The five-piece band formed in the summer of 2003, after Butler spotted Chassagne singing jazz standards at a local art exhibit at Concordia University. The two quickly became inseparable, both professionally and personally, and gathered Parry on organ, Kingsbury on bass, and Win Butler’s younger brother William on synthesizer and percussion to form the Arcade Fire — the band fleshed out an eclectic mix of bossa nova, punk, and classically tinged songs, drawing upon everything from U2‘s passion to David Bowie‘s eclecticism in the process.
A self-titled EP appeared in 2003, and the Arcade Fire signed with Merge Records and prepped for their first studio album that same year. Win Butler and Regine Chassagne were married in August, but tragedies nevertheless plagued the band, including the deaths of Chassagne’s grandmother, the Butlers’ grandfather (swing-era composer/arranger Alvino Rey), and Parry’s aunt.
The band persevered, and its debut album, Funeral, arrived in September 2004. The record was met with unanimous acclaim — both commercially and critically — and the Arcade Fire extended their resulting tour into 2005, playing such high-profile festivals as Lollapalooza and Coachella while touring the world, appearing on the cover of Time magazine’s Canadian edition, and garnering a Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Music Album.
Following an exhausting year, the Arcade Fire decamped to a church outside of Montreal to work on a second release. The ambitious Neon Bible arrived in March 2007, featuring such grand ornamentations as a pipe organ, a military choir, and a full orchestra. – Andrew Leahey & MacKenzie Wilson