Arcade Fire Reflektor Tapes

“You need to open a new window“

Interview: Julia Zimanofsky / Rüdiger Sturm
Photos: Patrick O’Brien-Smith

Arcade Fire, perhaps the most famous indie band in the world are about to branch out into cinema with the release of the unusual documentary The Reflektor Tapes. Band members Will Butler and Richard Parry talk to The Red Bulletin about why they still need individual freedom and how to deal with being brain dead. 

THE RED BULLETIN: The Reflektor Tapes is about to hit the cinemas, but one could easily have the impression that Arcade Fire are about to break-up… 

WILL BUTLER: Absolutely not. Why would anyone think that? 

Because since the release of your last album many members of the band have been working on or have released solo projects – even you Richard Parry.

WB: Richie has been involved in many projects over the years. And Jeremy and the rest of the members of the band have as well. The only difference is that it is slightly more formal now, because it’s under Richard Reed Parry’s name or Will Butler’s name. But the phenomenon is not totally new for us. Win and Regine did the soundtrack to The Box many years ago. So it doesn’t feel like the Beatles breaking up as much as the band being very normal.

© YouTube / Arcade Fire

Are there centrifugal forces at play in the band? How do you deal with them?
 
Richard Parry: It’s very normal. Sometimes you don’t want the external momentum of a project to bring you forward artistically. Actually what you want is to go and build something that nobody knows about yet, that has not existed yet, that doesn’t have any interest from the outside. It’s opening a different window and letting different air come in and you try to make music from that rather than from the normal window that is always open.

Is there no one who has control over this window? Reflektor seems to be heavily influenced by Win Butler and Régine Chassagne and their trips in the Carribean… 

WB: Régine has obviously been a very important part of the band and those are her roots. Her parents are from Haiti. So that has always been present in her mind. She really wanted a chance to explicitly put some of the things she hears in her head on the tape. But it was pretty organic and natural. We all like various kinds of music. Win and Régine went to Jamaica for New Years and it was a chance to listen to that kind of music. When they came back we talked about it, but it was just a natural coming together though, there were no strict rules or meetings like ‘Let’s sit down and discuss the philosophy of this album’.

Arcade Fire Reflektor Tapes

Will Butler: “We have been lucky because the support has been almost uniformly positive”

But all of you need a certain creative freedom?

RP: Yes, definitely. I was never like ‘I’m just going to be in a rock band day in, day out for the rest of my life’. That was not part of the plan. I always wanted to be able to have the freedom to make super delicate chamber music and to sing folk songs. I want to be able to produce other people’s records, and I want to collaborate with other friends and interesting bands. I always wanted to do that and I always have and will continue to do so. But this band got immensely famous really quickly, and suddenly all the other stuff was very much sidelined.

How do you feel about all the fame and acclaim that Arcade Fire has received? Can it be a burden?

Arcade Fire Reflektor Tapes Trailer

The Reflektor Tapes is out now in selected cinemas 

WB: At this point in our career we have successfully ignored it for the most part. We are enjoying it like a lovely dessert, but certainly not part of the meal. We have been lucky because the support people have given us has been almost uniformly positive. This positive energy empowers us to keep doing what we have been doing. So it’s been mostly a positive neutral force. Everything is great! I am yet to depend on it for my sense of self.

Are there negative forces at play in your kind of life?

WB: It is probably not a negative force, but the end of the process completely drains you. You feel brain dead. The logistics can kill you. It is the same as being an author of a book, where you have to deal with things like the right choice of font, or whether the proof reader has changed anything important in the final draft.

RP: That part is so unrelated spiritually to why you made the piece of art in the first place. It’s pragmatically inherent to have to do that. But it’s spiritually unrelated, so it’s draining and you go: F**k this, this is not what I want. I am a musician. I am not a logistician.

And what do you do to combat this? 

WB: Taking nice walks in the park and eating delicious food.

RP: It’s literally just rest. Resting your ears and your body. 

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