Arcade Fire In-depth Biography
A combination of indie rock muscle and theatrical, unapologetic bombast turned Arcade Fire into indie royalty in the early 2000s. Originally comprised of Régine Chassagne, Richard Parry, Tim Kingsbury, and brothers William and Win Butler, the group formed during the summer of 2003, after Win spotted Chassagne singing jazz standards at a Montreal art exhibit. The grandson of famed swing-era bandleader Alvino Rey, Win was quickly charmed by Chassagne's performance, leading the two to launch a songwriting partnership. Romance followed shortly thereafter, and the duo expanded its sound by gathering Parry on organ, Kingsbury on bass, and Win Butler's younger brother, William, on synthesizer and percussion. Drawing from the bandmates' varied influences, Arcade Fire began mining an eclectic mix of bossa nova, punk, French chanson, and classically tinged pop music, referencing everything from U2's passion to David Bowie's eclecticism in the process.
Arcade Fire issued a self-titled EP in 2003, having briefly retreated to Maine for the recording sessions. Propelled by Win Butler's quavering vocals and his bandmates' symphonic swells, the disc helped earn the band an official offer from Merge Records. The bandmates' luck faltered later that year, however, when Chassagne's grandmother passed away. The Butler brothers' grandfather followed suit in March 2004, and Parry's aunt died one month later. Seeking catharsis in the studio, the members of Arcade Fire funneled their energies into the creation of Funeral. Released in September 2004, the debut album was met with unanimous acclaim -- both commercially and critically -- and Arcade Fire found themselves maintaining a nearly constant presence on the road, playing such high-profile festivals as Lollapalooza and Coachella between a slew of smaller club dates. They also appeared on the cover of Time magazine's Canadian edition, garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Music Album, rubbed shoulders with superfan David Bowie, and toured alongside U2.
Following an exhausting year, Arcade Fire decamped to a church outside of Montreal to work on a second release. The ambitious Neon Bible arrived in March 2007, featuring such grand ornamentations as a pipe organ, a military choir, and a full orchestra. The album peaked at number two and sparked another tour, which found the band playing more than 120 shows over the course of a year. When touring wrapped up in early 2008, Arcade Fire played several shows in support of presidential candidate Barack Obama before beginning to work on a third album. The resulting Suburbs, an eclectic 16-track ode to childhood, suburban sprawl, and middle-class dreams both won and lost, arrived on August 2, 2010. ~ Andrew Leahey, Rovi