The Fire Among Us The Growth of Arcade Fire
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This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat on KCRW.
It is most record labels dream that their band would inspire widespread, passionate interest from the kingpins that guard the gates of culture. After all, the taste making crowd is very fickle.
Well, enter the newest darlings. Montreal's Arcade Fire has become the most sought-after band in America. All in less than a year. That's pretty magical.
So what is their secret sauce? The band is eight touring musicians, rallying around the husband and wife team of Win Butler and R-gine Chassagne, who founded the group. Originally formed in 2003, Arcade Fire built a solid reputation on their enthralling live shows. They play a wide variety of instruments live mostly guitar, drums, and bass guitar and also piano, violin, viola, cello, xylophone, keyboard, accordion, and harp. And it's common for band members to switch instruments and instrumentals between songs. The energy is electric.
Maybe it's their live performance that has caught so much attention. Or perhaps it's their quirky songwriting, which reads more like a 19th century novel than modern day prose. The band's musical compositions give a resounding nod to music to the past, while still maintaining a strong and compelling edge. And they didn't loosen their standards when it came to CD packaging. The package is a beautifully crafted fold out digi-pack.
Whatever that secret sauce really is, Arcade Fire's magic is born out of outstanding uniqueness, clarity of vision and the courage to see their convictions bloom. They stand far and away from the ordinary rock crowd, on a stage where imaginations run free. And no matter what it is that's capturing so much attention, be forewarned. Listen and you just may find yourself obsessed with them.
For me, it didn't happen immediately. I had heard their debut album, Funeral, a few times, but hadn't let the music penetrate. But earlier this year, Arcade Fire recorded a track for the final episode of HBO's Six Feet Under and the song, called Cold Wind, dug in deep. I found myself yearning to hear it over and over. I was hooked.
The band has had a truly unbelievable year. U2 invited them to perform on some of the Vertigo Tour dates. David Bowie, Chris Martin of Coldplay and David Byrne have all weighed in on the press level as fans. All this is not too bad, for a band who released their debut album just a year ago this month.
They currently are signed to the North Carolina label, Merge Records, and the band will be releasing their sophomore CD with them. Arcade Fire is all about what the future of music will be confusing, explosive, inventive, dramatic and above all deeply satisfying. Every major label in America is chomping at the bit to try and sign them for future recordings. Their success to date is strong but not overwhelming. The quarter of a million CDs sold represent fans and fanatics, invested in helping them get to the next level next time round.
In a business world that's filled with formulaic sound, and marketing, and dwindling passion, it's inspiring to have a band grab your courage and your heart, without losing their credibility.
Arcade Fire is making all the right noises, to take us in to wonderful new places we've never been.
I look forward to the journey.
This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.
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