Toronto electro-pop duo Featurette, comprised of Lexie Jay and Jon Fedorsen, brings honesty and grit into pop music with the release of a sophomore album Dream Riot on January 17 on all streaming platforms. Following a whirlwind year sharing stages with Alessia Cara, Scott Helman, and Walk Off The Earth, Featurette has emerged from the studio with its own distinctly polished, dark pop sound.
Teaming up with producer Marc Koecher, who also worked on the duo’s debut album Crave, and new producer Pilzbury, Dream Riot features dark stories sugarcoated in bubble gum beats, such as the 2019 single Million Things, a commentary on the aesthetic and material obsessions of a society overrun by social media.
With a formal education in opera from the University of Toronto, Lexie Jay had been creating music on her own before meeting Fedorsen who was experimenting with beats and other sonics on his computer. The duo found the perfect writing partnership, combining their talents into crafting mature pop hits. Their work ethic and skill did not go unnoticed as they’ve received a number of accolades, including earning a Top 10 showing in Slaight Music’s Juno Masterclass.
With Dream Riot, Featurette has taken a big leap forward and is poised for a potential break out on the Canadian pop scene in 2020.
What sets Dream Riot apart from your previous release Crave?
Crave was a huge evolution for us initially. When we started playing music together, Jon and I were both playing guitar, and we basically had a pop-folk band going on—just miles away from where we’d end up with the sound of Crave. It was super edgy, dark and alternative, with some uplifting moments. I would say Dream Riot is an equally large step forward. It’s punchier and far hookier than anything we’ve done before, with pop sensibilities, and an intense electronic vibe. The sound design and textures we’ve created are all grown up, thicker and louder than before. Even lyrically speaking, we feel we’ve really found our stride and have so much more to say than we ever have before.
What songs on the record are you most proud of and why?
White Rabbit is definitely a stand out for me. We’ve been asked so many times to compare our music to other bands and normally we can, at least by fusing other artists together. But White Rabbit is just so unique, I’m not sure who I’d compare it to! The sound really just punches you in the gut when the chorus hits, then soothes you again in the verses. The song is about climate change and how humanity is taking advantage of the world around us with little disregard for our future, so it ought to be a knockout, right? No one wants to listen to a song about the planet because we all feel so helpless. But I feel really passionately about this issue so it’s something I wanted reflected on the album.
We’re also really proud of the two singles, Million Things and the latest one, You Do You. What’s so cool about both of these songs is that they’re happy sounding! We thrive in that dark, twisty, moody world, so fusing our style into something uplifting is a really big ask for us normally. We actually wrote You Do You for a fan of ours in Montreal, Sarah, who needed to hear that message. I’ve never had more uplifting lyrics come to me so naturally. It is so meaningful and impactful, I really think it will resonate with the people that need to hear that they are good enough, just the way they are.
What makes your musical partnership work so well?
I mean, it doesn’t always work. Obviously we’re quite close and, as a result, we have a tendency to get into passionate musical fights on day one of writing, followed by some confusion and spinning tires on day two, followed by an awesome kicking-ass-taking-names day three, which is when we actually get work done. It takes a minute to get back into the swing of things if you take a break from the studio for a bit. But when it works, it certainly works well.
We’ve got a lot of bases covered—Jon studied jazz drums, and I studied opera, so we’ve got a well-rounded music history to draw from, which actually comes into practice in the alt/pop world more often than one might think. What’s really nuts is we both like the same style of music, electronic, intense, dark, and hooky, which is what we’re writing exactly at the moment. What are the chances of that, given our divergent pasts? Jon covers the beat side of things, I’ve got the top-line, and we work on finding the vibe together, with my cat. Strangely, and thankfully, we make a well-rounded team.
What's been the biggest change in your life over the past year and what your goals for 2020?
In the past year, we flipped from writing mode to performance mode, and I think any artist can tell you what a big change that is. We went from hiding under a rock honing our craft in the privacy of our studio, to working with mega-creative visual content producers trying to re-light our spark for our fans in the public eye. It’s really nerve-wracking working up to a pending release. So much changed in that year of writing with our sound, and even our visual image, that there’s a very real sense of self-doubt and anxiety.
Of course, there’s excitement too, but for me anyway, that comes later. When we put out Million Things last May, it had been a year and a half since we’d released any new music. We’d changed so much, and the video for Million Things really says it all. It’s polished and dreamlike, bizarre and fun, and a real step up in terms of our creativity. This year was a music video marathon for us—we filmed four heavy-duty music videos and put out three, with three single releases. We couldn’t be prouder and we feel every so excited for the album to be released.
What's your best touring story?
There are two I feel compelled to share, and they both involve a lot of rain. Most recently, we toured with Scott Helman, which was fantastic and something we'll never forget. It was super well planned out, except for one night where we had to get from Quebec City to Kingston overnight. It was summer and my birthday. It was the end of a great run with Scott and Kingston was the last night. So we get off stage in Quebec and after packing up, we grab a drink because it’s my birthday. This turned out to be an unwise waste of time because it put us right in a collision course with a massive thunderstorm. So we’re driving in complete darkness on unfamiliar roads in a monsoon and we find ourselves almost crashing on a snow bridge that became a Slip'n Slide death trap in the rain. We were both screaming—not great for the show the next day on my end—but we made it, tireless hours later.
The other story happened when we were booked to play a frosh week show at Brock University in support of Alessia Cara. Unfortunately, there was serious rain, so nobody got to plug in. However, we got the coolest consolation prize—the thousands of students who had tickets to the show still got to see Alessia play an acoustic show inside, and she pulled the classiest move by inviting me on stage to duet on her song Wild Things. It was a show I’ll literally never forget.
Management: Alex Wyder / High Tide Artists
PR: Cassandra Popescu / Strut Entertainment