Arcade Fire, a Montreal-based indie band with deep connections to McGill, surprised fans and critics alike when their third album, The Suburbs, debuted at #1 on music charts in Canada, the United States and Great Britain.
In an era of rampant file-sharing, the group sold an astounding 156,000 copies of the album in the U.S. and another 31,000 in Canada during the week following its release.
McGill grad Win Butler, BA’04, and his wife Régine Chassagne, who briefly studied jazz at the University, are the group’s principal songwriters and share lead vocal duties. In a 2004 interview with the McGill News, Butler said that band mates Richard Parry and Tim Kingsbury also used to sneak into the Strathcona Music Building to practise in its soundproof rooms. So it’s no exaggeration to say that McGill played a role in the group’s formation and early success.
The Suburbs marks the moment when Arcade Fire made the jump from indie darlings to mainstream stars. Two days after the album dropped on August 3, the band performed to a sold-out audience at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The show was simulcast on the Web in a production directed by Terry Gilliam, of Monty Python and Brazil fame.
Arcade Fire has not only been feeling the love from fans but from critics as well.
“The Montreal septet’s success, despite a music industry increasingly dependent on reality TV, ring tones or advertising alliances to sell its product, is a testament to the band’s vision and ambition,” wrote the Globe and Mail in an editorial. And MTV.com gushed, “they are now, officially, the heavyweight champions of the rock world.”
In less than 10 years, this group of talented multi-instrumentalists has gone from hustling for free rehearsal space to selling out stadiums, headlining major music festivals like Lollapolooza, and hanging out with legends like U2, Bruce Springsteen and David Bowie.
Anyone associated with the University can take pride in the fact that Win, Régine and the entire band are just the latest in a string of accomplished and influential musicians who have found inspiration at McGill.
Did you know any of the members of Arcade Fire during their McGill days? Did you catch any of their early performances around Montreal? Share your memories below.