MICHAEL FEUERSTACK and NEIL HAVERTY at the Piston (937 Bloor West), tonight (Thursday, May 23), 9 pm. $10. 416-532-3989. See listing.
The list of contributors on Michael Feuerstack's new album, Tambourine Death Bed (Forward), reads like a who's who of Montreal's indie rock community. Arcade Fire's Jeremy Gara handled the sparse drum work and mixed the album. Little Scream's Laurel Sprengelmeyer sang on several songs. Colin Stetson took a sax solo or two. The Luyas' Mathieu Charbonneau added keyboards.
But for Feuerstack, the album wasn't nearly as collaborative as his previous ones.
"It's actually more solitary than anything I've done in a long time," he says during a break from rehearsing with his three-piece tour band. "The [outside] contributions came once the album already had a shape and form. It was the first time I self-produced and self-recorded, and I did it largely in isolation, which was really fun. But I didn't want to not include all these amazing musicians."
The step inward might also explain his moniker change. Since 1994, the singer/songwriter has released nine albums as Snailhouse (and another half-dozen with Wooden Stars, for which he was the guitarist). But he says there's no scoop behind the decision.
"[Snailhouse] just wasn't representing me any more. I felt like maybe people associated it with a stylistic thing that I've been moving away from for a while. I didn't feel like I had anything to lose. Most people don't stay in a band for 20 years. It doesn't seem that weird to me that I wanted to move on."
Feuerstack, who plays lap-steel in Bell Orchestre and the Luyas as well, is also moving away from performing old material, some of which has been in his set a long time. "I'm not rigid about it, though. If someone requests Sentimental Gentleman, I'll gladly play it. It's just fun for me to have a fresh start and keep things exciting."
While Tambourine Death Bed is more stripped-down and meditative than past records, any larger stylistic changes are subtle. Still on display are Feuerstack's inviting vocals, delicate fingerpicking, careful arrangements and poetic lyrics - about "kind of weird hippie themes like loving nature and summertime mixed with darker ruminations on getting older," he says, laughing.