ARCADE FIRE edited by: juan david vargas ramĂrez info: wikipedia photos and images: taken without permission itâ€™s allowed the total or partial reproduction of this book by electronic, mechanical or paper methods. www.flickr.com/photos/junior50/ www.behance.net/jdvr_arq this book has not commercial purposes this book has academic purposes thanks
History..............................................6 Formation and early work..................6
Neon Bible......................................12 Production.......................................................12 Composition..........................................................13 Artwork..........................................................................15 Promotion...........................................................................15 Tour............................................................................................17 Reception.........................................................................................18
Arcade Fire is an indie rock band based in Montreal, Quebec. It consists of the husband and wife duo of Win Butler and RĂŠgine Chassagne, along with Will Butler, Richard Reed Parry, Tim Kingsbury, Jeremy Gara, and Sarah Neufeld. Arcade Fire came to prominence when they released their debut album Funeral in 2004 to critical acclaim. The band plays guitar, drums, bass guitar, piano, violin, viola, cello, double bass, xylophone, glockenspiel, keyboard, French horn, accordion, harp, mandolin, and hurdy-gurdy. Most of their instruments are taken on tour, and the multi-instrumentalist band members switch duties throughout shows. Arcade Fire has won numerous awards, including the 2011 Grammy for Album of the Year and the 2011 Brit Award for Best International Album for their third studio album, The Suburbs, released in 2010 to critical acclaim and commercial success. In earlier years they won the 2008 Meteor Music Award for Best International Album and the 2008 Juno Award for Alternative Album of the Year for their second studio album, Neon Bible. They also received nominations for the Best Alternative Music Album Grammy for all three of their studio albums.
History Formation and early work
Win Butler and Josh Deu began performing in Boston as the Arcade Fire before moving to Montreal in 2001, recording the “2001 Demos” prior to his arrival in the city. The earliest Montreal-based incarnation of the Arcade Fire, began performing in the summer/fall of 2001, almost entirely in lofts and art galleries one of the earliest shows took place at a Christian music festival, Inside Out Soul Festival, and later at a Montreal’s battle of the bands (other early shows took place at Concordia University’s Faculty of Fine Arts VAV Gallery; later the group played the 2001 Christmas party of that faculty’s MFA programme). At that time, the band consisted of future husband and wife Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, singer, guitarist, collaborator 6
and original band cofounder Josh Deu 1999-2003 (“Tunnels” “Power out” “Headlights look like diamonds” etc..) bassist Myles Broscoe (later of Les Angles Morts, Crystal Clyffs, and AIDS Wolf), guitarist/drummer Dane Mills (later of Crackpot), and multiinstrumentalist Brendan Reed (later of Les Angles Morts and founding member of Clues), who lived with Butler and Chassagne in Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood at the time and was a collaborator with them on songwriting and arrangement (2001-2003). The initial Montreal structure of the band began to dissolve in the summer of 2002, when they travelled to Butler’s family ranch in Maine to record their self-titled EP. Tension between Butler and Broscoe led the latter to exit the band following the recording session. Richard Reed Parry, who had 7
been enlisted to help the band record, began to collaborate with them during the sessions and would go on to join the band shortly afterwards. In the winter of 2003, the band celebrated the release of its EP with a show at Montreal’s Casa del Popolo. Before a crowd packed beyond capacity, the band’s set ended (in the middle of an encore) with an argument between Butler and Reed, who quit the band on-stage. Mills told gathered friends in the crowd immediately thereafter that he considered the band to have broken up, as such resigning from the band as well. Following the on-stage implosion, Win’s brother William Butler (subject of the early Arcade Fire song “William Pierce Butler”) and Tim Kingsbury were brought in to replace Reed and Mills so that the band could continue, and they set out to promote the self-titled EP. The eponymous release (often referred to by fans as the Us Kids Know EP) was sold
at early shows. After the band achieved fame, the EP was subsequently remastered and given a full release. The promise shown by the new band in its early live shows allowed them to land a record contract with the independent record label, Merge Records, before the end of its first year together. When asked about the rumour that the band’s name refers to a fire in an arcade, Win Butler replied: “It’s not a rumour, it’s based on a story that someone told me. It’s not an actual event, but one that I took to be real. I would say that it’s probably something that the kid made up, but at the time I believed him.”
Funeral Released on September 14, 2004 in North America by Merge Records and on February 28, 2005 in Europe by Rough Trade Records. It was given its title because several band members had recently lost members of their families: Régine Chassagne’s grandmother died in June 2003, Win and William Butler’s grandfather (swing musician Alvino Rey) in March 2004, and Richard Reed Parry’s aunt in April 2004. Preliminary recordings for Funeral were made during the course of a week in August 2003 at the Hotel2Tango in Montreal, Quebec, and the recording was completed later that year. The album produced five singles. The most successful, “Rebellion (Lies)”, peaked at #19 on the UK Singles Chart. The album was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2005 for Best Alternative Music Album. It received wide critical acclaim and topped many yearend and decade-end lists. According to the website Metacritic, the album appeared on more end of decade Top 10 lists than any other.
Funeral has received almost unanimous praise from music critics, and it is hailed as a modern classic. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album has received an average score of 90, based on 30 reviews. It is listed at number 24 on Metacritic’s list of highest scored albums of all time. Allmusic reviewer James Christopher 10
Monger gave the album a rating of five stars out of five. He described it as “brave, empowering, and dusted with something that many of the indie-rock genre’s more contrived acts desperately lack: an element of real danger.” Rock critic Robert Christgau gave the album an A-, saying that Funeral was “...too fond of drama, but aware of its small place in the big world, and usually beautiful.”Pitchfork Media gave the album a 9.7 out of 10 rating, and ultimately ranked the album #2 on their Top 200 Albums of the 2000s list, after Radiohead’s Kid A. Drowned in Sound also highly praised Funeral. Reviewer Jesus Chigley called the album “...empowering and hopeful and euphoric all at once”, saying that “it says everything there is to say about mortality and it does it in 10 tracks.” Stylus’s Josh Drimmer gave Funeral an A, calling it “celebratory, emotionally rich and life-affirming”.[Tiny Mix Tapes gave the album five stars out of five; “Funeral,” the reviewer wrote, “is like nothing you’ve heard before, and altogether familiar.”Dave Simpson of The Guardian called it “one of the year’s best already, by a mile.”Zeth Lundy of PopMatters complimented Funeral on its eccentricity, calling it “bizarre at turns and recognizable elsewhere, equally beautiful and harrowing, theatrical and sincere, defying categorization while attempting to create new genres.”Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade “best-of” list, saying, “Funerals are generally somber affairs, but the Canadian indie rockers’ emotionally charged 2004 debut mostly just made us smile. And, okay, mist up a little.” 11
Neon Bible Released in March 2007 on Merge Records. Originally announced on December 16, 2006 through the bandâ€™s website, the majority of the album was recorded in a church that the band bought and renovated. Neon Bible became Arcade Fireâ€™s highest charting album at the time, debuting on the Billboard 200 at number two, selling 92,000 copies in its first week and more than 400,000 to date.Being released within a month of similarly successful releases by The Shins (Wincing the Night Away) and Modest Mouse (We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank), Neon Bible was cited as an example of the popularization of indie rock. Critics offered the self-produced Neon Bible mostly favorable reviews. Publications like NME and IGN praised the album for its grandiose nature, while Rolling Stone and Uncut said that it resulted in a distant and overblown sound.
Following the release of Funeral (2004), which had been recorded in an attic studio known as Hotel2Tango, Arcade Fire decided a permanent recording location was necessary. Following their tour in support of Funeral, the band bought the 12
Petite Église in Farnham, Quebec. Being used as a café at the time of purchase, the Petite Église had once been a church and a Masonic Temple. Once renovation of the church was complete, the band spent the latter half of 2006 recording a majority of the album there. They additionally recorded in Budapest, where a Hungarian orchestra and a military men’s choir were used.Other sessions included one in New York, where the band recorded along the Hudson River to be near water. Having recorded so many different, and sometimes conflicting, ideas for each song, it was decided that for the mixing it would be a good idea to get someone else to come in. The band sent tracks to several well-known mixers/producers to experiment with and after deciding they liked Nick Launay’s ideas best, invited him up to their studio to work on the songs further. For a month Launay worked with the album’s engineer and co-producer Marcus Strauss on the mixing of each song, with the band regularly driving up from Montreal to assess their progress. In an interview with HitQuarters, Launay described the mixing process as a “playful thing”.
Beginning work on Neon Bible immediately following a North American tour in support of the band’s first album, Funeral, son13
gwriter Win Butler, born in the United States but having lived in Canada for several years, said that he felt he was observing his homeland from an outsider’s point of view. The album is rooted in Americana themes, with Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Presley being cited as influences. Arcade Fire began recording with what would become “Black Mirror” and a reworking of the Arcade Fire EP song “No Cars Go” as their starting point. Once the title of the album was decided upon, the band was further inspired after they, according to Will Butler, “watched a lot of TV preachers, get-rich-quick schemes on YouTube.” The band was also attracted to using the ocean and television as central images for the album, with Win Butler saying the ocean imagery symbolizes a lack of control; of television, Butler stated that: People don’t necessarily know that they’re taking on a worldview, or absorbing ideas [while watching television]. It doesn’t necessarily seem like [it’s happening], but it definitely does. I find it very easy to get sucked in. It starts to affect the way you see the world. – Win Butler, Interview, Pitchfork Media These ideas are reflected in the arrangement and composition of the album, which lead to a sound of dread and dissonance. The band used a number of less common instruments to achieve this sound; in addition to the orchestra and choir, Neon Bible features a hurdy-gurdy, mandolin, accordion and pipe organ. Win Butler has said that in conceiving the album he 14
hoped for a more stripped-down sound but the songs demanded further instrumentation.
The artwork for the album is a photograph of a six-foot neon sign that the band commissioned for use while on tour. In the photograph used for the cover, the lighted Bible is caught in mid-flicker. Rolling Stone named the artwork one of the five best of the year. AOL Music cited the cover as an example of an artist “keeping artwork alive.” The artwork would go on to win Tracy Maurice and François Miron the Juno Award for best CD/DVD Artwork Design of the Year. Frontman Win Butler stated in an interview that the album title is derived from him being particularly attracted to the image, not from the John Kennedy Toole novel The Neon Bible.
Largely due to band member Régine Chassagne’s Haitian ancestry, the band has tried to raise support and awareness for the socioeconomic problems in Haiti throughout their career. On December 26, 2006, they supported Haitian charity organization Partners in Health by releasing the song “Intervention” on iTunes and donating the proceeds. However, they accidentally uploaded “Black Wave/Bad Vibrations”, the track after “Intervention” on Neon Bible. While the song was quickly re15
moved once the problem was discovered, file sharers quickly circulated it on various P2P networks. On his blog, Win Butler quipped, “I guess it is sort of charming that we can send the wrong song to the whole world with a click of a mouse... Oh well.” On December 28, 2006, the band allowed listeners to listen to their first single, “Black Mirror”, by calling the number (866) NEON-BIBLE, extension number 7777. The song was also streamed on the band’s website beginning on January 6, 2007. The following day, the band revealed a variety of information about the album through a YouTube video. The video, which played a number of sound clips from the upcoming album and featured “Juno award-winning guitarist Richard Reed Perry”, gave the album’s track listing, release date, and record label. On February 2, 2007, all the lyrics to Neon Bible was released on the band’s website. Also included was the text and an audio clip of a child reading “The Wolf and the Fox”, a French fable allegedly written by 17th century French poet Jean La Fontaine, an allusion to “The Well and the Lighthouse”, which is loosely based around the fable. This was followed on February 5, 2007 with the band releasing a promotional pamphlet as a JPEG image on their website that included album-related imagery and much of the French and English text from “The Wolf and the Fox”. In October 2007, Arcade Fire created a website at beonlineb.com with the date October 6 displayed on it. After speculation over what the website was about, including rumors of 16
new material or a live streaming of a concert, it was eventually revealed to be a video for “Neon Bible”, featuring Win Butler’s face and hands, which the viewer can interact with during the song. “Neon Bible” was the first song on the album to have a music video.
Arcade Fire began their tour in support of the album in January and February 2007, playing a series of concerts at churches and other small venues in Ottawa, Montreal, London and New York. This was followed by a 23 date European tour in March and early April, though the last 9 dates of this were cancelled due to illness. The first North American leg of the tour began April 26 in San Diego and April 28 at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and contained 26 dates. This leg contained openings by The National, St. Vincent, and Electrelane. The band then began an 11-date European leg at Glastonbury Festival on June 22 before returning to North America for 10 more LCD Soundsystem-supported dates beginning September 15 at Austin City Limits. The Neon Bible tour continued with 14 more dates in Europe between October 25 and November 19, and six dates beginning January 18, 2008 in Australia and New Zealand as part of the Big Day Out festival. The tour then ended after three more shows from February 7 in Japan.
Compared to the band’s debut, Funeral, Neon Bible has experienced breakthrough commercial success. During its first week, it debuted at number one in both Canada and Ireland, and number two in the United States, the United Kingdom and Portugal. Neon Bible was out-charted only by Notorious B.I.G.’s greatest hits compilation in the U.S. and the Kaiser Chiefs’s Yours Truly, Angry Mob in the UK. It was certified gold by the CRIA in Canada in March 2007. Upon release, Neon Bible garnered mostly positive critical reception, receiving the seventh highest score of 2007 from review aggregator Metacritic. NME reviewer Mark Beaumont commented the album “is a climactic monolith of a record in the grand tradition of melodic transatlantic clamour rock.” The A.V. Club reviewer Kyle Ryan interpreted the album as a commentary on the post-9/11 American world, saying that “the band is seemingly sending a beacon to other reasonable people forced underground by the world’s insanity.” Stylus contributor Derek Miller saw the album in similar terms, saying that while the album touches on “violence, paranoia, the falsity of simple labor, the war-call of organized religion—a what’s what of indie turmoil after 2003” the band go further to the point where its “thematic threads bind the songs.” Robert Christgau gave the album an A+, saying that Butler and co. “thud rather than thunder. But what a loud and joyous thud it is.” IGN, in giving the album 8.9 out of 10, said “the playing overall seems tighter 18
and more cohesive” and that the album is a “grandiose project, one teeming with jubilant enthusiasm and reverent abundance.” Other publications agreed, but felt such was a negative. Rolling Stone reviewer David Fricke wrote that he was surprised such a large band could “sound so distant here so often,” saying that “the result is a huge sound that only sparkles on the edges, leaving Butler alone in the middle.” However, Rolling Stone also named it the fourth best album of the year. Uncut’s three star review of the album said “at its overblown worst Neon Bible is one of those records that takes itself too seriously to be taken seriously.” Neon Bible was a finalist for the 2007 Polaris Music Prize. Neon Bible was nominated for Best Alternative Album for the 50th Annual Grammy Awards. It was #4 in NME albums of the year, fourth in Rolling Stone’s list of albums of the year and album of the year in Q in December 2007. The album won the 2008 Juno Award for Alternative Album of the Year.
The Suburbs Released in August 2010. Coinciding with the announcement the band released a limited edition 12-inch single containing two tracks from the album, “The Suburbs” and “Month of May”. The album debuted at #1 on the Irish Albums Chart on August 5, the UK Albums Chart on August 8, the U.S. Billboard 200 chart on August 11, and the Canadian Albums Chart on August 11, 2010. It won Album of the Year at the 2011 Grammy Awards and Best International Album at the 2011 BRIT Awards. Two weeks after winning Album of the Year, the album jumped from No. 52 to No. 12 on the Billboard 200, the album’s highest ranking since August 2010. Despite this, it’s the first album not to reach the chart’s top ten after winning that award since U2’s How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, which only reached No. 49 in the post-Grammy weeks in 2006.
The album’s lyrical content is inspired by band members Win and William Butler’s upbringing in the suburbs of Houston. According to Win Butler, the album “is neither a love letter to, nor an indictment of, the suburbs - it’s a letter from the suburbs.” The album was recorded in Win Butler and Régine Chassagne’s residence in Montreal, with some parts being recorded at the band’s studio in Quebec and in New York City. Win Butler 20
describes the overall sound of The Suburbs as “a mix of Depeche Mode and Neil Young,” stating that he wanted the album to sound like “the bands that I heard when I was very young, and wondered what those crazy noises were.” It was released by Merge Records in North America and by Mercury Records in the United Kingdom. The band pressed each completed song to a 12” lacquer, then recorded it back for the digital master of the album. As a result, the CD and digital versions of the album sound the same as the vinyl, although, as with most recent CD and digital releases, there is some compression applied. There are eight alternative covers for the CD version of the album.