The Arcade Fire is one of those extremely hyped bands that people of a certain temperament will automatically disregard. In my humble opinion, however, this is one of the few instances in which the hype is justified. Their debut album, Funeral, is stellar (and Pitchfork’s #1 album of the year) and their Commodore show was my favourite of last year.
The following is an abridged transcript of a conversation with Arcade Fire guitarist and percussionist Richard Reed Parry, conducted via telephone as he sat in a van, driving through Seattle, on his way to San Francisco. Some of these questions were provided by a DiSCORDER Montreal music scene informant. Hopefully his contribution made this interview slightly more interesting than the Arcade Fire interviews in every single other Vancouver newspaper. Questions about Howard Bilerman, Mormonism and Merge Records had to be cut for space.
DiSCORDER: How’s it goin’?
Richard Reed Parry: It’s goin’ well.
DiSCORDER: How did the Vancouver shows go? At the Commodore show, you said that it was your biggest show yet.
Richard Reed Parry: It’s true; it was by a couple hundred people. The Vancouver shows were good; the Victoria show was a disaster.
It was a disaster? I thought the baby Jesus saved it.
Ha ha. Well, sort of. If by saved you mean ruined.
I think a lot of people were surprised at the incredible response to you guys, selling out the Commodore—which is quite a feat—and Mesa Luna.
Yeah, it’s pretty crazy. It’s surprising for us, too.
I read that you signed to Rough Trade in the UK. How did that come about?
They approached us and said they really liked the record. And the < >Hidden Cameras signed with them a year ago and we’re kind of mutual fans of the Hidden Cameras and I know they were speaking really highly of us.
And it’s pretty good cred, signing to Rough Trade.
They’re nice people. So they got wind of our record and they got a copy of our record.
You joined the band in 2002?
Is that right? 2001, 2002. 2002 I guess. Maybe a little bit earlier.
You’re also in the < >New International Standards…
That doesn’t exist anymore.
Or you used to be. And you’re in, uh, Orchestres des…Sorry I don’t have it written down.
What are those bands like? How did they compare to Arcade Fire?
It’s quite different. It’s instrumental. It’s kind of chamber music meets, like, electronic music and jazz, or something like that. It’s all orchestral and instruments.
Is it true there used to be a big rivalry between the New International Standards and the Arcade Fire?
[Laughing] No. We were really good friends. We use to go see each other play and then the New International Standards fell apart. And me and Tim [Kingsbury, bassist] joined the Arcade Fire and Jeremy, our new Arcade Fire drummer was in that band also.
I notice you sometimes use the name Richard Reid Parry and sometimes just Richard Parry. Have you dropped the ‘Reed’ because of the Shoebomber? Was that a factor?
Because of what?
Because of Richard Reid, the Shoebomber, the guy with C4 in his sneakers? You weren’t worried about touring in the States or anything?
[Laughing] No, it’s on my passport and everything. I guess some people don’t write it or something. It’s my real name; my name is Richard Reed. That’s what my parents called me…People are like, ‘What’s your name?’ and I’m like ‘Richard Reed’ and people are like, ‘What?’ ‘Richard Reed’ and they’re like ‘What?’ so I’m just like, ‘Richard.’
Some people have suggested that you bear a tremendous likeness to Napolean Dynamite. Have you heard that?
Oh god. Yes.
What would be your response to someone who said: ‘I caught you a delicious bass’?
I haven’t seen the movie. But people just tell me that. At every show there’s somebody who tells me that.
You’re much, uh, better put together than Napolean Dynamite.
[Laughing] Thank you.
You have a music degree. Do you feel your music degree is being best served by banging some a bunch of drums and yelling?
[Laughing] I didn’t get, like, a music performance degree, I got a degree in electro-acoustics sound, which is, like, sound art. So, yes.
In terms of electro-acoustics, they’re being well-served by banging drums and yelling.
I didn’t go to school to have school tell me what to do and then go do it. I went to school to explore and learn and, it’s like, through my whole schooling, still sven or eight times out of 10, my favourite music to listen to is still, like, pop bands.
Someone wanted me to ask about [ex-Arcade Fire member] Brendan’s departure from the band. Apparently there was a big break-up show in which a viola was broken.
And someone wanted to know if that was staged at all, if there was any planning or if that was raw emotion.
That was totally raw disaster.
Raw disaster. And you weren’t in the band at that point were you?
Sort of. I played at that show. I wasn’t performing at every show. That was when I started performing at every show actually. That was when we released the EP. I played on a bunch of the EP and then I came and performed at the CD release and at the CD release the band sort of totally fell apart. I played at all the shows after that, when there was no band left. Well, there was a band left, but it wasn’t the band that it was before, it had totally fallen apart. We played a bunch of shows.
What brought you guys back together after that?
Well, it wasn’t like being brought back together, it was a new band. Win and Regine were still at the helm of it, but…
So, it was a very different band that recorded the EP.
Yeah, it was different.
Yeah. What are some of the differences between the old band and the new one?
I don’t know, it’s more together. It was kind of a dysfunctional community back then. It’s more functional now, for sure.
So there haven’t been any stage tantrums on this tour.
Will [Butler, drummer/shit disturber] dropped me on my head at the Commodore show.
Did you have a helmet on at the time?
No, I took the helmet off, I was hitting it. And then I fell onto my head on the helmet and broke the helmet.
It wasn’t even on my damn head. Awful.
Were you okay for the rest of the night?
I was okay enough to perform. I had a huge bump and cut on my head. It really hurts right now. It sucks.
And what’s next? You guys are touring and then what?
We’re going to take a little bit of time off. And then my other band < >Les Orchestres is going to go to the Banff Centre for about a month. Then we’re going to go to England, I think, and play some shows.
You guys played one new song at the Vancouver show, are there a bunch of them?
We have a few, a lot of incomplete stuff. We have two new ones we’ve trying out on this tour. They’re not quite there.
Any plans to go back to the studio?
Yeah, but there’s no date on it or anything.
Anything you’d like to say to the people of Vancouver?
Clean up your act. The city is in trouble.
What makes you say that?
I don’t know, there’s a lot of people on drugs.
At least you didn’t get your equipment ripped off, like other bands do.
Okay, well, I’ve got to get my haircut. Have a good drive.
Thanks. Take care. D