Remember when Arcade Fire was just a buzzing new indie critic darling with The Funeral? It wasn’t long before we all realized that this album was a game-changer. It was as if we were all running around on the beach lighting sparklers and suddenly a fireworks show lit up the sky. Not to say there isn’t something special about lighting sparklers on the beach, but Arcade Fire always seemed to have something very big firmly in their grasp. Pause. Their brand of indie rock was always meant to grow out of the 200-person sweatboxes and move on to the arenas. Now they’re rattling stadiums with Bruce Springsteen and U2, winning Grammys, and shooting films with Spike Jonze.
But how much do you really know about Arcade Fire?
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Arcade Fire’s Funeral was the first album from Merge Records to make it to the Billboard Top 200
Merge Records is a great indie label founded in 1989 and based out of Durham, North Carolina. They’ve worked with Neutral Milk Hotel, She & Him, Spoon, Caribou, Conor Oberst, and countless other acts. In 2004, Arcade Fire’s The Funeral was Merge’s first project to chart on the Billboard Top 200. Their continued work with Arcade Fire gave them their highest charting album again with Neon Bible, which debuted at No. 2, and in 2010 Arcade Fire landed Merge their highest ever spot on the charts when The Suburbs reached No. 1.
They were included in Barack Obama’s official 2012 campaign playlist.
That’s right, it’s official. Barack Obama (and his team of interns) put together an official Spotify playlist for the 2012 campaign, and Arcade Fire’s “We Used To Wait” was included on it. Indie credibility went down 15% among hipster douche bags who strive to be more alternative than the president, but overall respect from the United States Of America rose 55%. Good deal, A.F.
The band turned a church into a recording studio
In 2006, Arcade Fire bought an old church near Montreal and converted it into a studio. “Petite Eglise,” as the studio is called, is where most of Neon Bible was recorded. “Petite Eglise” is French for “little church,” and it’s actually 45 miles outside of Montreal in a town called Farnham, Quebec, which is apparently full of nothing but factories, a beet-sugar refinery, and other middle-of-nowhere nonsense. Win told Paste, “The studio is amazing for recording in, but when you actually want to do anything, being stuck in Farnham can drive a man crazy.”
Win Butler smashed his guitar during an SNL performance
When the band performed on Saturday Night Live in 2007, Win Butler played a guitar with the words “sak vide pa kanpe” duct taped on it. The phrase is Haitian proverb meaning “An empty sack cannot stand up” in Creole. At the end of the performance, Win tore the strings from his guitar and smashed it on stage.
Win and Will Butler were raised as Mormons
Lead singer Win Butler and his bandmate and brother, Will, were raised as Mormons in The Woodlands, Texas. When Win went to college at McGill (where he met his wife and other bandmate, Régine Chassagne), he got his degree in religious studies.
Before Arcade Fire, founding member Reginé didn’t know what indie rock was
In an interview with Tiny Mix Tapes, Régine Chassagne, founding member and wife of the frontman, admitted that until she met Win, she didn’t really listen to indie rock. In fact, she didn’t even know what it was, and when she did listen, she didn’t like it.
TMT: Régine, how does it feel to be in this “indie-rock” band, without ever having really listened to “indie rock” at all?
Régine: Well, I think it’s funny. Seriously, before I met Win four years ago, I had no idea about indie-rock. I started hearing it and I was like “what is this?” At first, I didn’t really like it. From what I heard, I didn’t even know what it was. But now I’ve heard much more from hanging out with these guys, and I really appreciate it. I don’t know, it’s like I’m the reject.
Win Butler is pretty good at basketball
Win played varsity ball in high school, and his 6’4″ height works in his favor on the court. Check out this clip of the lead singer balling at the Pop vs. Jock charity game at McGill. Not bad for an indie rocker with a weird haircut.
The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne hates Arcade Fire
According to Stereogum, here’s what he said to Rolling Stone:
“I’m a fan of them on one level, but on another level I get really tired of their pompousness … We’ve played some shows with them and they really treat people like shit. Whenever I’ve been around them, I’ve found that they not only treated their crew like shit, they treated the audience like shit. They treated everybody in their vicinity like shit. I thought, ‘Who do they think they are?’ I don’t know why people put up with it. I wouldn’t put up with it. I don’t care if it’s Arcade Fire or Brian Eno. If either of them walked into a room and treated people like shit I’d be like, ‘Fuck you, get outta here.’
… People treat Arcade Fire like they’re the greatest thing ever and they get away with it. Those sort of opinions change my view of their music. They have good tunes, but they’re pricks, so fuck ‘em. Who does Arcade Fire think they are? I’ve been around groups. I’ve been around the Edge from U2 and he’s the fucking sweetest guy ever. I was around Justin Timberlake when he was young and he was just a normal, nice, kind person. Anyone can be polite and kind and people who have the privilege and money and attention should understand that. If they don’t, then fuck ‘em.”
Win responded, saying that he only met Wayne once years ago, and he was confused as to why Coyne would say these things. “I hope I was less of a ‘prick’ than telling Rolling Stone that a bunch of people I don’t know at all are really assholes,” said Win.
Neil Young is an Arcade Fire fan
Young went on stage shortly after Arcade Fire’s performance at the 2011 Juno Awards. He was there to accept an award, but he took the opportunity to show some love during his acceptance speech.
Bono’s a fan, too
U2’s frontman Bono thanked Arcade Fire for playing with them, and he had some very, very nice things to say about the band: “I don’t know if there’s a vocabulary, English or French, to describe Arcade Fire. It is such a blessing on us that they’re here sharing the 360 stage. And they wanted to be here in Moncton and they asked to be here ‘cos they have a relationship here with you people, I guess. And we’re so blessed. They’re not like a band, it’s like… it’s like a miraculous… event or… carnival… with chaos. Anyway, thank you Arcade Fire for being with us at this special moment in our lifes.”
Their song is the soundtrack to one of the strangest videos on YouTube
Thanks to the internet, we’ve all seen some weird, weird shit—stuff we didn’t know happened, stuff we never imagined. Even by internet standards, this video is pretty weird. It’s a clip of a chimp raping a frog. Yeah, that happened. And Arcade Fire’s “My Body Is A Cage” is the soundtrack, giving the monkey rape a dark, should-I-be-laughing kind of vibe.
The Suburbs was recorded using equipment from the 1940s
The band explained on their website: “So for the new album, we had each of the 16 tracks mastered to a 12 inch lacquer and then transferred back to digital format so that the CD and digital version of the record sound just like the vinyl. “We recorded it on tape, we press it to vinyl, and the digital is the archive of this physical thing that exists in the world. We’re preserving it and using digital as a mode of distribution, but ultimately there was something real that was made.” The band also chose to use a 1940s mixing console with vacuum tubes for the recording process.
Ironically, their album went to No. 1 on the Billboard chart thanks in part to a massive MP3 download deal on Amazon. Swoop! Indie rock + irony 4ever.