Share via Email 'We're the grain of pepper in the salt shaker' … Arcade Fire. They got to thinking about how they were now headlining some of the same huge venues that Nirvana played after Nevermind, which Chassagne finds a "head trip".
Share via Email 'We're the grain of pepper in the salt shaker' … Arcade Fire. They got to thinking about how they were now headlining some of the same huge venues that Nirvana played after Nevermind, which Chassagne finds a "head trip". Stop listening to our music! Does he ever feel like that? You want to be able to relate to what you're doing.
But," he says with a tentative smile, "so far, so good. They will appear at the Grammys this Sunday and the Brits on Tuesday, and stand a good chance of going home from both with awards.
Furthermore, their music has a certain questing grandeur and cultural weight that has people talking in terms of U2 and "next levels" and "bigness", all of which leaves the band feeling a little nonplussed.
I don't have a 'We're going to do this and be No 1' attitude. Inside the band's top-floor office, which looks less like a place of work than a bohemian crash pad, complete with beds and racks of thrift-store vinyl, the mood is cheerful, largely thanks to a wise decision to take two months off. Butler, 30 and a looming 6ft4in, wears a T-shirt that reads "I don't know", a slogan from Scenes from the Suburbs, the short film the band have just made with Spike Jonze , and which premieres at the Berlin film festival this weekend.
Chassagne, 33, literally dances into the room, her curls bouncing. As they sit down to falafels and bowls of soup, they are both funnier and more relaxed than Arcade Fire's earnest reputation suggests. Later, I ask multi-instrumentalist Richard Reed Parry whether Butler's occasional habit of goading the audience reveals a fierce desire to forge an emotional connection.
An answer will either wobble and stop or spin and spin. Butler is less extreme, but you can instantly tell whether or not a question has engaged him. The couple's responses, like their music, are all or nothing. When they met in Montreal in , they were from different worlds. Chassagne was the daughter of Haitian immigrants who fled "Papa Doc" Duvalier's murderous Tonton Macoutes in the s.
Four years old at the table: Six years old, seven, eight: Wow, something has to be done. Chassagne wanted to study music, but chose a communications degree as a compromise because her parents were worried she wouldn't make a living as a musician.
I didn't want to be in a band to be cool and make friends.
It was a serious thing. There was something in the way he was talking that intrigued me. I couldn't tell exactly what," she says with a laugh, while her husband looks bashful. In Montreal there's weird dance shows and loft parties. It's less about venues and more about people doing their own thing.
On the night of their first date they wrote a song together, Headlights Look Like Diamonds. Arcade Fire already existed in an early incarnation but gradually, says Butler, the couple became the "centre of gravity". Both of our worlds got a lot larger. The turning point was Neighbourhood 2 Laika. Although coordinating seven personalities can be challenging, it gives Arcade Fire an unusually strong gang mentality — a mutual support structure.
I think we give each other permission to lose ourselves in the music. Parry says before they were well known, the band's ethos was to "get in people's faces and sing, make something rise up. We were all playing and singing super loud. Before the audience was singing along, we were making up for that. We were burnt out and knackered, and it was too much, too fast.
We realised our limits. Parry's late father, David Parry, was a folk singer and professor of medieval drama. His mother, Caroline Balderston Parry, is a poet and musician who raised him as a Quaker.
With the Butlers' Mormon roots they are non-practising and Chassagne's Catholicism, there's a lot of religious diversity in Arcade Fire. It's not just a bunch of dudes playing guitar solos — something that can't be named happens.
That's kind of the prize. When I wonder if Butler's fondness for apocalyptic imagery stems from religion, he says it had more to do with early exposure to John Milius's cheesy 80s action movie Red Dawn. His songwriting tends to use exaggerated scenarios and characters to get across his message. The Spike Jonze movie, which the Butler brothers co-wrote, sets the usual adolescent rites of passage in a police state. The meaning of Arcade Fire songs can be slippery.
They've always advocated engagement "Sleeping is giving in" from Rebellion Lies , or the title of Wake Up and they don't hide their political allegiances they met Barack Obama when they played a get-out-the-vote show in Ohio , but they're not didactic.
Even Butler's apparent complaints about "the modern kids" who "seem wild but they are so tame" Rococo , who are "standing with their arms folded tight" Month of May and who need to "put the laptop down for a while" Deep Blue are not quite what they seem. We used to be so much better. Arcade Fire broke their no-adverts rule and gave the money straight to disaster relief. You start thinking about all the issues in the world and I wasn't the kind of person who just wanted to sign a petition.
I actually wanted to do something. It's really good that someone followed through on this idea, and went through all the bullshit and red tape and garbage and depressing setbacks, and made this thing that could have not been real, but is real.
It's worth at least taking a shot. Parry calls Arcade Fire "the grain of pepper in the salt shaker. We don't belong in this world, but we fell into it, and we will go into the middle of it and do what we do and put our hearts into it.
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In fact she seemed to be struggling quite a bit throughout; her strained notes noticeably bounced off of the gold glitter of her dress, which curiously looked like the uniform of a s baton-twirler. And yet I loved every belabored moment of her.