The Canadian singer-songwriter Leslie Feist, known mononymously as Feist, has announced she will leave a tour with Arcade Fire following allegations of sexual misconduct against the band’s frontman, Win Butler.
A Pitchfork investigation published last week alleged that the 42-year-old singer-guitarist of the Canadian indie rock band took advantage of age gaps and fandom with four people; three women, aged 18 to 23 at the time, alleged Butler sent unwanted sexual messages between the years 2015 and 2020.
A fourth, gender-fluid, person alleged that Butler sexually assaulted them twice in 2015, when they were 21 and he was 34. Pitchfork viewed screenshots of text and Instagram messages between Butler and the four pseudonymous subjects, and interviewed friends and family members who recalled being told of the alleged incidents.
Butler denied the claims and said the relationships were consensual, adding in a statement: “It is deeply revisionist, and frankly just wrong, for anyone to suggest otherwise.”
“At a pub in Dublin, after rehearsing with my band, I read the same headline you did,” Feist wrote in a lengthy statement posted to her social media accounts. “We didn’t have any time to prepare for what was coming let alone a chance to decide not to fly across the ocean into the belly of this situation.”
“This has been incredibly difficult for me and I can only imagine how much more difficult it’s been for the people who came forward. More than anything I wish healing to those involved.”
She added that the Pitchfork article “ignited a conversation that is bigger than me, it’s bigger than my songs and it’s certainly bigger than any rock and roll tour … To stay on tour would symbolize I was either defending or ignoring the harm caused by Win Butler and to leave would imply I was the judge and jury.”
The 46-year-old singer said she “was never here to stand for or with Arcade Fire – I was here to stand on my own two feet on a stage, a place I’ve grown to feel I belong and I’ve earned as my own.
“There isn’t a singular path to heal when you’ve endured any version of the above, nor a singular path to rehabilitate the perpetrators,” she said. “It can be a lonely road to make sense of ill treatment. I can’t solve that by quitting, and I can’t solve it by staying. But I can’t continue.”
Following the allegations, radio stations in Canada and the US started pulling the band’s songs from playlists. Commentators on social media urged fans to boycott forthcoming concerts in Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and elsewhere, with many surprised the tour was going ahead at all. Asked for comment by a Guardian reporter at the band’s concert in Dublin this week, a publicist for Arcade Fire said only that the band would continue its tour to promote their new album, We.
In her statement, Feist distanced herself from public shaming, which “might cause action, but those actions are made from fear, and fear is not the place we find our best selves or make our best decisions. Fear doesn’t precipitate empathy nor healing nor open a safe space for these kinds of conversations to evolve, or for real accountability and remorse to be offered to the people who were harmed.”
In a statement to Pitchfork, Butler, who is married to bandmate Régine Chassagne, acknowledged having had sexual interactions with each of the four people, but said they were not initiated by him and were consensual.
In a further statement, he apologised “to anyone who I have hurt with my behavior”, adding: “I am continuing to learn from my mistakes and working hard to become a better person, someone my son can be proud of […] I’m sorry I wasn’t more aware and tuned in to the effect I have on people – I fucked up, and while not an excuse, I will continue to look forward and heal what can be healed, and learn from past experiences. ”
Noting that she’s “imperfect” and will “navigate this decision imperfectly”, Feist concluded that “the best way to take care of my band and crew and my family is to distance myself from this tour, not this conversation. The last two nights on stage, my songs made this decision for me. Hearing them through this lens was incongruous with what I’ve worked to clarify for myself through my whole career.
“I’ve always written songs to name my own subtle difficulties, aspire to my best self and claim responsibility when I need to. And I’m claiming my responsibility now and going home.”