Arcade Fire in 2004

This was an interview published in the L Magazine (Vol. 1, #19, October 13–26, 2004), a cute, little pocket-sized magazine that was available for free in a place they call Brooklyn, New York. At the time I had never been to Brooklyn, but a fellow I used to know (grade eight graduation date) was the managing editor at the time. He’s now the editor in chief at a fancy website. That, combined with the fact that my old friend, the wonderful Sarah Neufeld, was (and remains) a member of Arcade Fire, meant that this article ended up happening.

Notes: This was probably the first, and thankfully only, time I used “titch” in print. I only realized last year that when I have said “titch” in the past, I should always have said “touch”. Also, I remember discussing my Caribbean Literature class with Régine during this interview — I had inherited the course at the CEGEP where I still work — and she asked for a copy of my course pack, which I gave to her.

When Ataris Catch Fire (Oh, Jon, why this as the headline?)
The Arcade Fire with Erin MacLeod

Folks love the Arcade Fire. They really, really love them. Their debut album, Funeral, has been out for a month and critics seem to melt into puddles of maudlin blather after listening to the first track. “Anthemic momentum,” “acoustic majesty,” reads the Pitchfork review. “It takes a band like Arcade Fire to remind you that we are all custodians of our innocence and that we let it die at our peril,” writes Robert Everett-Green in the Globe and Mail. This is all a little much for a not-so-little band from Montreal. Win Butler, Win’s little brother Will, Régine Chassagne, Richard Parry, Tim Kingsbury, and any number of other musicians make the music everyone’s fawning over. It’s getting overwhelming for sweet Régine, who took a deep breath and then spoke to me over coffee.

EM: Your Montreal CD launch was pretty nuts — a thousand indie rock fans packed into a church. How can other venues compare?
RC: It’s just about the people. The place can influence the overall feeling, but it’s just about being in front of people and singing your songs.

EM: Do you see it as more of a performance? There’s definitely a titch of theatricality.
RC: There’s two ways of seeing the word ‘theatrical’. The Broadway style that is put on; you invent something, you make it up. But this is not what we are trying to do, which is a little more scary. Because you’re not really pretending and so it can become really intense and weird.

EM: Most of your songs are pretty intense and don’t really build — they kinda start at a climax.
RC: I guess when we write songs it’s what comes out of me. And it definitely has something to do with what I’m living, my society.

EM: Have you read any of the reviews? Because they’re a little more than positive. How do you feel about the fact that people are writing about being moved spiritually by the Arcade Fire?
RC: (laughs) Depends on the day. I think to myself, ‘What? What are you talking about?’ But it’s all out of our control. I don’t do anything different from last month. And I don’t understand. Now it’s just a weird thing of something really personal being really public. When we write those songs we don’t think about all this.

EM: What do you think about the comparisons made between you an Broken Social Scene, Polyphonic Spree, Talking Heads, Debussy, Echo and the Bunnymen, New Order, I could go on…
RC: A lot of people say we’re like Broken Social Scene. I understand that people think that one of our songs sounds like [them]. It does sound like the beginning of one of their songs. Win wrote that song in 1998, 1997, when he was in high school. It’s like this game of trying to find, which is kind of annoying. I don’t want it. If you don’t like it, it’s fine, if you do like it, come hear it, that’s great.

EM: Some have said that you’re part of some new Canadian or Montreal scene…
RC: It’s a weird human thing to try to make sense of what you see by putting it in categories. It’s like a human reaction. But it’s not like we planned. We’re not like ‘Hey guys, hey Unicorns, hey Wolf Parade, we’re gonna start this thing.’ It’s more, ‘what are you talking about?’

EM: Do you see yourselves as a Canadian band?
RC: It doesn’t matter. I mean people look at me and try to categorize — oh she’s a woman, she has Haitian roots. But it’s really not important. It’s not about being Canadian or Quebeckers.

EM: You’ve got Texans, Vancouverites, Montrealers…Are you planning on keeping the line up the same, because it’s changed so many times.
RC: Oh yes. It’s just how life goes, sometime it changes things happen. It’s like do you wish to have eight boyfriends be fore you find the one you want? Eight breakups? No. But things happen.

EM: Last year you played CMJ and opened for the Wrens, this year you’re headlining the Merge records showcase. This must be a big change for you guys.

RC: Last year, it’s like how are you supposed to go and see a band you’ve never heard before? It wasn’t a big surprise that there weren’t too many people. Now it seems like people have heard of it so there probably will be people, but it’s not really different from last year.

EM: You are headlining though. That must be somewhat exciting, no?
RC: I am excited. I just hope we can live with out all the superfluousity of being in a band because there’s a lot of crap that surrounds the whole thing. I hate the word “industry’, it’s awful.

EM: What would be the ideal situation for you a year from now?
RC: After we tour, me and Win, we want to go work and do something that’s unrelated to music. Like in some town, some community centre, somewhere in the world. I don’t know what. I don’t really wanna get caught it the crazy, crazy lifestyle of rock bands.

EM: Aren’t you looking at being away from home for quite sometime right now?
RC: Yeah. No wonder some artists get all fucked up. We haven’t experienced anything. We’re just starting. Things are coming at us and we need to deal with all of this. Sometimes it’s just like ‘Oh my god, what is this? This is weird this is strange.’ A lot of people ask ‘How do you feel about all this?’ And I’m like, because our name, the band is out there, it doesn’t mean that I’m out there. I’m still here, I’m just going home, going to bed. And it’s weird to think that people are talking about you, it’s kind of freaky.

EM: But are you having fun when you are playing?
RC: Oh, yeah.

EM: Because in all your pictures you are so serious.
RC: (Big sigh) I know, but of course I’m having fun.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Erin MacLeod

Erin MacLeod

Sometimes read; sometimes write. Likes dancehall & injera. Wish I spoke más español y plis kreyòl. Author of Visions of Zion: Ethiopians & Rastafari (NYU Press)