While writing Arcade Fire’s Grammy-winning 2010 album “The Suburbs,” Win Butler and Regine Chassagne embarked on a road trip across south Louisiana. Both Butler, a native of Houston, and Chassagne, who is of Haitian descent but grew up in Montreal, liked the “bizarre hybrid of Quebec and Haitian and Southern culture” they encountered in Lafayette and New Orleans.
“We both felt so at home, for different reasons,” Butler recalled recently.
After Arcade Fire concluded a tour at the 2014 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Butler and Chassagne essentially never left. They've lived in New Orleans ever since.
“When I moved to Montreal (for college), I fell in love with the city, but it really took me at least a year to know anything or feel at all at home,” Butler said. “When we moved to New Orleans, it took like a week. It felt like it was our home almost immediately. It just feels normal.”
Most of Arcade Fire’s new, fifth album, “Everything Now,” was recorded at BoomBox, the couple’s home studio in New Orleans. Released in late July, “Everything Now” sold 94,000 copies its first week and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard chart.
Arcade Fire kicked off the American leg of the subsequent Infinite Content Tour at Madison Square Garden in New York, performing on a square stage set in the middle of the arena like a boxing ring.
The tour stops at the UNO Lakefront Arena on Tuesday for what is essentially a hometown show, their first since an invigorated set at the 2016 Voodoo Experience. Plenty of tickets remain, including discounted tickets for students starting at two for $40 plus fees. Wolf Parade opens the show.
Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler had the last, incongruous word at the 2016 Voodoo Festival. …
In a sign of just how “local” they’ve become, Arcade Fire adorns the cover of September’s OffBeat magazine. Butler and Chassagne, who married in 2003 and have a young child, bought a house Uptown — though not, Butler hastens to add, in the Garden District.
“I could never live in the Garden District — it’s too stuffy for me. But there’s that bit of Uptown between the Garden District and Tulane University that still has a magical quality to me.”
He plays basketball at both the Dryades YMCA in Central City and the Jewish Community Center on St. Charles Avenue, enjoying the contrast between the two very different settings.
“And we’re not really participating in gentrifying our neighborhood,” he noted. “It was gentrified like 200 years ago.”
The former high school basketball star is still very much a student of the game. He’s frequently courtside at Pelicans games. “I’m so happy to live in a town with an NBA team. To get to watch Anthony Davis, a once-every-decade talent, I feel very lucky.”
Butler posted up against New Orleans rap mogul Percy “Master P” Miller during the NBA Allstar Weekend’s celebrity basketball game at the Superdome in February.
“He was trying to intimidate me and play hard, which is kind of cute,” Butler said of Miller. “He was talking trash. I think I fouled him a little hard accidentally on one of the first plays, so he was coming for me. I just kept saying to him, ‘I’m gonna keep runnin'. You have to run at some point.’ I think he ran out of wind a little bit.
“It was really fun, such a treat. I don’t think in my wildest dreams I ever saw myself playing basketball in the Superdome.”
He’s better acquainted with the Lakefront Arena courts. After UNO’s men’s basketball team graduated several players last year, he filled in as the 10th player for 5-on-5 drills and scrimmages.
“Pretty much my idea of heaven is playing with a basketball team and not having to work out or lift weights or anything.”
When he’s not shooting hoops, he often turns up at marquee music events ranging from Allen Toussaint’s memorial to the Foo Fighters’ secret gig at Preservation Hall. In January 2016, Butler and Chassagne teamed up with their pal Ben Jaffe, of Preservation Hall, to lead a procession through the French Quarter in honor of the late David Bowie, an Arcade Fire fan and occasional collaborator.
Thanks to David Bowie, Arcade Fire and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Carnival gridlock ar…
Thousands of spectators clogged the Quarter as the musicians reinvented Bowie tunes with brass instruments and a bullhorn.
“It was crazy,” Butler said. “It was a little intense to play to thousands of people with no amplification, but it was really one of the more profound musical experiences of my life. If anyone deserved it, it was David.
“We were learning ‘Suffragette City’ on the fly, and 2,000 people were jumping like a punk concert. To me, that’s where it gets really interesting, these musical hybrids.”
When Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor lived and recorded in New Orleans, he still made records that sounded like Nine Inch Nails. Despite guest spots by several New Orleans musicians, Butler and company didn’t make a “New Orleans record” with “Everything Now” — they made an Arcade Fire record in New Orleans.
“I wouldn’t know how to make a ‘New Orleans record,’ except for the sweat,” Butler said. “When we were coming up in Montreal, there were four or five bands that I would see regularly that were way better than us. For great bands to happen, you have to physically see people that are better than you or doing something different from you.
“Even though the genres of music are completely different, in New Orleans I constantly see musicians, drummers and singers that make me feel like an amateur. Which I think is really healthy, to be inspired by the level of quality. That’s how you stay hungry and try to get better and make better music.”
He’s a big fan of the TBC Brass Band. “To me, the ultimate honor as a musician would be to have one of these brass bands playing your song.”
Unfortunately, Arcade Fire has yet to achieve the sort of pop culture ubiquity necessary for a song to filter into the New Orleans brass band repertoire.
“We’re operating in this world in between popularity and independent music/obscurity,” Butler said. “We’re about as big as you can get for that kind of band, but there’s this whole other level of pop music that hits everyone.”
That said, “you could do a pretty bangin’ version of (Arcade Fire's) ‘Wake Up.’ We played the outro with Preservation Hall, and it definitely swings.”