Toronto electro-pop duo FEATURETTE have released a powerful music video for a haunting new version of their track, “The Blame.” Originally released on their 2020 record, Dream Riot, the exposed version of “The Blame” tells the story of lead singer, Lexie’s experience with sexual abuse as a child as she begins to find her voice and take back her power. Directed, produced, and art directed by Lexie, the video features Lexie’s inner child and visual representations of her experiences.
We sat down to talk to Lexie about the creative process in re-making the song, the emotional journey of creating the video, and what men can do to be better allies for women who have experienced abuse.
When did you first start feeling ready to begin telling this story?
So, I first started telling my story at all, in 2019. In November, I told my parents for the first time, which was a really big deal. For me, it was the first time I really said it out loud to anyone other than Jon, who is my rock, my partner in music and life. And he knows my heart, he knows everything. But, when I went to tell my parents, it was kind of bigger because it was like the little kid in me almost fessing up, you know what I mean? Not that I did anything wrong, but I’ve just been holding this secret, for some reason, for all these years. So, it was a big deal to tell them because as time passes, and you’re an adult, you confront these issues. I feel a lot closer to them now than I really ever had before. And I think part of that was just in growing up. So for me, in telling them, I just wanted them to know who I am as an adult, like, what makes me, me now, is what happened to me before.
In telling them, I put this ripple effect out there for myself, like when you’re using a battle rope in a gym. I put it to rest for like a minute until, you know, it bubbled up again really soon after, and I told a close friend, and then it bubbled up again, I told another friend…I told more and more people until I was telling people from the middle school I went to where this was happening and now a lot of people know.
It’s like therapy, telling people. I feel like I’m going through steps of some kind. That was 2019 and then 2020, COVID happened and that’s just a mad time for introspection, and just sitting by yourself and thinking about these things. We came up with the record and, you know, that song was on the record, but it wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. We didn’t put it out there in a way that really featured the crux of that story enough, and I think that it was really important that we went back and revisited it. But I was only able to do that because I had gone through the steps of starting to tell my story. So again, it bubbled up. I thought that just having it out there on the record would be enough for me and it wasn’t enough. So fast-forward to now and I’ve torn it all down and started again and I’ve never been happier that I did that, because now my art is worth something for me and maybe others like me.
The difference between the original track and the new one is so vast. In the original track, you’re just singing a good song and it sounds great, but you’re really just singing. And then you hear the exposed version, and vocally you’re doing so much more. You’re really raw and emotive with your voice. What was going through your mind when you were thinking, “How am I going to sing this? How am I going to tell this story?”
So much – it’s so emotional. And it’s never not going to be that way. But I just took it sentence by sentence. Because that’s all I could do. At first, it was the conceiving of it and tearing everything down. And starting again, like, there was a very specific moment when Jon and I decided that’s what we needed to do. We actually got FACTOR support to make this music video for this. So I was fully prepared to make a music video for the other version of “The Blame,” because it’s a good song. And it’s a story I wanted to tell. it’s totally video worthy, and then some. So I was like, “let’s do this.”
And then fully in the swing of production for that – making the props and conceiving of the treatment – and going through all that was really raw and painful stuff. And as I’m doing that, I think “the one thing I can’t figure out is I can’t picture how that sound goes with these visuals.” I sat down with Jon. And I, like, held his hands. And I said, “Hey, man. Like, do you really think that we can do a broken down version… I need to start this again. It’s not going to be complete until I finish this thing.”
And that meant re-recording, because I hadn’t told my story. I said my story, but I hadn’t told it. And we finally decided that’s what we were going to do. And we went sentence by sentence. We found a vibe that went with it that is so much more authentic, so much more down to Earth. FEATURETTE’s music is larger than life. It’s like, you know, this weird Alice in Wonderland trippy experience of what sound can be. And this just brings me back to Earth in the most dark and beautiful way. Lays it to rest almost.
We were happy with the recording we did and we sent it over to our producer, Mark, and within a day or two, he bounced it back to us. And he nailed it. It’s like, he went into my brain, and pulled part of it out. This was all during COVID, mind you, so it’s not like we had a meeting on this. I just said, “Mark, here are the vibes,” and he cracked open my heart and he got it all right. Now we have this amazing track that I could not be more happy with how it came out.
The video is really beautiful and it has this duality of innocence and darkness. There’s those giant pencils that are pointing at you and all the dark props and imagery used in the video. You had a big hand in creating all these. How did you come up with each of these visuals? What was the creative process?
This video was the only one that was only me, I couldn’t trust anybody with this because of all that the song had been through, you know, like all that this story had been through. I just needed to live in that, arguably awful space, by myself for some time. Usually, when I’m in the studio, I’ll conceive of the different elements. And I’ll sit down with my sketchbook and sometimes these sketches end up in my lyric book, and they all just sort of bleed together. But I just started listing out all these images that I’m getting from listening to the track while we’re working on it, and this one was really unique because we decided at such a late point to change the song. We were already in full swing for pre-production, getting the location, the team, and the shoot date was coming up when we decided to re-make the track. We were down to the hour, so thank God we had Mark working on the final track. And thank God, we had Ian building a team in the background because I was so wrapped up in the art of this because the visuals are so important to telling the story.
I was so wrapped up at building the props and just sourcing everything. Like, making those pencils. Thanks, Home Depot, for having things you can construct with, because that’s how we did that. You know, we bought these giant tubes for pouring cement. And we were like, “these are pencils now!” It was the weirdest experience, but I’m really glad that it came out the way it did. I folded all those paper airplanes myself. And then I strung them to the ceiling myself and I cut out the giant ones on the floor. With every fold of paper while making those paper origami predators, I was thinking about all the things that went into the reason why this music video came to be. I was folding this paper snake and just thinking of this snake of a human that did this to me. And like, if that’s not therapy, I don’t know what is.
What I was trying to do was to create a different room for all the different aspects of the character to really show off that duality that you were talking about, like the dancing girl is my inner child. And I’m no I’m not a dancer, but this character needed to express herself. So that’s what she was doing. And that was a leap of faith and it was scary.
The dancing in the video is beautiful, I didn’t know you could dance like that! It feels like creative movement. Was that properly choreographed? Or was it more in the moment?
I mean, I can dance. I do have training. I’m just not a confident person. Or at least I wasn’t a confident person, I can start to change that with every step that I take in this direction.
I did self-choreograph something to fall back on because when you’re in the moment, like, of course, the song will move you and take you new places, but I was worried with a capital W that I would just freeze up because of all the scars and tension in my body when it comes to this song. I thought if I had enough other content, that if I didn’t have those scenes in the video, it wouldn’t matter. But now that I’m looking at it, I know it would have mattered. The inner child’s character is such an important thing. And I think I did a pretty decent job getting through the choreography I set for myself, but then, you know, we wanted to use shots that were evocative of something. The hand over the mouth thing at the end, that was the perfect shot to end on because it’s just a powerful image. It’s not even his hand or anybody else’s hand that’s shutting me up. It’s my own and that says something, right? I did choreograph stuff, but when it came down to it, we just used moments that called for more energy and meaning.
There’s a lyric in the song that says, “I should have known, picked up the phone. Maybe it wasn’t my fight.” And I think that’s something that those who’ve been through similar types of experiences can relate to that specific line. I think there’s a lot of discussion around questions like, “Why don’t women speak up more? How do women end up in these positions?” Instead of putting more of the onus on women, what is it that you think that men could do to be better as allies and help women feel safer?
Well, they could start by talking to Jon, this shining example of what it is to be a supportive partner, boy, has he been there for me through all this. I think that there’s something to be said for two types of conversations that could happen with women in this position. I think there’s, “Are we listening or are we doing?” I think that men could stand to do, in general, a better job of listening.
Recognizing that there’s an issue, that’s the first step. And then ask, “what is it that you need from me?” She might not be able to articulate it, but if it is just listening, then listen. If she’s not ready, then the last thing you’d want to do is push her, right? It’s just so important to go at her pace. If she is ready to do something, figure out how radical you want to be. Like, is it something she wants to pursue? You can take some of the burden off her. Do the research, figure out what the next steps are.
I think the whole point of that song is that I’m trying to take the blame for not having done anything sooner. And in the same exact breath, I totally want people to see the irony in that because it wasn’t my responsibility or my problem to fix. So the whole point of the song is that I’m taking the blame, whilst it’s not my place to take. In the video, on the glass that I smash, it says something to the effect of “I’m taking the blame for what you did,” it was a lot more poetic than that, but I just wrote it in the moment. And then I got to smash it up, which was, wow, therapy. Big therapy goals.
The video ends with the phone number for Kids Help Phone. Are there any other resources that helped you in your healing process that you might want to share with others?
You know, I wish I had an answer for this. I don’t really because I didn’t call Kids Help Phone when I was a kid. I wish that I had or that I was in a position where I even knew what was going on enough that I would have questioned, “why am I keeping this secret?” I didn’t really know why. I didn’t really understand what was going on, obviously, at the time, which I’m sure is the case for a lot of victims out there.
I’m really closed with respect to my own therapy, but I’ve actually been seeing a naturopath. I don’t know if that’s relevant. But that’s been helpful, trying to figure out how to live in my body. Therapy comes in so many different forms. I’ve seen a naturopath for things relating to this, it all overlaps at some intersection somewhere in your body. I grew up with a lot of anxiety and I can only imagine that this would be why.
I think I’m working through emotional scar tissue and it’s sort of a lifelong journey. As they say, some scars never really go away. So this is probably one of those scars. But also, if any good can come from it. That’s what I’m here for. That’s the whole point of all of this.