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Ahead of their Stradbally slot, Ed Power caught up with Arcade Fire, the massive band currently making waves from Stradbally to Saskatchewan. They talk about the pressure of success, the incessant U2 comparisons and explain why they won’t let the haters get them down
Ed Power, 02 Sep 2011
For possibly the first time in her life, Barbra Streisand was at a loss for words. “And the Grammy,” she said, tearing at the lacquered envelope, “goes to ... The S-S-S-S-Suburbs?”. If Streisand was surprised at Arcade Fire’s unexpected album of the year win at the music industry’s annual backslapper pow-wow earlier this year, it was nothing compared to the disbelief felt by the group themselves. Sloping up to accept their gong, clad in their regulation Amish wedding band vestments, they didn’t so much resemble gate-crashers at an exclusive party as recent arrivals from another planet (let’s call it Angsty Indiepop IV).
“It was shocking,” frontman Win Butler said as he tried to process their defeat of Eminem and Lady Gaga to claim the most prestigious prize in mainstream music. “Like something from
Reflecting several months later, the band’s co-songwriter Jeremy Gara believes Arcade Fire were in essence staging a populist uprising, comparable to what Nirvana did when Nevermind changed the face of the music industry 20 years ago.
“It definitely felt like a bit of a coup,” he says. “The nice thing is that it’s all about the record, it isn’t about us. It is more important for us to be recognised for what we’ve done than for who we are, or what we’re wearing. We don’t really fit into the role of famous rock people.”
Glittering awards, stadium-sized audiences and the undying adoration of critics and music lovers across the globe – Arcade Fire have come impossibly far since their days playing for friends at pokey Montreal art galleries, dreaming they might one day sell 10,000 records (current tallies have The Suburbs at somewhere north of two million units shifted).
Along the way, several landmark events have story-boarded their rise. The gushing review in online magazine Pitchfork that catapulted them into the alternative culture spotlight in the United States. The time Springsteen called up and asked Butler did he want to come hang, maybe get on stage and sing a few songs (um... yes, he did). Their cameo at the final LCD Soundsystem show at Madison Square Garden this past spring.