On September 22, Arcade Fire brings a polarizing new album (Everything Now, released in July) to the USF Sun Dome for the venue’s first big show since Jeff Vinik’s Tampa Bay Entertainment Properties took over operations.
It’s also the first time the Canadian indie-rock darlings turned mainstream rock saviors will play in the round for an entire tour, so CL caught up with multi-instrumentalist Richard Reed Parry to talk about band challenges, his own solo work and whether or not there’s an expiration date on this band so many have come to love and loathe over the last decade.
Read part of our Q&A and listen to the album below, and then get more information on the concert via local.cltampa.com. More info on an afterparty with Will Butler is available via cltampa.com/musicweek.
Hey Richard, how are you?
I’m good. How are you doing?
I’m OK. They call you Richy in the email — is that okay?
That’s also fine.
Cool, well I only have a 15 minutes, so I’ll dive right in, get real, get personal right away.
Yeah, let’s get real.
First I gotta see if I can trust you since the rollout of the album has been...fun. It’s been a lot of fun to read the serious critics. I’m just gonna assume that I can trust you and that anything I take down won’t be fake news.
You can trust me. I’m over all of the meta stuff, so don’t worry about that.
So you are over it.
This tour kicks off in less than a week, and that means a lot of press. Will everyone except Win be doing more press once it gets started?
I think there will always be something happening, but I just wait to be told what to do.
Right now, how tired are you as far as making the rounds and wanting to just do the show?
I’m pretty fine now. We’re actually at the point now where we don’t get totally doozy interviews. It’s nice. I always enjoy talking with thoughtful people about music. The more genuinely interested people seem to be in talking about music, the more fun and enjoyable it is for me. Sometimes you get the vibe that people are just kind of on assignment for a magazine, and could care less about the music, then it kind of feels like a wall.
You can kind of tell when someone already has their article written before they talk to you, and that kind of press can be tiring because you kind of give someone 20 or 40 minutes of your time and there’s just like one sentence of the discussion you had together shows up in print and the rest of the article was already formed before they talked to you. So that kind of press is exhausting, but having a genuine conversation about music, I never really get tired about that.
Cool, I feel better then now.
I’m just kidding about all of it — I’m setting you up.
I’m not as skeptical as everyone else. The Internet already calls the press fake news anyway. Lolla was earlier this month, but I assume you’ve been working during the offtime how are rehearsals going? How will the show reflect the energy of the album?
It’s going well. It’s really difficult, but it’s fun. It’s kind of a new show that we’re doing. We’re playing in the round, and we’ve only done that a few times in Europe and it was random when we did it. It was a different stage size with us in different places, so it never got routine or into muscle memory yet. You know, as you grow older and you spend lots of time doing a particular kind of performing, it gets in your body and in your muscles in almost an automatic kind of way — for better or for worse — so we’re shaking it up on this new stage where we’re not necessarily always looking at each other, of standing next to each other and swapping places in a whole new way. Even though we’ve kind of built our careers with swapping in with each other, it’s still genuinely challenging and definitely outside of our comfort zone right now. So it’s difficult and it feels truly fresh that it doesn’t always when we go to head out on tour. So hopefully that results in the energy feeling fresh and exciting as well. It’s definitely gonna look amazing as well. Hopefully we get into our comfort zone and figure it out real soon. You can’t really do it until you get in front of people.
Right on, that’ll be cool to see you guys kind of get into that at the front end of the tour. I’m calling from Tampa, so you’ll be down here in our heat.
I’m gonna ask you about old music. Music for Heart and Breath is so fun to absorb in that its stripped of the noise of an Arcade Fire fire (especially this one) without sacrificing the humanity that we need in music. You’re also working with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Sufjan and Matt from The National. Considering all you have going on, can you talk about the way Arcade Fire occupies the space in your creative (and administrative brain)?
I’m pretty immediate about everything I do musically, so I am not someone who sits around, like I’ll have an idea that’ll occur to me and I’ll compartmentalize it, and I’ll be like, ‘Oh that would would be a good song for the Brooklyn Youth Chorus,’ or a cool Arcade Fire idea, or ‘Wouldn’t that be cool if I wrote a composition like this.’ Even right now I just finished a giant double record of sonic folk music that hasn’t been heard in the world yet, but will be soon enough.
So I kind of just work with whatever ideas come and just move in that direction without filtering stuff too much. I’m very tactile and hands on with music, so working with the National, they are really good friends and they’ll be like, ‘Hey let’s make some noise together.” So you might end up writing a song, or adding a part or a section or arrangement that you weren’t thinking about ahead of time. You put an instrument in your hand, or you start singing, at least for me, you see what comes out, and there’s lots of musical ideas coming out.
It’s the same thing with composition and the same thing with Arcade Fire. We just get together, and make a noise, and you see what comes out as the most compelling thing that is leading you forward or calling your name and is the direction you go in. That’s always been the approach I take musically. I was never someone who thought about the musical trajectory I was going to go on. Never strategized about how I was going to get there. I’ve always just immersed myself in it and was always just playing music, playing different instruments always with the goal of creating music. I never wanted to be the heavy jazz player who could play every jazz song or the heavy classical musician, you know. What is the most immediate way to create music? Whether it was composition or solo or being in a band, whatever was in front of me and felt compelling. So a real intuitive thing for me that I can’t get away from.
Cool. Yeah, the NPR interview where you talked about the birthday present and organ you bought for Régine and how you were trying to figure it out in the studio was really cool, so it’s neat to hear you saw all that about the tactile exploration of everything. So does that immediacy prevent you, I don’t know how you are about keeping sonic ideas in a vault, but are you against revisiting old ideas if they may serve a song? Or rework something that’s already been released.
No. I wouldn’t. It’s so immediate for me. I kind of live for the voice memo recorder on my phone. It’s thing that is probably more responsible for my career continuing to exist than anything else because you can have an idea when you have it, record yourself doing it, and then later be like, ‘Oh, I remember I was on that road trip and I had a good part for something.’ Sometimes that’s an Arcade Fire song, sometimes it’s just a random melody in your head, or sometimes it’s you talking to yourself about ‘Oh this would be a cool approach to a composition, or have this instrument do this or a musical dynamic, or have a big gap.’ Sometimes I’m just whistling or singing. Sometimes I’ll be on an airplane listening to all my voice memos and be like, ‘Oh right!.”
So to me, this doesn’t answer your question, but I kind of just devote whatever resonates at the time and feels compelling — I think if you don’t filter yourself too much, and you just let, you keep playing music and keep working on music, and letting music come out when it comes out. For me, music just comes out like a wellspring of sorts, and you hope that you can keep the wellspring happy and well rested enough so that the music keeps coming out and finds its home. For me it finds home all over the place, you know? Whether it’s through one facet or another. Yeah, you just try and bring as many of them to light as you can. I wish I had way more time than I do, but there it is.
I do want to ask you about that folk album, but going back to the last response about wanting to get those ideas down. Arcade Fire is a band that is just so thoughtful about the music it makes whether it’s getting panned by critics or whatever. I imagine it being tiring, but you guys are the ones with this artistic drive. Is there an expiration date on this band?
Yeah, totally. I mean we don’t really talk about it in any official capacity since all of us as individuals feel like it’s not healthy for band life to talk about that kind of thing all the time. And I think we all have our own version of that and what we think when we think about that. I definitely don’t think that we will be a band forever.
Not gonna twist this quote by the way.
I appreciate that.
I totally get if you’re skeptical to go on.
Yeah, I think someone like Neil Young or a Bob Dylan as solo artists that change what they do, what their bands are. I think that’s a model that can last forever since it’s more one person following their nose. Like it’s amazing that Radiohead has lasted as long as it has in terms of bands in our generation still making vital music and exploring things. Like watching the Rolling Stones, they’re like at a certain point they’re like, ‘Hey we’re doing this forever guys.”
Haha, like, ‘Keef’s never going to leave us.’
Yeah, like into the grave, and I kind of admire that, but I don’t think our band is going to take that particular path. Only time will tell, I suppose. I’m kind of two full spectrum and all over the place as a musician to want to do the rock band thing forever, but as long as it feels vital, then I’m cool with it.
I think I only have one question left, so I may pass the questions about the solo album to Nasty Little Man and beg them to bother you about it. Since you were talking about Neil Young and frontmen — obviously Win is the tallest guy in the band…
We’re tied actually.
Oh you are? Do you play basketball one on one?
No, I don’t like basketball he does. I’m more of a solo sports kind of guy. I was a swimmer.
So you’ve also worked some other big names like Peter Gabriel, Sufjan Stevens and Matt Berninger of The National — what do these frontmen bring to their bands that makes them so special? Like what is the role of a frontman, and what does Win bring and how integral is he to the spirit of Arcade Fire.
I think he’s very integral. There is a certain kind of, he’s more of like a steamroller or tank personality. I consider myself to be more of a glider or a sniper. Like, I like to go from many angles, all over the place and go where the wind takes me — musically and in life and kind of bring whatever I find back. He’s more of like mull an idea into the ground, and keep pushing at it and pushing at it until it works and becomes something, and I’m more easily pushed off. I’m more more deterred off an idea if I feel like it isn’t leading to something. That capacity he has to keep working on idea and keep pushing since he can kind of see past initial slowdowns, hurdles and disappointments in a way that isn’t my forte. That’s served us very well as a band. For me, if one idea isn’t taking or something isn’t happening, then I am much more apt to just jump to another idea, song or frame of musical mind, which serves me in my own way. So I would say his capacity to keep pushing at an idea has served as well in his frontman and figurehead role.
Cool, sounds like you’re in a cool spot. Super happy for you. Safe travels and let’s link up when that record gets closer.
Yeah, excited to get down there.
See ya Richy.