“Some say the whale can't open his mouth, but that is a fable.”
The last year has been an eventful one for The Arcade Fire. In June 2003, Régine's grandmother Nancy died; in August, Win and Régine were married; in September, the Arcade Fire started recording their debut album. In March 2004, Win and Will's grandfather Alvino Rey died; Richard Parry’s Aunt Betsy passed away in April; in May 2004 the Arcade Fire were signed to Merge Records, and completed their album. It having been something of a heavy hitting year, the band's minds were somewhat a-whirl. The deaths of Nancy, Alvino and Betsy brought to mind all the people they had loved who had died: they decided to call their newly completed album Funeral.
The Arcade Fire reside in Montreal, Quebec. Win moved to Montreal four winters ago, as a panther moves from jungle to jungle—silently, with rocking shoulder blades. Looking for musicians, he found Régine, who combed his sleek fur and removed the thorns from his paws.
Régine had secretly learned to sing, play piano, guitar, accordion, mandolin, flute, drums, and harmonica while her parents weren't watching. Her family fled Haiti (under the dictatorship of Duvalier) in the 1960’s for Chicago, New York, and then finally to Montreal, where Régine grew up.
Win and Régine wrote song upon song; they performed and recorded them with the help of many tiny hands: hands such as Richard Parry's; a hulking brute who knew recording and the finer points of instrumentology. Richard consistently collaborated with Win and Régine, waking up one day to find himself fairly ensconced with them musically—a sort of red-haired lighthouse firmly planted on the Arcade Fire's frontier.
His great winking light helped draw in dozens of moths, as well as his former band-mate Tim Kingsbury. Tim killed the moths, joined the band, and then skillfully played whatever instrument was open to him.
In March 2003, Will Butler slipped across the border into Canada, with the goal of playing music with his brother. This he did until the truant officers caught up with him and forced him back to college in Chicago. But that was later.
With Win and Régine freshly married in August 2003, and a summer's worth of rock and roll at their backs, the Arcade Fire wanted to record an album. But they hadn't a drummer. They persevered in the recording, though, only to discover the man that was to record them at Hotel 2 Tango studios, Howard Bilerman, was a meat-hook fisted, iron-boned drummer of a fellow. Howard graciously agreed to perform on their new album. Once the band begin to tour at a prodigious pace, the suave and debonaire Jeremy Gara signed on full time to pound the skins in an attempt to keep this rag tag crew in time.
Why hell, there was their band, and they recorded. Thousands of tiny luminary hands came out and helped once again: Sarah Neufeld; Owen Pallett; Michael Olsen; Pietro Amato; Anita Fust; Sophie Trudeau; Jessica Moss; Genevieve Heistek; Arlen Thompson; Mark Lawson; Thierry Amar. Sarah Neufeld has since become a full time member of the band, doing the work of an entire string section with her single violin.
The result of all this collaboration is Funeral, the debut full length recording from the Arcade Fire. The CD will be released by Merge Records on September 14th, 2004. In the tradition of their itinerant, Depression-era family-musical performing forefathers, the band will be touring extensively both in North America and Europe well inot the Summer and Fall of 2005.