For the music rec, I'm more into older alt bands so maybe Ben Folds or Smashing Pumpkins if you're into that? (I would recommend the Rocking the Suburbs Album, especially the song Not the Same, but that's just me.) If you're looking for more chill, there is a playlist called spencer reid on spotify by paigexoxox that is g8.
anything that includes spencer reid and music is my jam, so I’m definitely gonna put that on the list. and old alt bands sounds cool too, and god bless you for giving me a specific starting point I’m excited for this
“That’s, like, Troian writing something on her wrist in Sharpie to remember. I think she was writing down coordinates to an Arcade Fire secret show. She’s such a hipster sometimes — she slept I think on the street. But for Arcade Fire, I mean, I agree. It was during their album The Suburbs. But yeah, she was writing coordinates because the band was putting out tweets to where it was going to be, so she was doing some Troian-istic thing.” [Is it awkward acting at a table read] Sometimes it is. Sometimes it’ll say, like, “Emily’s running through the woods and she screams, ‘Help, Aria! Help!’” So, the way that Shay would say it would be like, “Oh, OK. Help Aria help.” And then everyone will laugh because it’s not in the moment as much because it’s being read in a room full of people, cast, crew, and executives.“ -Keegan
It is fair to say that Arcade Fire didn’t have the best of times at their Glastonbury debut. Their sole previous appearance on the pasturelands of Worthy Farm in Somerset, where the Canadian group were promoting their second album, Neon Bible, was acclaimed by all who saw them. But in meteorological terms that year – 2007 – was one of the giant British rock festival’s more challenging outings.
Or, in the words of the frontman Win Butler later that same year, the Grammy- and Brit Award-winning band found Glastonbury not an iconic, hallowed high point on the global festival circuit but ‘a f***ing nightmare… a mudpit’.
Seven years and nine million album sales later, Butler is more forgiving. Slightly. ‘We had this amazing experience,’ Butler, the singer/guitarist, says. Offstage he’s a sincere, sober chap, but his demeanour – and his previous comments – suggests it wasn’t quite what they had expected. ‘Our friend was getting married in Ireland, so we flew in to the UK and took a cab. We said to the driver, “Glastonbury, please…” And he said, “Where’s that?” He was from Bangladesh, and he got us on site and we just drove through all the humanity,’ Butler says with feeling, the image of 177,000 bedraggled music fans clearly still etched on his retinas, ‘along a wooden trail, through everyone. And the driver said, “Woah, this is so much crazier than Bangladesh.” There were drunk people putting mud patterns on the windshield of the car,’ he says, ‘and we were beeping and there was no one from the festival [organisation] clearing a path. There was no way to get backstage at that point; you had to drive through the whole crowd. It was kinda, ah, amazing,’ Butler says again, still not entirely convincingly.
His guitar- and keyboard-playing brother, Will, is slightly more forgiving. ‘When Glastonbury is hellacious it’s still really fun,’ the junior Butler, 31, two and a half years younger and rather more smiley than his brother, says. ‘It’s legendary for being hellacious! I’ve always known Glastonbury as being thigh-deep in mud. But it is so rooted in contemporary culture and Sixties culture and pagan culture and medieval culture. It is deeply, deeply British.’
Actually, he adds, the father of the band’s guitarist/accordionist/keyboard player Richard Reed Parry was ‘a medievalist into passion plays and Morris dancing. So Richard’s experience of carnival is explicitly British. And it’s all the dressing up, putting on a mask, becoming someone else and the social order turning upside down…’
You might say that is a pretty accurate summation of the spirit, or ethos, of the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts. It is also a fair description of where Arcade Fire see themselves in 2014. Touring the world in support of their wildly acclaimed fourth album, Reflektor, the six-piece from Montreal are taking to the world’s stage with gimmicks including wearing papier mâché heads, performing from within the midst of their audiences, requesting that fans attend shows in fancy-dress, and augmenting their line-up with brass, string, Haitian percussionists and visual effects by the party-load. It is, they say, about shaking up the precepts – the limitations – of what a rock concert can, or should, be. ‘We did look into doing this tour playing from the floor and raising the audience up a little – we actually did the math,’ Win says. ‘But it was cost-prohibitive.’
It is the first Friday of May, exactly eight weeks before Arcade Fire’s appearance at Glastonbury. The band are in Atlanta, Georgia. Tonight they play Aaron’s Lakewood Amphitheatre, a 19,000-capacity venue just outside the city that is half-covered, half-open. This hot afternoon several band members are idling in the backstage area, groggy after the overnight bus ride from the previous evening’s concert in Nashville.
Régine Chassagne, co-singer and the wife of Win Butler, admits that today she is feeling ‘fuggy’ and ‘fuzzy’ in the head. Chassagne is also distracted by the seemingly random noises drifting from the stage. She is, like all of her bandmates, a multi-instrumentalist. But her musical ear seems keener than most – all she can hear are glitches within the soundcheck that is just starting up.
Win is an imposing figure at 6ft 5in, even when he is under the weather: he is snuffling, sniffing and coughing with a tour cold. A fitful night’s sleep in an extra-long bunk on the tour bus hasn’t helped. ‘I never quite get used to the bus,’ he says heavily, cradling an Eye Opener juice from Wholefoods. ‘But it’s better than going to the airport every day.’
Last night’s concert sounds like it was quite a show, the band’s impassioned fans fully embracing the fancy-dress request. ‘There was a guy dressed like Jesus who stood up on someone’s shoulders with his arms out for the encore,’ Will says, laughing. ‘A little distracting!’
Chassagne explains Arcade’s Fire enthusiasm for audience participation. She is of Haitian descent, and is keen to evoke the free-flowing carnival spirit of her homeland. Thus the band’s gigs are ‘not a recital,’ she says emphatically in her Québécois accent. ‘It’s a communal experience, and we’re making that happen together. The audience inspire us to be even more into it. The more they’re into it, then we’re even more into it. And it goes up and up and up and up!’ she says giddily.
Arcade Fire formed in Montreal a dozen years ago. Transplanted from the oil-company suburbs of Houston, Texas, where he grew up, Butler was the son of a geologist. He had come to Montreal to study scriptural interpretation, and there he met Chassagne. She was a jazz singer and player in baroque and medieval ensembles. Around the couple coalesced Win’s brother Will, plus Canadians Parry, Jeremy Gara (drums, guitar) and Tim Kingsbury (bass, guitar). Arcade Fire self-funded and self-released their debut EP and album – financial independence, they reasoned, begat creative independence. Funeral, their first album, was released in September 2004 in Canada, with a British release five months later. They were an instant critical success, with Britain falling particularly enthusiastically for their anthemic and widescreen yet literate rock music. Little wonder that U2 were early adopters, using Arcade Fire’s rousing Wake Up as the intro music on their 2005/6 Vertigo tour, and later inviting the band to support them.
Little wonder, also, that the band they are most often compared to is Radiohead. Win Butler describes hearing the band’s 1995 album The Bends as something like an epiphany. As a 15-year-old at an exclusive boarding school in New Hampshire – his father’s alma mater – it was British guitar music (Radiohead, Joy Division, the Smiths, the Cure) and writers (George Orwell and John Kennedy Toole) that spoke most to him. (Their album Neon Bible was named after Toole’s first book, written when he was 16, but published posthumously, after A Confederacy of Dunces had made him famous.)
A decade since the release of Funeral, Arcade Fire are one of the biggest rock bands in the world, feted by fans, critics and stars. David Bowie is a guest vocalist on Reflektor, and has joined them on stage; Bruce Springsteen has covered their song Keep the Car Running; David Byrne and Lou Reed were enthusiastic attendees at the band’s shows.
Filmmakers, too, have been drawn to Arcade Fire, partly through Win Butler’s evocative lyrics. Terry Gilliam, another of Win’s heroes, filmed them for a YouTube film at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Terrence Malick shot them for an as-yet-unreleased film set in the Austin, Texas, music scene. And Spike Jonze directed a film, Scenes from the Suburbs, scripted by the Butler brothers and a companion piece to their album The Suburbs. Arcade Fire returned the compliment – they wrote the Oscar-nominated score for Jonze’s recent film Her. Asked about his own film-making aspirations, Win says almost in passing, ‘I’m sure I’ll do something in film at some point.’
They have been touring Reflektor since its release last autumn. It is a double-album that, aside from Bowie’s guest spot, features Rodin’s sculpture of Orpheus and Eurydice on the cover; references Greek myths; and pays homage to the rhythms and carnival culture of Haiti. Their current single is equally ambitious and freighted with meaning.
On one level We Exist is a funky, singalong pop song with a Billie Jean bassline. Dig a little deeper – and quiz Win on his lyrics – and its narrative emerges: it is the story of a gay teenager in Jamaica fighting for acceptance. The video features the actor Andrew Garfield playing a transgender character. The clip climaxes with Garfield, in woman’s dress and wig, stumbling on to the stage of April’s Coachella Festival in California, rocking out while Arcade Fire perform their headline set.
Arcade Fire are a band of equals, but some are more equal than others. Win Butler leads from the front, his vision and faith as robust as it always was, even when he was a teenager in the sprawling, well-to-do suburbs of Houston. It was a faith that lasted throughout his schooling. Didn’t his father – a scientist, and presumably rather empirically minded – ever question his son’s professional direction? Something along the lines of, ‘I paid for this education – you’d better use it’?
‘No, he really never pulled that one,’ Win says. ‘I mean, I’m sure he had some doubts at times. But I was pretty self-assured about the whole thing. I never had a lot of existential doubt about whether I could be a musician.’
The alternative career that he briefly considered was filmmaking. ‘But I got a whiff pretty early on of how corporate that was, of how much money you need. If you have an idea, the steps to actually execute it involve so much loss of control and so much outside money. So very early I remember having a feeling for that and thought, no, I’d rather be by myself with a guitar and have creative freedom.’
It sounds as if he had an unshakeable confidence that the music would come good. ‘I just don’t even think about it that way,’ he says, frowning slightly. ‘If you’re a musician, if you’re supposed to do it, you do it. Maybe it’s different for those who see themselves more as performers.’
To illustrate his point, he mentions an interview with Britney Spears that he saw ‘a few years ago. She was in a singing competition when she was a little kid. And the first time she heard that applause was the first time she knew she wanted to be an artist.’ Win shrugs. ‘To me those are the two schools. Either you’re in it for the applause, or you’re in it because it’s what you were supposed to do. More of a vocation.’
The Butlers were raised in a Mormon household, and religious imagery and language swirl about many Arcade Fire songs. But as with the lyrics of Nick Cave, it is there to lend wings, depth and mystery to the art rather than to speak of innate godliness. In any case, Arcade Fire are not wholly cast in Win’s image. He is an uncompromising character but the band will challenge him. He seems to relish the creative flux that goes along with building a band of six opinionated, creative and very active musicians. (Earlier this month, Parry released an album of classical compositions on Deutsche Grammophon.)
‘Yeah,’ he says. ‘I don’t want to be a f***ing solo artist. There’s a certain amount of give and take involved in being a band. But the positives far outweigh the negatives. It’s not even worth talking about. Almost every band that I think is great has multiple songwriters behind it. It’s people doing their best at whatever they do, in that moment.’
Chassagne had met plenty of players on Montreal’s vibrant music scene, and was no fan of rock’n’roll, and even less enthused by rock’n’rollers. But in Win she recognised someone who was serious about music. ‘That is how we connected,’ she says. ‘I didn’t believe it at first. He said, “Oh, I play a little guitar, a little piano…” I thought, “Yeah, like everybody does.” But then he played me a few songs. I am so deeply, deeply into music and I had met someone else who was.’ She gasps, lost for words. ‘So it was kind of special.’
The romance didn’t get in the way of their work because they are both so committed to songwriting. ‘Just writing songs and writing songs and writing songs… It goes together. If there’s a nice day where nobody bothers us and the phone doesn’t ring too much, we write a song. Every time,’ she beams.
So that’s date-night for the Butler-Chassagnes?
‘Writing songs. Seriously! We just write songs. It’s so great. I love it.’
Later, at the soundcheck, Arcade Fire work through versions of Radio Free Europe by REM and Hey Ya! by OutKast, Georgian artists both (the band do a site-specific cover of a song by a local band at every show). Both Chassagne and Butler move purposefully about the stage, conferring with and guiding the musicians – a dozen in all.
The show itself is a sensation. Some of the band arrive on stage from among the audience, their big papier mâché heads bobbing above the cheering crowd. All of the band are elaborately costumed. During Flashbulb Eyes, as Chassagne bashes merrily at steel drums, Will Butler plays keyboards while wearing a square LED box on his head.
For My Body Is A Cage – only the fourth song – streamers fly from the stage; every song, it seems, is treated like an encore. During We Exist, a back-projected video shows four hairy builders doing slinky formation dancing. In another song, Chassagne suddenly appears, singing, on a tiny stage within the throng of the crowd. For the first actual encore, 10 ‘bobbleheads’ – fans wearing papier mâché likenesses of Bono, the Pope and other, more indeterminate public figures – cavort across the stage.
All things considered, Glastonbury 2014 couldn’t have picked a better opening night headliner. And for his part, Win Butler was genuinely excited about the prospect of a return engagement, especially when I told him of last year’s glorious weather conditions. On top of that, his and Chassagne’s one-year-old son will be with them, which only adds to the good spirits. During our interview, Butler brightens up immediately when the smiley blond infant toddles over. Purist to the last, the couple ask me to not divulge his name. But their child is fully embedded within the Arcade Fire party; he has his own Reflektor onesie, stitched by a woman in Butler’s parents’ church. He even has his own tour bus – an inflatable playpen in the shape of a VW camper van.
‘He’s coming everywhere. On tour it’s great, cos there’s a lot of downtime. We watch a lot less TV now,’ Win says wryly. ‘That was my dad’s only real advice: you just learn to be more efficient with your time. You choose your hobbies more wisely. Which is a good thing. A 34-year-old guy should haven’t that much free time. Songwriting, bit of basketball maybe, and I’m good.’
Will Butler: ‘I’ve wanted to do my own record since I was 15 or 16’
Will Butler is the live wire of Arcade Fire. His big brother Win fronts the most lauded band of his generation, but Will is no shrinking violet strumming in the background. The younger Butler takes plenty of risks for the cause of shaping his band into one of the most exuberant live spectacles in modern pop. He jumps head-first into mosh pits, clambers up lighting stands and over speaker stacks. He has even braved diving into a moat in Sweden separating the stage from the audience and has been known to set his sister-in-law Regine Chassagne’s hair on fire. “It singed and smelled like burnt hair, but there was no real danger,” Butler helpfully clarifies. “I twisted my ankle in Mexico last year and it took me nearly eight months to recover. It was a terrifying moment, but it wasn’t the end of the world. I’m older and fatter now [Butler is 32] and I heal a lot slower, so I’m not sure I’ll be reaching for the balcony in Whelan’s. I’ll see where the spirit takes me.” Butler plays Whelan’s this April, which is a minuscule venue by Arcade Fire’s enormodome-headlining standards. One tweet from the show’s promoter and, 300 seconds later, the show was sold out. Even if you think Arcade Fire are the most overrated band of the century, who sold their souls to the corporate rock devil long ago, you have to admit they’ve gatecrashed the mainstream in the most spectacular of fashion. Their 2004 debut Funeral featured zeitgeist-capturing songs about hearts filling up with nothing and summers turning to dust. In 2011, they scored one of the biggest shock wins in Grammy Awards history with The Suburbs taking Album of the Year, seeing off competition from pop heavyweights Eminem, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. Award presenter Barbara Streisand actually thought The Suburbs was the name of the band, and Twitter clogged up with tweets asking, “Who the hell are Arcade Fire?” Long-standing fans include Bono (who chose Wake Up as the intro music for U2’s Vertigo tour in 2005), Bruce Springsteen, Davids Bowie and Byrne, and US president Barack Obama. At an early show on St Patrick’s Day in 2005, I watched them perform in the University of London Union to a small audience that included Jarvis Cocker, Bernard Butler, Geoff Travis and Chris Morris, who watched Will Butler and Richard Reed Parry dementedly bash each other on the head with drumsticks. (Fortunately, they wore crash helmets.)
Hymns to ‘Her’ Butler is now taking temporary leave of the lucrative comfort zone of the band. “I’ve had solo songs and ideas percolating for quite some time,” Butler says. “I’ve wanted to do my own record since I was 15 or 16. However, I never really thought much about doing anything concrete until early last year.” Last year’s game-changer was when Will and Owen Pallet (strings arranger for Arcade Fire, Robbie Williams, Alex Turner’s The Last Shadow Puppets and Taylor Swift) received an Academy Award nomination for their soundtrack to Spike Jonze’s Her. Steven Price walked away with the Oscar for Gravity, but the nomination did wonders for Butler’s self-confidence. “Suddenly, my name was out there,” Butler says. “I figured it might as well be attached to something I did totally by myself. Also, I knew this record would have an element of surprise. People know me from Arcade Fire and maybe the Her soundtrack, so now they’ll be wondering, ‘What the heck is this?’” The results are Policy, an eclectic but extremely minimal record compared to the ornate orchestral pop and millennial bombast of Arcade Fire. “Part of the idea was to do it loose and raw,” Butler explains. “I did the bulk of the recording in the space of a week in New York. The only intention was to bang it out. I don’t think you could exactly call it a DIY record, because it was very professional process, but I wanted to keep that spirit. The first idea tends to be the best idea, so I wanted to bring it to its conclusion quite quickly.” Life on the road promises to be a less daunting affair than the small touring army that Arcade Fire employs to make massive shows like last summer’s Marlay Park hooley a reality. “It’ll be great and I’m really looking forward it,” Butler says. “There is just four of us in the band, a tour manager and a van. There will be upsides and downsides and I’ll probably have a lot less nice smoothies and fancy catering, but after a long tour playing arenas and giant fields with a 12-piece band, I’m really stoked to be playing bars with four. Don’t worry, we’ll still be very loud.”
Picnic anniversary At the risk of making some readers feel very old, it will be 10 years this September since Arcade Fire played their Irish debut at Electric Picnic. “When we were discussing the original tour routing with the booking agent, I was asked for my comments,” Butler says. “All I said was that the tour had to end in Dublin. I love playing Ireland. I’ve got a friend in Dublin who is a professor in Trinity and he takes me around. I love the Winding Stair. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I love 3rd Floor Espresso [3FE)]. They’ve provided Arcade Fire with coffee connections all across the world. The last time I was in Ireland, I spent three days hanging out in Co Clare. Colin from 3FE sent me to Moran’s Oyster Cottage, which was wonderful.” Butler is maintaining a long-standing Arcade Fire tradition with a dollar, euro or pound of every ticket sold going to non-profit humanitarian health care organisation Partners in Health. “Our relationship with Partners in Health originally started from their work in Haiti, where they’ve been for 30 years,” he says. “Obviously, there is a connection with Regine, who is Haitian. Their core principle is the notion that some lives matter less than others is the root of all that’s wrong with the world. It has been very exciting to watch them grow. Now, they work all over the place. They went into West Africa to fight Ebola and they’ve been in Rwanda for a long time.” Butler is quick to dismiss any suggestion that his solo career marks any significant hiatus for Arcade Fire. “No matter what we do, our albums seem to come out like clockwork every three years or so. I bet it will come out in late 2016, or maybe early 2017.”
Young Yeats In the meantime, he’s launching a solo career inspired by two illustrious icons of the 20th century, Neil Young and Will’s poetic namesake, WB Yeats. “Yeats is dead and gone, but William Butler is still alive and well,” he jokes. “When you think about it, Yeats’s career is the ultimate benchmark. He always upped his game and developed his craft. Then he won the Nobel Prize for Literature, but he continued to get better and kept writing great stuff. It’s a tall order, but that’s my goal.” Policy is out on March 10th. Will Butler plays Whelan’s, Dublin on April 25th
WHAT THE STARS THINK OF BUTLER AND ARCADE FIRE
“When we heard Funeral, we were all prepared to get day jobs. But instead of giving up, we just tried harder.” Chris Martin, Coldplay
“Coldplay’s Chris Martin has been saying he’s discovered them first. But I did. So there.” David Bowie underlines his ‘I Heard Arcade Fire Before You’ credentials.
“Album of the year - Arcade Fire? Um. Never heard of them.” Rosie O’Donnell admits she is firmly in the ‘Who are Arcade Fire?’ camp on Grammy night.
“Anybody that comes back with a double album, to me, needs to pry themselves out of their own arsehole. This is not the 1970s, okay?” It is probably safe to say Noel Gallagher isn’t a fan.