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The Arcade Fire: Funeral Party

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: Nov. 26, 2004

The Arcade Fire
w/Kite Pilot
Nov. 29, 9 p.m.
Sokol Underground
13th & Martha

The Arcade Fire's new record already is being heralded as the album of the year by a handful of critics including The New York Times, so how does it feel to be the band to release this year's Slanted and Enchanted, OK Computer or Turn on the Bright Lights?

Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry just laughs at the notion. "It feels the same as it ever did, except now there's more people at shows," he said via phone on the way to the night's gig in Lexington, Kentucky.

Parry, incidentally, wasn't the first band member to pick up the call. Tim Kingsbury answered the phone, then handed it to frontman Win Butler, who said joking, "…and that's why we called it Funeral," (laughs rang in the background), before handing the phone to Parry, who apparently had pulled the short straw.

"Everyone seems to be asking us what it's like to have all this hype surrounding us, when they're the ones causing it," Parry said, clearly exasperated by the question. "I guess it means a lot to us. We can play in towns where we don't know anyone and don't have any friends, like Lexington, and have 250 people show up. We're pretty lucky and it's pretty great."




If there's media hype surrounding the band and Funeral, the just-released debut on Merge Records, it's justified by the fact that it is, indeed, one of the year's finest. The Montreal-based six-piece (though an orchestra of friends contributes on the CD) blends a rare variety of styles influenced by bands as diverse as The Rapture, The Strokes, The Pixies and David Bowie. Though flaunted as experimental and edgy, their music is as gorgeously catchy as it is sonically challenging.

And while Parry insists the CD isn't a concept album but rather "just a bunch of random songs that have linked themselves together," Funeral's recurring themes are impossible to ignore. Recorded on and off throughout the past year, the CD got its name after band family members began dying, including vocalist/instrumentalist (and Butler wife) Regine Chassagne's grandmother Nancy, Parry's Aunt Betsy, and Win and brother Will Butler's grandfather, Alvino. Don't go to this Funeral expecting a morbid tribute to loss and longing, however. The CD instead is a guitar-chiming, dance-inspired, angular celebration of life's strange mysteries, with lyrics overflowing with images of parents and children, lightening and ice; and love and death, with the special added bonus of occasionally being sung in French.

The tour that brings the Canadians to Omaha Nov. 29 is only the band's second sojourn to the U.S. after spending last summer crossing the lower 48 with The Unicorns. Parry said before conquering America, the band first needed to garner a following throughout Quebec and Montreal.

"The U.S. is new to us," he said. "We've met some special people and personal heroes since we've arrived."







"Everyone seems to be asking us what it's like to have all this hype surrounding us, when they're the ones causing it."





"On the whole, bars are not the healthiest places, and it's sad that that's all that exists for most bands."



Among them, The Pixies' Joey Santiago, who the band hung out with just the day before in Cincinnati. "David Byrne came to our show in New York. He's a big inspiration to us, and David Bowie was there, too," Parry said. "The more you do something like this, the more the whole rock 'n' roll myth sort of fades and is debunked. It's easy to put people on a pedestal, especially your artistic heroes, but then you meet them and they're just really nice dudes."

Parry said one disappointment about the tour is the venues. "None of us are fans of bars," he said. "They're shitty places. We've been successful going this route, but we want to do something more interesting and special next time. On the whole, bars are not the healthiest places, and it's sad that that's all that exists for most bands. There are ways around them."

Such as playing theaters? "Yeah -- theaters, churches, Masonic temples, something a little bit more beautiful than playing in a bar where it's a drunken, stinky dance party," he said. "After we get this first stage of touring under our belt, we're going to try to create something distinct and exciting that will be a step removed from a beer hall."

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Published in The Omaha Reader Nov. 24, 2004. Copyright 2004 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.