Final interview today from this week's Arcade Fire files, and perhaps the most entertaining of the three due to the back-and-forth banter.
This band needs no further introduction, and the interview is long enough already, so...
Topics covered: learning how to be a band again, recording miscellany, the strengths and absurdities of self-sufficiency, lyrical themes, viral marketing and mistaken leaks to iTunes.
January 20, 2007
Tim Kingsbury, Richard Reed Parry, and Jeremy Gara
Locale: Café Amandine, the day after their show at Ottawa’s Canterbury High School, and a few hours before they played St. Michael’s Church across the street, at the corner of St. Viateur and St. Urbain.
I was looking back at my interviews from the last time we talked, right before the release of Funeral. At that point Win was worried that people wouldn’t like it as much as the EP, and you two were second-guessing things in the recording and the mix and still wanting to tweak it. How does that compare to how you feel now with this record, now that it’s ready?
R: Sort of the same. (laughs)
T: By this point, however, we’re a lot more finished with the record than we were with Funeral. I mean, we’re definitely finished! (laughs) If there’s anything on it that you wonder what it might sound like a bit differently, it’s certainly time to let go.
R: That’s so mature of you! The only way I can have that attitude is to think, “Oh, this part might not be exactly perfect, but it will be perfect live.”
T: I’ve really realised in the last month was remembering how learning the songs from Funeral—at the time, I thought, “Oh, are we ever going to get it right?” But I’ve been in autopilot in a way, the songs are so ingrained that I forgot that sensation. Learning these songs has been really weird—realising that we don’t know how to.
R: The first few real practices were awful. Devastating!
T: I feel like in three months from now we’ll be getting it.
During the last 14 months, there were no shows. You were writing and recording, but once that stopped, you were mixing and not playing together anymore. Is it like becoming a band again?
R: Yeah, and becoming a live team again. Making a record, there is no set way to do it, for anyone, but this band especially. Each recording process has been so different, and the lead-up has been so different. This time it was all new. None of it had really been played live, with a couple of exceptions. We were making a record all at once. With Funeral, it was: play it live, record a couple of songs, play it live, record a couple of songs, write some new songs, play them live, record some more. Now it’s a whole new everything at once. It’s becoming less overwhelming for me, but at first, it was like, ‘Oh god!’ Doing a couple of [new songs] in a set of stuff is different. You don’t really know the real dynamics of a song live until you play it [in front of an audience]. You can rehearse it a million times, but you don’t know what it’s like to have songs together until you bring them to people. Last night during “Intervention,” I felt I knew the place of this song in the set.
T: I felt that way in “Well and the Lighthouse.”
Right after Funeral came out, within a month you retreated to Maine to write songs and chop wood. There were new songs for a while in the set, and it seemed like at one point you consciously dropped them from the live set and just played the album.
J: We wrote “Intervention” in the woods and played it for a while, but yeah, it dropped off.
T: “Cold Wind.” “Burning Bridges.” I think they just needed work.
J: The set as a whole, with 15 songs that we had down really good, was really strong and fun, and didn’t feel like we needed others.
R: During the end of that tour, we started going a bit crazy and started throwing random covers into the mix to have something really rough that felt fresh.
J: It was certainly longer than any of us had ever done that before.
What were those?
T: “Age of Consent” by New Order. [they all sing it]
J: “Maps” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
T: We never did that live, just for a radio show.
R: “State Trooper” by Bruce Springsteen. We were doing “Queen Bitch” by David Bowie.
T: “Naïve Melody,” but that was a bit earlier.
R: Oh, and the Violent Femmes song, [struggles to remember name], “Kiss Off.”
This record keeps much of the same aesthetic of Funeral and makes it bigger, yet without being overly polished, like so many people’s first big follow-up record often does.
J: That’s great.
R: That’s a sigh of relief.
One of the things I loved about Funeral was where everything sat in the mix: indistinguishable instruments, a synth that could be an oddly treated string or a guitar, nothing is clearly separated…
T: (sarcastically) Every one of those things is very clearly mapped out.
R: We record each song seven or eight times before we get to that result. (laughs)
The other interesting thing for me was watching rehearsals the other night, and realising how much of it sounds like the live band does, how little studio tweaking or effects there are. Aesthetically, what were your intentions?
T: We talked about using the Bob Dylan school of trying to get really good live performances live together…
R: …in a big room, with that chaotic vibe.
T: Taking that and then overdubbing stuff on top of it.
R: To give it a bit more control, or weirder elements that you might not be able to do live.
Did the “Antichrist” guitar solo really take a day and a half?
R: Oh god, that was awful. [Tim does ridiculous imitation of it] This was a guitar solo for dummies by a non-guitar player…
T: Inspired by “Shot from the Heart” [Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name”]
J: With a time limit. [Richard had to leave on tour with Bell Orchestre the next day.]
R: But also by not ever calling myself a guitarist, in a weird way at that point in the song, I knew I had to do some blazing shit there. Something has to come out of it like a phoenix. Knowing it really needed that was one of the most painful things I’ve ever had to do.
J: It’d be fine if you had time to think about it, but it was more like: you need to do this now.
R: That was quite a day. Bleeding fingers and crying eyes.
The guitar style you’re using in that song I hear throughout the record. It’s almost a mandolin-style, fast strumming on single notes. Where did that come from?
R: It’s more recent in recordings. It started on “No Cars Go” on the EP, which is when I kind of started playing in the band. Not really being a guitar player by training or practice, I just started playing that way. It’s also a sonic necessity in this band. You can’t just slap another dude banging out chords into such a mishmash of musical elements, so it developed in this organic way, combining my lack of guitar ability and thinking about where it could be useful. It’s also trying to find an interesting sonic and melodic layer in the song.
J: It’s gotta cut through.
R: 'Okay, there’s already two acoustic guitars, bass, drums, and an orchestra… let’s go high and thin and sit on top, delicately.' Hopefully.
Much of the material for Funeral was written in part to announce a new band, and was deliberately bombastic and attention grabbing. Especially after playing that material around the world for a year, I almost expected the new songs to retreat somewhat. And yet, they sound even bigger and grandiose than ever. Did you think about pulling things back at all, or did you just want to do more? ‘If we have the chance to use an orchestra, why not?’
J: The orchestration and the decisions for that are more song to song than a global idea. It definitely had to do with being able to do it.
T: I don’t remember any conversation where we said that we had to make it huge. Except maybe “No Cars.”
J: That was meant to be more like the live version, and with orchestration.
R: I feel like it was less manic than previously. Which is what it is, and made me nervous in some ways. But you can only really be that manic and jumping out there for the first time once. You can be manic if you want, but you can only claw your way out there for the first time once.
J: Unless you fail, then you can do that for your entire career! (all laugh)
R: I can feel an energetic difference between the two. This is less manic, but hopefully it doesn’t feel any less unhinged.
J: We’re still figuring it out. I joined after the last record, but at least during the touring, there was this attitude of: ‘our life depends on this,’ ‘give it all you got or die.’ It wasn’t discussed, but that’s how it felt.
R: That was there from the get-go. It was weird doing that to 15 people in Guelph and then later doing it for 15,000 people. But that’s how we do it, whether we’re playing in Brantford when you’re in everyone’s face…
J: Now, with these songs, the energy level still has to be there…
T: We’re old!
J: But that’s true! I felt weak last night, like I am not in the same shape that I once was.
R: It’s more that we haven’t found it yet as a live band yet with this material. Whereas with Funeral, we found that a year before the record came out.
Or two days before the record came out. When were you hired, Jeremy?
J: Tim let me know I was needed for some touring while I was in Europe with another band, Maritime. Then the Pitchfork review came out and I thought, “This is going to be longer than I think it is.” I got home and we rehearsed two and a half times, and then we went. Before, it was like my life depended on it, but now it’s the same as the process of recording the album: we can take as much time as we want, we can perform anytime and anywhere we want, and it adds different stresses on it. It’s like we have to find a reason to have that energy.
Like you’re less hungry?
J: No, there just seemed like there was something more impending about last time. Then it was like, “Must do this or else.” Now it’s, “Must do this—why?” At least in my head. Maybe it’s just me. Now I’m way more settled in the band.
Were you not road managing the band as well during that time?
J: I did for a month, and it was awful. I mean, it was fine, we’re still alive, but it almost cost me a relationship. But they paid my phone bill, which was nice.
R: That’s all you asked for, dude!
Things kept getting bigger and bigger without even a manager on board, without a lot of things that most bands have in place before they get to that stage. What do you remember about that time period?
J: My favourite was pulling up to one of the venues when I was tour managing, it was the Commodore in Vancouver, and people asking, “Where’s your truck and crew? Where’s the band?” It’s like, “We are the band, this is the gear.” It struck me as so funny, thinking, are we going to do this forever? Because I’m really tired!
T: That’s the most exhausted I’ve ever been.
R: The next morning I woke up and felt like I was dying.
T: Well, that’s because you got dropped on your head that night by Will. Didn’t you get a concussion?
R: No concussion, but I did have a goose egg.
J: Getting a manager was at the exact right time. If we’d even waited another week or two we would have killed ourselves.
T: That was in March 05.
R: We met him at our second London show.
J: It was at a point in the tour where it was calm enough to talk to him. If he had come in the middle of the American leg, we would have been out of it. But in Europe we had a tour manager and could actually talk about this kind of thing.
T: “Why are we going out for dinner with you again?”
R: It was so nice, that the one stranger you meet was like that, was a guy that you’d let sleep on the bus.
T: He just slept on the couch at the back.
I can’t imagine you let a lot of those kind of guys sleep on the bus.
R: No, not really.
During that period of time, how hard was it to keep a bubble around the band, to keep all the biz stuff at arm’s length?
R: It wasn’t an issue at that specific point in Europe, because there wasn’t any time. You’d get on the bus and you’d drive to Switzerland overnight.
T: But the January tour was insane. There were a lot of managers and A&R people and publishing people wanting to take us out for dinner.
R: Definitely in every city.
J: Without a manager, even though we had a bubble, a self-contained world, it was pretty easy [for someone] to bust into. We didn’t say no to anything. We met and said hello and were friendly. We definitely made time to meet everyone who wanted to meet us, but it wasn’t until we got exhausted that we realised we should put up a bit of a curtain.
T: We were mostly curious about what was going on.
J: Yeah, we learned a tonne. It was exhausting, but it was worthwhile, and it helped inform the decisions we’ve made since then. Just meeting everyone in the entire world of the music biz.
T: (laughs) “I don’t want to work with him, I don’t want to work with him.”
J: "I don’t want to work with any of these people!"
R: "It’s a shit heap! Who are you people? Who trained you?"
J: I thought I wanted to say no, but now I KNOW I want to say no. (laughs)
R: I was really thankful that at some point during that time that we were as many people as we were. It was really easy to say, “Fuck you, we’re a group of friends and we’re going to do what we do regardless.” If you were a solo person and a similar thing was happening, I can’t even imagine.
It’s your own support group.
J: It says a lot of about the group of people that we are. It’s the weirdest assortment of weirdos, but there was so seldom a time when everyone was not agreeing fully about that whole side of things. Everyone was on the same page. “That dude WAS an asshole!” (all laugh)
What about the weight of some of the celebrity endorsements you got? Did you get any valuable advice from any of them?
J: David Byrne sent a detailed email once, which was not so much advice, but how he felt about the situation we were in.
R: Which was as much about the modern music world as it was about us. I think he put an identical thing up afterwards on his blog. It basically said, “If a band can do what they do and be happy doing it and get a mild income out of it, then is the music industry needed? Are big recording budgets needed? Are big studios needed?” It was interesting.
One of the reason a lot of people do take those offers is because they want the comfort of knowing that someone else is going to foot the studio bill, that they can then indulge any of their recording wishes. Yet listening to this, it doesn’t sound limited at all. It sounds like everything you wanted to do. Staying independent, did you feel limited at all? Obviously it helps that it’s a successful band.
J: Yeah, we were really lucky
T: We weren’t counting on a huge advance from somebody to do this.
R: That was thanks in no small part to being lucky at how this has gone, ending up in a good record label situation where we’re seeing a fair amount of the money. Whereas most artists can work their butt off and really get stiffed. We’ve been extremely lucky in that sense.
Was it very conscious to make a lot of investments, such as buying a church and a studio and becoming self-sustainable? When did you start having those conversations?
R: In theory it was probably a given in everyone’s mind from day one: if you can, it would be awesome to own your own studio and make records regardless of how you’re doing. So if the opportunity to be able to do that comes up and the resources are there, you do it.
T: We were also comparing the options of going into a studio and building our own, and it seemed like a wiser investment.
J: Building a studio might seem extravagant, but it’s still basic: a band needs a place to play. It’s also just a venue to play music in.
R: For any musician, it’s more important to keep making music than anything else. If there’s an opportunity to establish that, it won’t go anywhere. Even if everyone stops liking the band, we’ll still have a place to go and play.
I understand that a church is built for acoustic reasons and it also doubles as a spacious rehearsal space, but working in churches has been a constant with this band. Living in a town like this where churches are constantly repurposed for condos and other things, are there other elements that attract you to churches?
T: We can’t tell you.
R: Or we’d have to kill you.
J: I heard that word for word from Win’s mouth the other day. That should become this year’s motto. Last year it was, ‘Don’t keep all your snakes in one bag.’
R: Win and Regine had talked about finding one to live in, and then they found this one and figured it would make a great studio. It’s cool to be in a building that has a history to it, as opposed to studios that are just studios. Oddly enough, those just feel like studios. ‘There’s the photo of Mick Jagger on the wall. There’s a photo of a young Rod Stewart. Isn’t that nice—all that’s ever happened here is people making rock records.’ Or you can find somewhere that has a bit more life.
And instead, you have a neon crucifix that says ‘Jesus’ on it in your studio space.
T: And personalized notes from Bob Johnston. [60s Columbia Records producer known for key records by Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen and Simon and Garfunkel, who was brought in briefly as a potential producer on Neon Bible.]
J: I couldn’t find them the other day. [Engineer] Marcus [Dravs] was trying to find them.
T: I know where they are.
Was he leaving graffiti?
T: We played him some songs and he took notes. The one just said: “hashish, bud, 123456789, horses.”
R: Another one was just a self-portrait with a sharpie that’s remarkably accurate. The one most resembling track notes just said: “#1. Drums?” We’re thinking of framing them.
What is the history of that church?
R: Someone was living in it, and they were actually doing concerts in it. I knew a couple of people in the area who used to go to shows there.
T: It was only a church for 30 years. Then it was a Masonic lodge for a while. Then it was closed for about 20 years.
J: Didn’t one of our contractors vandalize it when he was youunger?
T: Really? I didn’t hear that. That’s hilarious.
J: Yeah, he was like, ‘Oh, I know this place from when it was abandoned.’ When he was a kid he’d throw rocks through the windows and got in trouble with the law. In his adult life, he was hired to renovate it. His karma must be even steven.
A couple of months ago, Jeremy, you were joking that all the songs were about god or bombs. How accurate do you think that is?
J: I’m the worst person to ask. I pay the least attention to lyrics.
R: Yes, there are definitely lyrical themes on the record.
There’s a lot of apocalyptic imagery, a lot of end times, a lot of fine balance between hope and despair. A lot of stuff that could be pulled from recent headlines, but can you think of personal experiences or books or films or anything else you’ve encountered individually that went into the mood of the record?
(super long pause)
R: There’s a specific line in “Antichrist Television Blues” of “want to hold a mirror up to the world.” That’s an idea for me that’s omnipresent through the record. Trying to reflect back what’s coming at you, what you’re seeing around you in a really conscious way and not necessarily in an event-by-event way, more in a holistic way of reflecting what’s coming at you.
I find Funeral is very introverted, very much about family, neighbourhood, community and relating to the rest of the outside world and venturing forth. Listening to this, even if you didn’t know the history of the band, you can tell it’s a group of people who saw a lot of the world in a short time. There’s more room for general statements, more explicit political things—which can easily result in a lot of bad poetry in the wrong hands. How do you think it’s approached here?
T: A lot of bad songs are too literal. I can’t think of many good songs that are written that just state facts. Maybe “Hurricane” by Bob Dylan. I feel like on this record it’s all done as a mash-up of real events and the mood that you feel underneath and around them.
R: More impressionistic, thrown together, in a sense. You never exactly know what’s being said. There’s a lot of things being said at once that intermingle and bend each other a little bit, which I think is good. Lyrically, it’s a place where things can get boggy. I think Win does that really well. That’s one of the things I like about his lyric writing, is the balance of ideas and literal things and personal things with non-literal and non-personal things.
Who else do you think does that well?
R: Outside of the band? David Byrne definitely does an awesome job of bringing in weird ideas, at different periods of his career, obviously. In a lot of Talking Heads songs there are a lot of different things going on at once and you don’t quite know what’s being said but it’s clear that it’s something strong and interesting.
J: It’s like modern dance. If you feel a general malaise, for example, then it’s effective. [chuckles]
R: Or something where you can experience the whole thing on a perceptual level, and come away from it knowing what it was about without scrutinizing every line.
J: That’s why I’m not a lyric guy, and why The Cure is one of my all-time favourite bands. I’m fully aware that a lot of their lyrics are so blunt and obvious and not terribly interesting, but on an album level…
R: On a gestalt level…
J: It still leaves me with a certain feeling. It’s the same with dance. The really literal dance often sucks. The dance where you sort of get what they’re going for, at least they point you in a certain direction… Win is really good at that, for me. I don’t often know what he’s referring to, but I like the general impression I get listening to this record thematically. Even if I’m not sure what it is. I know there’s something there, and it’s scary.
Is that communicated musically as well? I’m thinking of how non-English speakers will relate to this, or how we in turn relate to non-English speaking music, something where you don’t have lyrical signifiers to tell you how to feel. When I think of David Byrne, I think of how underrated he is as a lyricist, because he’s not obvious, because it might be perceived as nonsensical—like the words projected behind him in Stop Making Sense—but a lot of his lyrics do communicate very effectively through very simple phrases.
R: Totally. Bob Dylan is a good example too, although he sits at both ends of the axis. He can write something totally literal in the most poetic way, but also combine that with: ‘what the hell is he talking about?’
J: I love that, when even if you don’t know, you’re left with this specific feeling and you don’t know why. It’s the same musically on [Neon Bible], where you don’t know what instrument is playing what. That’s one of the fun things about the record. You’re left confused at times, which is exciting.
R: Back to the previous conversation of finding the performance energy of a particular body of work, I think that helps—I hope it does—because it leaves a certain space in terms of what we are doing here, certain things being clear and certain things not. It feels like a healthy dynamic, artistically, for a performing ensemble.
I’m curious to hear people’s reaction to “Windowsill,” which is the most literal song on the record. It struck me last night [at the high school gig], while wondering whether or not people there were listening to the lyrics—or in fact, if they could hear the lyrics, it being in a cafeteria. Maybe because people haven’t heard the record yet, they weren’t really absorbing a lot of the new material.
T: I think a lot of the people there last night were thinking: “Is this cool?” (laughs)
J: “Do I look cool? Am I dancing the right way?” I know Win has been preparing for this [question].
R: The journalistic bombast.
J: You never know, people might skim over it. But he has it in his mind that that song in particular, people will ask him about it.
He could be the new Dixie Chicks! People might take that line really seriously. I find the song interesting because there’s definitely the expatriate-ism there, and he told me that when he wrote it, it was the first time that he consciously didn’t feel American anymore.
Yet there’s also this thing in the song—and I don’t know if this is intentional or not—but it could be interpreted as NIMBY. The narrator is obviously aware of things being done in his name that he doesn’t feel responsible for, but the chorus itself of “don’t wanna see it at my windowsill” also suggests a desire for a veil of distance or even of ignorance. “I don’t want to see this, keep it away from me.” And that’s at the heart of so much of what’s happened in the last few years.
R: I haven’t talked about this with Win, but for me I assume there’s really strong religious overtones with that song. You can take it literally, the line: “don’t wanna live in my father’s house no more.” But for me there’s a second level there, distancing youself from a metaphorical house that you come from, which to me is interesting because it’s very thematic with the rest of the album. I hope that doesn’t get missed, but it probably will, just because the word “America” is in there as well.
When I think of the title image, whenever I think of neon I think of the service industry, of motels, of fast food.
R: Blade Runner.
That’s a whole other level of artifice!
R: It’s also neon in itself is this weird thing. When it happened, people put it everywhere and thought it was this vision of the future, but as it ages it’s this dirty, shitty relic of the past.
J: “Holy shit, do I look bad in this light!”
R: That too! Now we have all these shitty, aged neon signs that were once a vision of the future light.
It also plays into treating religion like a service that can be marketed, and sold as an ultimate answer as opposed to an ongoing quest.
R: Also blind consumerism. Not in a direct way, but I feel like that’s there: humans living in the world as consumers, as participants, how people choose to be in the world and react to the world and treat the world.
That ties into [“Antichrist Television Blues”] as well.
J: And the Red Campaign, if you want to take it further. [Arcade Fire licensed the song “Rebellion” to the Red Campaign in late 2006, where one dollar from certain consumer products were donated to African AIDS relief.] That’s the only thing we’ve said yes to all year. It’s the only thing that admits to the blatant consumerism of North America. So let’s tap into that for good, or at least try, instead of pretending that’s not the way responsible people are. That’s the only reason it was interesting to anybody.
People are more likely to buy something than they are to write a cheque to a charity.
J: Clearly. Especially right before Christmas, when you are going to spend hundreds of dollars on shit. You might as well tap into that. We didn’t even do that much for it, but it’s the same theme as much of the record. We’ve been approached by a lot of things we’ve said no to.
T: There are other charities too, though, like Partners in Health.
I liked how that was the way “Intervention” was released…
R: You mean masquerading as another song? (all laugh)
[“Intervention” was the first song from Neon Bible sold on iTunes, in December 2006. All proceeds were to go to Haitian charity Partners in Health. But due to a wrong click of the button, someone from the band/management/Merge Records team sent the song “Black Wave” instead.]
I was thinking more of the fact that every band obviously markets a song before the release of an album, but you chose to use that advance hype for a charitable cause.
R: Next album we’ll use everything for evil!
T: (starts singing) “Get out of my way! I’m driving too fast! For yo mamma!”
How long was the wrong song up on iTunes?
J: A few days. It was right before Christmas, so no one was around to check it. I was having the most relaxing Christmas, so calm. Win called a couple of times and left messages. I mean, we see each other all the time, so it’s not often you get a call out of the blue. But Win called to say Merry Christmas, and then called back a couple of hours later to say, ‘Did you know the wrong song is up on iTunes?’ And Christmas came tumbling down!
T: I woke up on Boxing Day and was on the computer, and hadn’t looked at the fan forum in weeks. But I saw the subject header “Intervention up on iTunes” and clicked on it, and they were all talking about “Black Wave.” I emailed [manager] Scott [Rodger] and said, “Dear Scott. How come ‘Black Wave’ is up on iTunes? I hope you’re having a nice holiday. Love, Tim.’ He emailed me back saying, ‘I just got back from a nice walk in Hyde Park with my family, and I don’t really know what you’re talking about, but I’ll look into it.’ Two minutes later he emailed back, ‘They’ve uploaded the wrong song!’
R: Was it in all caps?
J: To be honest, because it happened over Christmas and it was for charity, it was laughable. Of course, this is the first thing we try to do [with Neon Bible’s release] and it’s completely fucked up!
R: And of course it was the first thing about the album entirely carried out by someone else, and it was done wrong!
J: But it was Christmas, and Win had slept for the first time in over a week, and he was laughing about it, which shocked me. It’s like, oh well, people will have to buy that song and buy “Intervention” and give more money to charity. It’s not the end of the world.
R: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
J: What’s hilarious is if you read the message boards and the blogs, people seem to think we did that on purpose as some kind of marketing scheme. ‘Oh, their marketing team is really going viral on this one and trying to screw with everything.’ If they had any idea of how off-the-cuff and in-the-living-room and pinhole-camera our entire viral campaign was, they’d be laughing.
R: People said, ‘Oh, the marketing people at their label are geniuses.’ Well, Will set up the 1-866 number from our living room. We shot the infomercial at Win’s house on an internal camera in about four hours.
T: We sent out a junk email about 15 minutes are conceiving it. “Let’s do it now!”
J: “Why? I don’t know! It will be funny!”
I heard you were also answering the phone at the 1-866[-NEON-BIBLE] number.
R: Yeah, and calling people back. Will took a few.
J: I think Regine took a few, too.
What were those conversations like?
R: I never answered the phone.
J: Will said they were pretty casual. People would ask, “Are you playing Coachella?” He’d say, “I’m not sure!” (laughs) I think people are really taken aback. I think it’s great, especially because Will is really well-spoken and nicest guy ever. ‘Oh, you’re just a normal, nice dude. I guess I don’t have any questions for you!’
T: ‘So, uh, why are you calling?’
J: There’s nothing viral about setting up a phone number. The onus is then on the consumer to pursue it.
R: That’s the whole point. It’s like, whaddya mean, why did we make a phone number? Why did you call a phone number that you thought had something to do with a band? That’s kind of weird, don’t you think?
J: The most active marketing thing we did was have people flyer a Guns ‘N Roses show in L.A. They handed out 1-866-NEON-BIBLE handbills before anybody knew it had anything to do with the band. So the only marketing we did had nothing to do with anything, just to see what would happen.
R: We did put a couple of ads up that just said 1-866-NEON-BIBLE, randomly, but that was way before people knew that’s what the record was called. There you go, there’s your advertising budget: a couple of one-line ads!
J: It’s just fun to toy with the whole idea of things.
When Funeral broke, it struck me as funny that suddenly articles were being written about this city being a new centre of the universe, citing a lot of bands that I’d never seen you play a bill with. What was your reaction to that?
R: Just don’t move here because you read about it in a magazine, is all I ask! It’s not worth it.
T: I don’t feel it has any long-term implications.
J: Especially in Montreal. If it was any other city, it might be different, but not in Montreal.
R: At least if people move here and they can’t speak French and get a job, then they’ll leave.
J: I think to tie us into it, especially when we were doing the album, was absurd. We were on tour for a year and a half, and barely saw anybody from Montreal.
Arcade Fire also became a descriptor for a type of band, or a sound, or even a type of success.
T: You mean Arcade Fire-esque?
R: I prefer Arcade Fire-ish.
J: Did you hear that last night at the school one of the teachers called [violinist] Sarah [Neufeld] “a flame?” As in, a member of Arcade Fire is “a flame.” “Are you one of the flames?”
R: Woah, let’s nip that one in the bud.
T: The teachers were really funny.
T: They were being teachers!
R: The same teachers I had ten years ago!