett and his violin. Following those dates, he'll go on the road with Picastro in North America and the Arcade Fire in Europe.
In June, Pallett plans to record 7" singles for Blocks, including a tribute to his favorite band, Xiu Xiu. He'll also begin working on his second full-length, an ambitious concept album tentatively titled He Poos Clouds, which he describes as "an eight-song cycle about the eight schools of magic in Dungeons & Dragons" to be performed with a string quartet. Pallett admits his gaming obsessions can be a little over the top but says, "You gotta make your own fun."
Has a Good Home is currently available on Blocks.
(featuring Chris from Deerhoof, Nedelle, & others)