Arcade Fire is an indie rock band based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and fronted by the husband and wife duo of Win Butler and Régine Chassagne. In addition to instrument mainstays guitar, drums and bass guitar, members play piano, violin, viola, cello, double bass, xylophone, keyboard, French horn, accordion, hurdy gurdy, harp and mandolin. Arcade Fire take most of their instruments on tour, and the multi-instrumentalist band members switch instrumental duties throughout their shows.
Arcade Fire has won numerous awards, including both the Meteors 2008 Best International Album award and the Juno Awards 2008 Alternative Album of the Year award for Neon Bible. It has also been nominated for the Best Alternative Music Album Grammy in 2005 for Funeral and in 2008 for Neon Bible.
Formation and early work (2003)
The current band was formed in 2003 in Montreal, Canada by the future husband and wife duo of Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, Win's brother William Butler, Richard Reed Parry and Tim Kingsbury. Together with drummers Dane Mills and Brendan Reed, this line-up self-released an EP later that same year. 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 band in their early live shows allowed them to land a record contract with the independent record label Merge Records before the end of their 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 was released in September 2004 in Canada and February 2005 in the UK. The title of the debut album referred to the deaths of several relatives of band members during its recording. These events created a somber atmosphere that influenced songs such as "Une année sans lumière" ("A Year Without Light"), "In the Backseat", and "Haïti", Chassagne's elegy to her lost homeland.
The album was critically and commercially well-received. It appeared on many top ten album lists for 2004 and 2005 (due to delayed international releases), with Pitchfork, Filter, and No Ripcord crowning it the album of the year. The MTV2 2005 Review named Funeral the Album of the Year, and NME named Funeral second in their list of 2005's best albums, and "Rebellion (Lies)" the second best track. By November 2005, Funeral had gone gold in both Canada and the UK, and sold over half a million copies worldwide, a very large number for an independent release with minimal television or radio exposure. The album became Merge Records' first in the Billboard 200 chart and the label's biggest selling album to date, surpassing Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.
The band booked small clubs for their 2004 tour, but growing interest forced many venue changes, far beyond the band's expectations, and the tour continued into mid-2005 throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, the SummerSonic Festival in Japan, and the Hillside Festival in Guelph. Taking much of the summer of 2005 off, the band made key festival appearances at the Halifax Pop Explosion, Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, the Sasquatch! Music Festival, Lollapalooza, Reading and Leeds Festival in the UK, Electric Picnic in Ireland and the Lowlands Festival in the Netherlands.
Arcade Fire was featured on the April 4, 2005 cover of Time's Canadian edition. On May 1, 2005, the band performed for 15,000 fans at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. In May 2005, the band signed a short-term publishing contract with EMI for Funeral, and in June the band released a new single, "Cold Wind", on "Six Feet Under, Vol. 2: Everything Ends". The BBC used the track "Wake Up" on an advertisement for their autumn 2005 season, and the tracks "Rebellion (Lies)" and "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" on adverts in January 2006. On September 9, 2005, the band appeared on the UK/U.S. television special "Fashion Rocks", on which David Bowie joined them for "Wake Up". This recording, as well as recordings of the band's collaboration on Bowie's "Life on Mars" and "Five Years," were made available on the iTunes Music Store in a virtual live EP. The same trip to New York City took them to the Late Show with David Letterman and a concert in Central Park. The Central Park show featured a surprise appearance by Bowie. On September 11, 2005, Arcade Fire appeared on the long-running BBC music series Top of the Pops, performing "Rebellion (Lies)". The band also performed to a TV audience in Paris for Canal+, and the show was later screened on UK television's Channel 4. The band scored two number one songs on MTV2 (UK) NME Chart Show, with "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" and a three week run with "Wake Up". This success followed Rough Trade Records's last-minute decision to release "Wake Up" only on 7" vinyl.
"Wake Up" was played immediately before the Irish rock group U2 opened their concerts on their 2005–2007 Vertigo Tour; Arcade Fire subsequently opened three shows for that tour, and at the third they appeared on stage during U2's encore to join them in a cover of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart".
Funeral and the single "Cold Wind" were nominated for Grammys in the Best Alternative Rock Album and Best Song Written for Television, Film, or Other Media categories (Six Feet Under, Vol. 2: Everything Ends), respectively. On April 2, 2006, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Arcade Fire received the Juno Award for Songwriters Of The Year for three songs from Funeral: "Wake Up", "Rebellion (Lies)", and "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)". The band was nominated for three BRIT Awards: Best International Group, Best International Album, and Best International Breakthrough Act.
Arcade Fire made an appearance on the BBC show Later with Jools Holland on May 12, 2005, performing "Power Out" and "Rebellion (Lies)". On December 27, 2005, Funeral was ranked #1 on MTV2's "50 Greatest Albums of the Year" in the United Kingdom. On October 22, 2007, Funeral was ranked #8 in Bob Mersereau's book The Top 100 Canadian Albums.
Neon Bible (2006–2008)
During the downtime between Funeral and the beginning of recording sessions for Neon Bible, the band purchased a defunct church in the small Quebec town of Farnham, approximately 70 kilometres (45 miles) outside of Montreal, and spent the early part of 2006 converting it into a recording studio.
The first track officially released from Neon Bible was "Intervention" in December 2006 on iTunes. Proceeds from this release were dedicated to Partners in Health. An error resulted in a second song, "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations", appearing on iTunes for a short time. The album was leaked to peer-to-peer networks on January 26, 2007, and was officially released March 5, 2007 in the UK and March 6 in North America. Neon Bible premiered at number 1 on the Canadian Albums Chart and the Irish Album Charts, and number 2 on the U.S. Billboard Top 200 charts and the UK Top 40 Album Chart for the week of March 12, 2007. The album was also number 1 on the Rock and Indie album charts. The first proper single, "Black Mirror", was announced in January 2007. Displaying echoes of British band Echo & the Bunnymen, "Black Mirror" reached the #1 spot on CBC Radio 3's R3-30 chart for five consecutive weeks, from March 22 to April 19, 2007, and was the first single by any band ever to spend more than two weeks atop the chart. The album gained much critical acclaim (even being mooted as a strong contender for album of the year), and because of its success saw the band proclaimed the most exciting act on the earth by British music magazine Q. Paste voted it one of the five best albums of 2007. Trouser Press writer Jason Reeher ranked Neon Bible "among the best indie rock recordings of all time."
Arcade Fire played on Saturday Night Live on February 24, 2007, performing "Intervention" and "Keep the Car Running". Owen Pallett was not present because he was recording for his own project, Final Fantasy. During the performance, one of Win Butler's guitar strings broke, prompting him to rip the strings from his acoustic guitar and smash it on the floor until it shattered. On this guitar, "sak vide pa kanpe" was written in duct tape across the front. A Haitian proverb meaning "An empty sack cannot stand up" in Creole, this was a reference to the extreme poverty of Haiti, the country of origin of Régine Chassagne.
On July 10, 2007, Neon Bible was named to the shortlist for the 2007 Polaris Music Prize. Patrick Watson was announced as the winner at a gala ceremony on September 24, 2007. However, due to the band's preference not to participate in compilation albums, they were the only nominee not to have a track on the Polaris promotional compilation 2007 Polaris Music Prize. Some media initially reported that the Polaris committee had snubbed the band by excluding them, leading the band and the committee to issue a joint press release confirming that the band chose not to have a track included on the album.
The Neon Bible tour continued into September 2007 with 25+ dates scheduled in North America and Europe through mid-November. In Paris they did a Take-Away Show video session shot by Vincent Moon. The band toured Australia and New Zealand for the first time in early 2008 as part of the 2008 Big Day Out festival. On October 14, 2007, Win Butler and Régine Chassagne made a surprise guest appearance at a Bruce Springsteen show in Ottawa, playing "State Trooper" and "Keep the Car Running". The band committed to give Partners in Health $1.00, £1.00, or €1.00 of every ticket sold on its 2008 European and North American tours.
In February 2008, Win Butler announced on the band's journal that the Neon Bible tour had come to an end, after one year of touring and a total of 122 shows (including 33 festivals) in 75 cities and 19 countries.
Win Butler has been a vocal supporter of Barack Obama since the end of the New Hampshire Primary. Arcade Fire performed two free concerts for Obama in Cleveland and Nelsonville, Ohio on March 2, 2008 and March 3, 2008 before the state's March 4 primary. The band, with Superchunk, performed another two free concerts for Obama on May 1 in Greensboro, North Carolina, and on May 2 in Carrboro, North Carolina before the state's May 6 primary. On January 21, 2009, the Arcade Fire and Jay-Z were the musical guests at the Obama Campaign Staff Ball at the DC Armory. Butler thanked President Obama for his stated intent to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, and repeatedly thanked the Obama staffers for their work during the election.
The band was rumored to be working with producer Markus Dravs on the soundtrack for the upcoming Richard Kelly film The Box. Win Butler denied the claims, but stated that he and Owen Pallett "may do an instrumental piece or two" for the film.
In December 2008, Pitchfork reported the band set up the website miroir-noir.com to foreshadow the release of a concert film with the same title, reporting, "Miroir Noir will feature live footage from the Neon Bible tour." The upcoming film was directed by Vincent Morisset. It was made available to pre-order on December 15, 2008 with the digital version available to download immediately, and the DVD shipping March 31, 2009.
A re-recorded version of the band's song "Wake Up" from their 2004 debut album, Funeral, has been used for the trailer of the forthcoming Spike Jonze film Where the Wild Things Are, which is due to be released in October 2009.
Music magazine NME said in April 2009 that the band would reconvene and start working on new music. Win Butler said "We feel really creative right now. We're in a really good space as a band," he explained. "This last year was the first break we've had in five years. Everyone feels really rejuvenated and excited. I'm happy to play music."
In addition to founders Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, members include Richard Reed Parry, William Butler, Tim Kingsbury, Sarah Neufeld and Jeremy Gara. Touring lineups have included Marika Anthony-Shaw, Colin Stetson, Kelly Pratt, Owen Pallett, and Pietro Amato.
Howard Bilerman, who played drums on Funeral, has since moved on to other projects. During the Funeral shows, the touring band included horn player Pietro Amato, cellist Mike Olsen and violinist Owen Pallett. Neufeld, Parry, and Amato also play in the instrumental band Bell Orchestre. Pallett, though not listed as a band member on the band's official site nor in the album sleeve notes, has been a member of their touring lineup, and, according to the album sleeve notes, co-wrote the orchestral and string arrangements with Régine Chassagne for both albums. Other members of the touring band are Marika Anthony-Shaw – a violist and former Lindsay Place High School strings teacher who played on Recording a Tape the Colour of the Light with Bell Orchestre and Set Yourself on Fire by Stars – as well as horn players Colin Stetson and Kelly Pratt, who have also played with Beirut. These musicians bring the Neon Bible touring band to ten onstage members.
Biography from Wikipedia