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Old 11-14-2005, 09:50 AM   #1
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A Look At: The Arcade Fire*

By Caroline Eaton

When name-dropped in certain circles, The Arcade Fire has an electrifying effect. Punky, devil-may-care women go weak-kneed while ultra-cool, detached, artsy guys light up like schoolgirls used to at *NSYNC shows. After the past few years, in which everything seemed to be homage to The Strokes, the members of The Arcade Fire have been hailed as musical messiahs for their unusual brand of baroque pop. Upon the release of 2004's "Funeral," the culture critic at Britain's Sunday Times, Dan Cairns, simply said, "Buy this. Right now."

Almost just as astonishing as the band's music—though the "giddy energy" (The Guardian) and "word-defying beauty" (Sunday Times) of its "brutal and beautiful distorted noise collages" (Rolling Stone) should in no way be underestimated—is how brief its history as a collective actually is. Formed in mid-2003, by March 2005 the group had nabbed the cover of Canadian Time, where it was hailed as "Canada's Most Intriguing Rock Band," and U2 was blasting the band's smash single "Wake Up" at every show just before taking to the stage on its current Vertigo Tour.

Besides the name, which comes from a story lead vocalist Win Butler heard about an arcade that burned down, the first thing that strikes you about The Arcade Fire is that it has a whole lot of members. It’s hardly the Polyphonic Spree (membership: 20+), but at a time when quartets and quintets are the norm, The Arcade Fire has nearly enough for a baseball team. Throw the instruments into the mix and its line-up gets downright unwieldy.

According to Arcadefire.net, a semi-official fan site that the band promotes on its official site, Butler (more formally Edwin Farnham Butler III) also plays guitar, bass guitar, keyboards and harmonica. Régine Chassagne, his wife, is on lead and backing vocals while playing keyboards, accordion, xylophone and drums. Will Butler, Win's brother, does backing vocals, percussion, helmet (a real crowd pleaser), guitar, bass guitar and, in the website's words, "general mayhem." Richard Parry is on guitar, percussion, helmet, backing vocals, upright bass, keyboards and general mayhem as well, while Tim Kingsbury rocks the bass, backing vocals and guitar. Sarah Neufeld plays violin and sings backup along with Jeremy Gara, who plays drums and guitar. In May 2005, Owen Pallett joined the touring band on violin.

The Arcade Fire formed around the husband and wife duo of Butler, a Houston native who was studying religion at Montreal's McGill University, and Chassagne, a music major. They first connected when he spotted her singing at an art exhibition. The pair was soon inseparable and married in the fall of 2004. Personal and professional collaborators, they continue to compose lyrics together, twisting their separate experiences into a single narrative.

Quickly characterized by its unique sound—a raucous blend of instruments and vocals that swerve from delicately intimate solos to boisterous choral blasts—and lively performances, the group inked a record deal with the North Carolina-based indie label Merge Records in the fall of 2003. Recorded in late 2003/early 2004, "Funeral" draws heavily upon a series of tragedies suffered by the band during that time. In June 2003, Chassagne's grandmother passed away. The Butlers' grandfather, swing-era composer/arranger Alvino Rey, who is credited with the popularization of the pedal steel guitar, and Parry's aunt would then pass on within a month of each other in the spring of 2004. Hence, the nostalgic longing that colors the album and the sense, as expressed in "The Backseat," of a "family tree [ . . . ] losing all its leaves."

"Funeral" made its US debut in September 2004 and arrived in the UK the following winter. Without the backing of a major label, the success of the band and the album has been largely considered an Internet phenomenon due to the intensely loyal support of bloggers. For its 2004 tour, the group booked small clubs but demand so far exceeded expectations that they were forced to switch to larger venues. High voltage performances on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien," "The Late Show with David Letterman," and VH1's "Fashion Rocks" has gradually carried the nearly deafening buzz over into the mainstream, culminating in a headliner slot on the third leg of U2's fall Vertigo Tour—fittingly, at the Ottawa and Montreal shows. It's bound to be a sweet homecoming.

Butler, a lifelong U2 fan, was thrilled by the invite. He told NME, "I saw them play when I was 16 and I didn't know any better at the time. It was one of the best shows I have ever seen." Butler is particularly excited about getting to see the crowd's response to "Wake Up" in person. "The first time they played 'Wake Up' on tour somebody e-mailed a clip of the show to me and it looked incredible seeing all those people at their shows jumping up and down," he told NME. "It would be amazing to see in person."

After the 2005 fall tour, The Arcade Fire plans to return to Montreal and begin recording the next album in its new studio, built within a converted church.

For further information on The Arcade Fire, visit the band's official website at http://www.arcadefire.com or the fan site at http://www.arcadefire.net.

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Old 11-14-2005, 01:51 PM   #2
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Excellent,excellent article. Great writing and research.

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Old 11-14-2005, 09:30 PM   #3
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Thanks for the story.

Arcade Fire
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Old 11-14-2005, 11:07 PM   #4
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I the arcade fire
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Old 11-17-2005, 12:43 AM   #5
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the only "new" band I actually admire...
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Old 02-24-2006, 01:43 PM   #6
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i love them, they are so different from what is around at the minute. and wake up...well wake up rocks!
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Old 12-12-2006, 09:37 PM   #7
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These guys dominate. Good article.

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