Montreal indie sensation returns to the spotlight



Ryan Remiorz/canadian press


Arcade Fire guitarists Richard Parry, left, Will Butler, second left, and lead singer Win Butler, third left, perform at the Ukrainian Federation headquarters in Montreal earlier this week.


Arcade Fire’s first album, Funeral, won international critical acclaim and admiration from superstars including David Bowie and Coldplay’s Chris Martin.

But as the band prepares to release its much-anticipated second disc, there are few signs of celebrity excess. Group members Will Butler and Jeremy Gara point to a pair of used cars as the extent of their recent rock-star splurges.

And the affable pair profess surprise at the ballyhoo surrounding Neon Bible.

“It’s not like we’ve earned or deserved anything,” announces Butler, younger brother to front man Win.

“If 50 people buy the record, you’re like, ‘Oh, great.’ And if 300,000 buy the record it’s like, ‘Oh. That’s weird. But great.’ It’s all bonus. As long as you don’t depend on your bonus, the fates won’t kick you in the crotch.

Until recently, the pair insist they’ve been oblivious to the fansites and rock zines that are overrun with anticipation over the Montreal band’s sophomore effort.

When Arcade Fire announced a string of shows in New York and London churches and a Montreal community centre to preview the new material, they sold out in mere minutes, with desperate fans paying as much as $250 a ticket to scalpers.

“We got all these angry e-mails: ‘How come your shows aren’t bigger?”’ Butler says of the five hometown shows that were kicked off Tuesday night.

“Dude, we don’t know how to play the songs, you don’t want to see us yet!”

He promises bigger shows to follow in the spring and summer to support the newest batch of euphoric anthems that make up Neon Bible.

Recorded last year in Montreal, New York, London and Budapest, the album is due out March 6 but is already seducing eager fans who’ve scored previews through secret shows and album leaks.

Butler shrugs aside the unauthorized previews, passed from friend to friend to friend much the same way Funeral slowly made its way from the grassroots onto music hotlists across the globe.

The band’s new material remains true to their established whims for orchestrated clatter and shouts, but its predecessor’s success means a few more bells and whistles, says Gara.

This time around, for example, members indulged in obscure instruments such as a hurdy gurdy from Austria and a custom bass steel drum from Trinidad.

“There’s a little more resources at our disposal and money behind us and stuff like that,” he notes.

“It was like, `Oh, I’ve always wanted to play this weird instrument, let’s get it. Let’s put it on the record somewhere.’”