Canadian indie pop singer-songwriter and guitarist Leslie Feist (professionally known as Feist) is out on a worldwide tour in support of her first studio album in six years, Pleasure. Playing mostly to a seated theater audience, Feist and her small team of accompanying musicians aim to bring a more intimate and relaxed show to the audience. Mix caught them in Seattle in early October.
“The band’s sound is incredibly dynamic in nature. Everything in the live sound is close-miked to reduce feedback and bleed, so I employ a few special techniques to transition from quiet to loud moments smoothly,” says FOH engineer Brenndan McGuire. “One is my loudness bus. I merely double-bus all the inputs except for the vocals to a subgroup and I insert a 2-band EQ [joemeek EQ, with the bass and treble bands cranked] to emulate the classic ‘loudness’ curve. When the band is quiet, the bus is not active. This keeps the sources from becoming muddy and undefined.”
After several albums, and years of experimenting with styles and sounds on tour, this tight-knit Toronto-based production team works to keep things simple.
FOH engineer Brenndan McGuire
“Onstage we’re 100 percent self-contained,” says monitor engineer Matt “Sully” Sullivan. “Venues provide the P.A. and a tie-in for my distro and that’s it. I’m carrying a DiGiCo SD9 running at 96k with v929 software for my monitor console, using a combination of internal effects and an SPX990 and PCM81 externally. The band is all on Shure PSM1000 ears with JH-11 custom buds, and we’re also carrying a pair of d&b M4 wedges for Les that I use to fill out some low end things depending on what I’m getting back on stage from the P.A./room; Leslie likes next to no lower frequencies in her IEM mix.”
Monitors engineer Matt “Sully” Sullivan
On this particular tour, it’s been helpful to be performing multiple nights at each venue. The first night at each location is a challenging negotiation with the room to keep bite in Leslie’s vocals. “She often sings very quiet, and most of the things she wants to hear occupy a very small frequency range, so getting her voice on top while keeping everything else spaced out so they don’t step on one another is really the name of the game,” explains Sullivan.
“Leslie has curated a very original sound that has evolved a lot between her earlier records and what she has crafted in her later releases,” adds McGuire. “Running her vocal through guitar amps is a very signature sound that has been a challenging detail to bridge into the live performances. It wants to feed back. Thankfully, Sully never lets it feed back or else my life would be hell. I ring the hell out of it at all soundchecks so that during the performance I have as much headroom on the vocal as possible. It is often frustrating, but in the right conditions it can be a very magical sound to carry her vocal.”