Checkin’ ‘Em Twice: Arcade Fire’s 10 Most Absurd Moments

Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire recently announced that their fourth studio album will be released October 29th. But they didn’t take the usual channel of a press release – instead, they casually tweeted the announcement to a fan. In light of this strange move, we compiled a list of the ten most absurd moments in Arcade Fire history. Aside from the three phenomenal studio albums they’ve released throughout the last nine years, Arcade Fire have engaged in several random antics that truly exemplify their distinctive personality. These ten absurd moments may remind you of a few more reasons to be excited for the new album – or at the very least, it might build anticipation for whatever strange move they pull off next.

1. Arcade Fire Casually Tweets Their Album Announcement

In an era when musicians have announced their new albums via countdown clocks and worldwide city projectors, Arcade Fire followed suit with their own ridiculous album announcement, hopping on Twitter to announce their new highly anticipated studio album. On July 11th, a random fan tweeted his appreciation for the band, simply telling them “You’re my favorite.” He received a completely unexpected reply when the band responded, “Thanks. Our new album will be out October 29th,” along with a picture that’s widely speculated to be the new album cover. This random announcement is very atypical for a band, especially for one whose last effort awarded them a Grammy…

2. The Suburbs Wins a Grammy

To start, Arcade Fire winning the prestigious Album of the Year Grammy in 2011 is definitely not absurd; it’s actually the complete opposite. It was a wonderful album, and many agree that it was completely deserving of the award. The absurdity lies in the fact that nobody saw them actually winning, especially when they were nominated alongside industry giants Eminem, Lady Antebellum, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry. Somehow the underdog defied prediction and won the award, which eventually led to an onslaught of confusion on social media from people who had never heard the name of the Canadian band. (http://whoisarcadefire.tumblr.com/).

3. Your Childhood Home Stars in an Arcade Fire Music Video

Nostalgia has always been a common trope used throughout Arcade Fire’s music. Sometimes the sound of a song reflects the feeling; other times the lyrical content is blatantly nostalgic, such as in “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels).” In 2010 the band decided to take their common theme in a radical new direction — by actually putting your childhood neighborhood in an interactive music video. The band teamed up with Google Chrome to create the website www.thewildernessdowntown.com, which asks you to enter the address of your childhood home. When you do so, the song “We Used To Wait” from The Suburbs plays alongside a music video that includes different images of your childhood home (taken from Google Maps). It’s a neat idea in theory, but the feeling of nostalgia doesn’t seem to outweigh the reality of Google vehicles cruising over the same roads we learned to ride our bicycles on.

4. Havoc Ensues During the Arcade Fire EP Release Show

Speaking of nostalgia, a look back towards the genesis of Arcade Fire illuminates early signs of the band’s absurdity. During the winter of 2003, Arcade Fire held a show at Montreal’s Casa del Popolo in support of their recently recorded/released self-titled EP. Though it should have been a time for celebration, a feud broke out onstage during the middle of an encore, between singer/multi-instrumentalist Win Butler and guitarist/engineer Richard Reed Parry. The onstage rift (in front of a packed audience) ensued in Parry quitting the band while still on stage. The leave also inspired bassist Dane Mills to quickly follow suit, leaving the band a few members short. While some groups may have called it quits, Arcade Fire pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, hired Butler’s brother William and Tim Kingsbury as replacements, and signed a record deal with Merge shortly thereafter. (Parry eventually re-joined the band, and his instrumental prowess remains an integral part of their artful sound.)

5. The Win vs. Wayne Beef

Win Butler was the subject of another feud during 2009, when Rolling Stone posted a quote from Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne, stating, “We’ve played some shows with [Arcade Fire] and they really treat people like shit.” Butler retorted very shortly afterwards with “The only time we have ever shared a stage with the Flaming Lips was our last show on the Funeral tour at a festival in Las Vegas (over 3 years ago)… So…I am not sure Wayne is the best judge (based on seeing us play at a couple of festivals).” The ridiculous feud fizzled out as quickly as it started, but it kept some of us secretly hoping for a nerdy/alternative ongoing beef, reminiscent of the 90’s East Coast/West Coast rap rivalry. Unfortunately, this never panned out.

6. David Bowie Shares the Stage

Aside from the occasional feud, Arcade Fire have also had their fair share of positive interaction with fellow musicians, notably in 2005, when the group paired with legendary pop icon David Bowie for two shows. The absurdly awesome collaboration was most likely kick-started in 2004, when Bowie took to his websites message board to rave about Arcade Fire’s first studio album, Funeral, stating “”THERE’S NOTHING ELSE TO SAY. ‘THE ARCADE FIRE’ HAVE THE ALBUM OF THE YEAR. You must, simply must, buy it now, today, pronto.” The random high profile endorsement culminated in Bowie joining Arcade Fire at New York’s Fashion Rocks (September 8th, 2005) and Summerstage (September 15th, 2005) to perform Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” and “Five Years”, as well as Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up.” The songs were released to the public as the Live EP Live at Fashion Rocks.

7. LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy Works on the New Album

It was announced by Arcade Fire in December 2012 that another awesome collaboration was in the works, this time with James Murphy. The electronic musician has seemingly started focusing on production since the demise of LCD Soundsystem (producing the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s most recent album, Mosquito), and has been in the studio working on Arcade Fire’s upcoming release, telling Rolling Stone, “It’s really fucking epic. Seriously. I mean, I feel at this point like I’m too close to it to really talk it up and do it justice. You know?” Though Murphy’s involvement was pretty unexpected, it’s another reason to be excited for the album’s release on October 29th.

8. Arcade Fire Sell a Church

Arcade Fire’s jump to recording with James Murphy may partially be due to the fact that they recently listed their bizarre recording studio, a 15,751 square-foot church, for sale this past January. The 162-year-old church properly housed the recording studio for Neon Bible as well as The Suburbs, and was first announced via Twitter, by way of a tweet stating, “Anybody want to buy a church?” The church was recently sold for the $325,000 asking price, despite the destroyed roof that most likely prompted the Farnham, Quebec building to go up for sale. Whether it will be kept as a recording space or an actual sanctuary is still up for debate.

9. Arcade Fire and The Strokes Play Basketball

In a benefit for DJ Sports Club, a non-profit Montreal youth charity, Arcade Fire’s Win and Will Butler played a game of basketball titled “POP Vs. Jock.” Along with the Butler brothers, the POP team consisted of Nikolai Fraiture of The Strokes and Martin Starr of the cult-classic TV comedy Freaks and Geeks. The celebrity team played against the Jock team, which included McGill University Redmen and the Concordia University Stingers on September 22nd, 2012, with the halftime show being performed by David Byrne (who was backed up by Arcade Fire). Arcade Fire member (and Win’s wife) Régine Chassagne also took part in the event, supporting the event as a furry mascot.

10. Arcade Fire in the Classroom

Students attending the University of Texas at Austin in March 2012 must have had a break from the course of routine that often coincides with college classes, when Arcade Fire sat in as guest speakers. The UT website listed the title of the lecture as “Hope, Haiti, and Service,” along with a description stating the band “will discuss the current socio-economic crisis in Haiti, and their own volunteer efforts in the region. In discussing the Haitian need for healthcare and aid from the first world, the speakers will encourage UT students to envision themselves as global citizens and local philanthropists. The musicians will draw attention to the work being done by the non-profit to which their profits are directed: Partners in Health.” This wasn’t the first time leading a classroom for band member Will Butler, who also taught a lecture “about blending his music career with social activism” at his alma mater Northwestern University in 2010.

Did we miss another absurd Arcade Fire moment? Sound off in the comments section below.

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2 thoughts on “Checkin’ ‘Em Twice: Arcade Fire’s 10 Most Absurd Moments

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    Giant glowing balls that changed color in unison with the music that they released at Chella.

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