Arcade Fire is an orchestral indie rock band which formed in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 2003. The band consists of Win Butler (vocals, guitar, piano), Régine Chassagne (vocals, accordion, keyboards, hurdy gurdy, drums), Richard Reed Parry (bass, guitar), William Butler (keyboards, guitar), Tim Kingsbury (bass), Sarah Neufeld (violin), and Jeremy Gara (drums). Howard Bilerman, who played drums on the album Funeral, has since moved on to other projects. Montreal percussionist Dane Mills performed on the EP and in early live shows. As of May 2005, the touring band includes horn player Pietro Amato (who is in Bell Orchestre and Torngat) and violinist Owen Pallett. Pallett has also opened for their shows, appearing as the one-man band Final Fantasy.
The band’s trademark fashion is the waistcoat, giving them an air of “frumpiness”. 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.” Win Butler and his brother Will grew up in Texas.
Arcade Fire formed around the husband and wife duo of Win Butler and Régine Chassagne. Joining together as recently as mid-2003, the current line-up solidified in late 2003/early 2004, when their first full-length album Funeral was recorded. Before this an eponymous EP (often referred to by fans as theUs Kids Know EP) had been sold at early shows. The EP was subsequently remastered and given a full release once the band started becoming more prominent. Arcade Fire are known for their enthralling live performances, as well as its use of a large number of musical instruments. In addition to mainstays guitar, drums, and bass guitar, members play piano, violin, viola, cello, double bass, xylophone, keyboard, French horn, accordion, and harp. With several able musicians, the band take most of their instrumental diversity on tour and members switch instrumental duties throughout their shows. The number of instruments, along with a wide set of musical influences has provided a substantial number of resources on which to draw from during the recording process. The promise showed by the band in its live shows allowed it to land a record contract with Chapel Hill-based independent record label Merge Records.
Their first full-length album, Funeral, debuted in September 2004 in the USA and in February 2005 in theUK, and was very highly acclaimed by critics. The title of the debut album was chosen because of the deaths of several relatives of band members during recording. These events created a sombre atmosphere which influenced songs such as “Une année sans lumière” (“A Year without Light”), “In the Backseat”, and “Haïti”, Chassagne’s elegy to her lost homeland.
Without a major label backing, the success of the band and the album Funeral has been acclaimed as an Internet phenomenon. After a 9.7 rating from Pitchfork, Merge Records sold out their inventory ofFuneral and it became the label’s first album in the Billboard 200 chart. An early tip from David Bowiewas also influential. The band booked small clubs for their 2004 tour but growing interest forced many venue changes, far beyond the band’s expectations, and continued internationally into mid-2005 throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and the SummerSonic Festival in Japan. Taking much of the summer of 2005 off, the band made four key festival appearances at the Coachella Music Festival, the Sasquatch Music Festival, the Lowlands Festival and Lollapalooza. Funeral graced several top ten album lists in 2004. This continued in 2005 with the release of Funeral in the UK, Japan and Australia. The MTV2 2005 Review hosted by Zane Lowe named Funeral Album of the Year, and NME named Funeral Number 2 in their list of 2005’s best albums and “Rebellion (Lies)” the best track. By November 2005, Funeral had gone gold in both Canada and the UK and sold in excess of half a million copies worldwide, a phenomenal number for an independent release with minimal television or radio exposure. It has also surpassed Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea as the biggest selling Merge Records album to date.
In mid-December 2006 www.neonbible.com went live containing nothing more than a phone number, 1-866-NEONBIBLE where people can listen to a new track called Intervention. Built in the style of customer support lines, the number has other features including a contest and a chance to talk to a live person at a specific time each week.
The band headlined the Latitude Festival in 2007, playing all of the hits and joined by Owen on violins
On December 15, 2008, Arcade Fire released Miroir-Noir, a concert movie that includes live footage from the 2006-07 tours shot by Vincent Moon.
A new song called Lenin appeared on the highly acclaimed compilation “Dark Was The Night”, a release benefiting the Red Hot Organization, among other high tipped indie artists. The song is very straightforward, remembering the pre-Funeral material, and maybe showing direction for future releases.
The band released their third album “The Suburbs” on August 2, 2010 in the UK and August 3, 2010 in the United States. It debuted at #1 in both countries. On February 13, 2011, the album won Album of the Year at the 53rd Grammy Awards.