CANADIAN BAND PRO­FILE: AR­CADE FIRE

TekSavvy Insider - - Contents -

One of Canada’s true al­ter­na­tive mu­sic suc­cess sto­ries, Ar­cade Fire have be­come some­thing of a global phe­nom­e­non in the decade fol­low­ing the launch of their de­but record, Fu­neral. The suc­cess didn’t come overnight, though, with the band tak­ing a pro­to­typ­i­cal shape in 2001, and hav­ing roots that go far deeper, and can be traced back to the Phillips Ex­eter Academy in New Hamp­shire.

It was there that Win But­ler first met Josh Deu, with the pair grow­ing closer af­ter grad­u­a­tion, and ul­ti­mately end­ing up in Mon­treal at the same time, with Due study­ing at Con­cor­dia and But­ler at McGill. The pair would work to­gether and alone on var­i­ous mu­sic re­lated projects be­fore de­cid­ing to col­lab­o­rate full time, re­sult­ing in the birth of the ear­li­est form of Ar­cade Fire. The two quickly be­came three when mu­sic stu­dent Régine Chas­sagne, who would later marry But­ler, joined and the band be­gan record­ing its ear­li­est ma­te­rial while play­ing the Mon­treal cir­cuit with fur­ther ad­di­tions Tim Kyle, Myles Broscoe, Dane Mills and Bren­dan Reed.

That lineup didn’t last for too long, how­ever, and fol­low­ing the record­ing ses­sions for the band’s de­but EP, the self- ti­tled Ar­cade Fire, Broscoe and But­ler’s dif­fer­ences proved to be ir­rec­on­cil­able, with the for­mer leav­ing the band to be re­placed by Richard Reed Parry. The up­heaval con­tin­ued, with found­ing mem­ber Deu leav­ing to fo­cus on his stud­ies, be­fore an on­stage bust- up be­tween But­ler and Reed in 2003 at a show cel­e­brat­ing the launch of the Ar­cade Fire EP, which also re­sulted in the im­me­di­ate res­ig­na­tion of Mills, al­most brought a pre­ma­ture end to the band. Fate had other plans for Ar­cade Fire, though, and the re­main­ing mem­bers sup­ple­mented their now thread­bare lineup with the ad­di­tions of Wim’s brother Wil­liam and Tim Kings­bury, en­sur­ing that the pro­mo­tional ac­tiv­i­ties for the EP could con­tinue ( rel­a­tively) un­in­ter­rupted. That proved to be the cat­a­lyst for the band’s fu­ture suc­cess, with those live per­for­mances catch­ing the eye of Merge Records and land­ing them a record deal. From that point on­wards, the band never looked back. Ar­cade Fire’s first full- length record­ing, Fu­neral, launched across Canada in Septem­ber 2014, be­fore hit­ting the UK in early 2005, mak­ing a huge im­pres­sion on ded­i­cated fol­low­ers of the indie scene in both coun­tries. As a de­but, Fu­neral was flaw­less. It in­tro­duced fans to the unique sound of the band and de­liv­ered some of their most en­dur­ing tracks to date. Over­seas, Ar­cade Fire be­came sta­ples at ma­jor mu­sic fes­ti­vals, with one per­for­mance, which I was for­tu­nate enough to catch at Elec­tric Pic­nic in Ire­land, earn­ing the kind of rave re­views nor­mally re­served only for the up­per ech­e­lon of mu­si­cal roy­alty. From such dis­jointed be­gin­nings, ev­ery­thing had fallen into place per­fectly for the band, and it surfed a wave of the per­fect mix of indie cool and mu­si­cal ac­com­plish­ment, quickly mak­ing them the dar­lings of the scene across the world. The band’s sec­ond al­bum, Neon Bi­ble, suf­fered the all- too- com­mon fate of be­ing leaked on­line well ahead of its sched­uled re­lease date of March 2007, some­thing made painfully ironic by But­ler’s com­ments early in the band’s ca­reer that he didn’t see the pro­lif­er­a­tion of il­le­gal MP3 shar­ing as dam­ag­ing for the in­dus­try, in­stead claim­ing that it was sim­ply a way to sort the wheat from the chaff be­fore

mak­ing a pur­chase. The leak didn’t hurt the al­bum’s for­tunes, though, and it went on the claim the num­ber 1 spot do­mes­ti­cally, as well as num­ber 2 in both the Bill­board Top 200 and UK Top 40 Al­bum charts. Q Mag­a­zine in the UK even went so far as to call the band “the most ex­cit­ing act on earth” on the back of Neon Bi­ble. In to­tal, Ar­cade Fire per­formed a gru­elling 122 shows in 19 coun­tries on the al­bum’s pro­mo­tional tour, sell­ing out more of­ten than not, and a live DVD, Miroir Noir, was re­leased in 2009, weeks af­ter the band were in­vited to the to per­form for the Pres­i­dent of the United States at the Obama Cam­paign Staff Ball. The band’s third al­bum, The Sub­urbs, launched in Au­gust 2010, and while not a great de­par­ture for the band son­i­cally, it was nev­er­the­less de­servedly well re­ceived by the mu­sic press earn­ing mul­ti­ple al­bum of the year awards, with many more top 10 plac­ings - not bad for the no­to­ri­ously dif­fi­cult third al­bum. One thing The Sub­urbs did do for the band, how­ever, was show a new found ma­tu­rity and com­fort in their sound, some­thing that’ll have sur­prised some lis­ten­ers, while sin­gles like Ready to Start and We Used to Wait quickly be­came sta­ples on al­ter­na­tive and main­stream ra­dio alike. The band’s most re­cent of­fer­ing, Re­flek­tor, launched in 2013, sig­nalled a markedly dif­fer­ent sound in places, with the al­bum’s ti­tle track, and it’s fol­low- up Af­ter­life, show­cas­ing a far more elec­tronic and dance floor- friendly sound­ing Ar­cade Fire any­thing be­fore them - per­haps due to the fact that James Mur­phy of LCD Soundsys­tem fame served as the record’s co- pro­ducer. De­spite be­ing a huge suc­cess for the band, Re­flek­tor didn’t con­vince ev­ery­one, with some of the opin­ion that it was per­haps a step too far to­wards the self in­dul­gent for the band. For my money, it’s eas­ily their best piece of work to date, but it’s easy to see why some found it not to their lik­ing given the band’s past ef­forts. Now ce­mented as one of the big­gest names in global al­ter­na­tive mu­sic, Re­flek­tor made it clear that Ar­cade Fire is an act with a lot still in the tank, and if they can con­tinue to grow and ma­ture their sound as they have been, tak­ing time be­tween al­bums to take stock of their di­rec­tion, there’s no rea­son why we can’t look for­ward to sev­eral more decades of ma­te­rial from one of the most eclec­tic, en­er­getic and unique acts the Canadian mu­sic scene has pro­duced in years.

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