Owen Pallett has two days off from playing violin for Arcade Fire. He's spending them sick in a Kansas City hotel room bed, doing interviews to promote his new solo album, In Conflict (Domino/Secret City). While it's clearly a struggle scheduling his own professional projects around his current day job, Pallett sounds grateful for the changes this regular gig has imposed on his routine.
"It's a very different experience being on tour with Arcade Fire. It feels like being a passenger on a very comfortable cruise ship," he says. "I was getting depressed working as a freelancer, and I was losing my mojo as a songwriter. For so long that had been my only way of paying my bills."
In Conflict is the second album Pallett has recorded under his own name; he left his Final Fantasy moniker behind when he released 2010's Heartland. While it shares some thematic similarities with his first, In Conflict finds him looking to real-life experiences for inspiration.
Inspired by the diary-like songwriting of John Darnielle - frontman of California indie-folk band Mountain Goats - Pallett decided to spend two weeks writing tunes based on the mundane aspects of his life as a type of creative exercise.
"When I came back to them later, pretty much all the songs were unusable because they read more like therapy sessions than actual lyrics," he says.
The exercise wasn't without merit, however.
"I noticed a constant theme of dysphoria. All these events felt like they were being written about by this person who was uncomfortable in body, or in place, or in mindset," he says. "I realized that the events in my life that had stuck with me the most were all related to what I generally refer to as liminal states."
That realization greatly shaped the songs that would become In Conflict, but Pallett makes it clear that he wasn't looking to his personal life for relatable universal themes.
"I don't feel like confessional songs where listeners are supposed to hear elements of themselves really speak to that kind of liminal world view I was experiencing - at least not in the way that, for example, [singer/songwriter] Lisa Germano songs do," he says.
"Lisa Germano is someone I can really vibe with."