Taking a collective break to strike out on solo mission
In her role in Arcade Fire, Sarah Neufeld is a fiery whirlwind of live energy and rhythm. In Bell Orchestre or the Luyas, the B.C. born violinist is more inclined to take a lead position in the mix. For her performance in Vancouver this weekend with fellow Arcade member baritone saxophone phenomenon Colin Stetson and composer/pianist Gregory Rogove (Devendra Banhardt), she’ll be one of three soloists playing intimate acoustic shows.
It’s a far cry from the arena roar the musician is used to being deafened by these days.
“The most straight up playing I’ve probably ever done is in Arcade Fire, technically more Motown style string lines, it isn’t the most demanding technically but you need to be completely dead on point,” says Neufeld. “The stuff expressed more from my development as a player would be in both Bell Orchestre and the Luyas which is much more involved instrumentally. Putting it alone is taking it to the furthest point and so new to me that it is definitely the most demanding thing I’ve done yet.”
Her tourmates are far more at home playing on their own. On albums such as New History Warfare,volume 2: Judges, Stetson aims to showcase all the potential of his deep toned reed instrument’s sonic range when played with a variety of techniques and an experimental flair.
Rogove regularly composes solo piano works and has had his material performed and recorded by John Medeski and others. The one thing all three have in common is an interest in developing a vocabulary for their respective instruments in a solo setting that is technology free when possible.
“I want a lot of different things happening while I’m playing while staying away from looping and other effects,” she says. “It exists somewhere between folk music and experimental music and rock music because that is the comfort zone of my music at this stage. Colin’s an Olympian and I am no such creature.”
She is on the ski team with a safety helmet — a place that she was once before music won over as a career choice — in comparison. It’s not a place she minds either. Prior to this West Coast tour, she has performed solo only twice.
“The music is totally original and something I’ve always wanted to do as a longtime writer. But, as opposed to a band setting, this is something quite different in terms of how you fill in the space and let the music occur. I’m very excited by it.”
The other passion Neufeld has is yoga. She’s been teaching at Moksha yoga for a number of years and just opened the first outlet of this Canadian-based hot yoga style in Greenwich Village in Manhattan with some partners. The development of the solo material came out of focusing in on the yogic practice to relax after nonstop touring with all of her projects, but she says it’s not music suitable for meditation.
“Maybe someday I will make that type of a recording and get all Zen with it. For now, that is not where I’m at at all.”
Once the tour finishes, she is reprising the tour with Rogove and amazing drummer Billy Martin on the East Coast replacing Stetson in the lineup. Arcade Fire is taking a well-deserved break before things heat up again and working on the followup to The Suburbs.