Win Butler was the latest guest lecturer at Red Bull Music Academy in Montreal and gave one of the most revealing interviews of his career.
Butler discussed his childhood in Houston, growing up loving basketball and using his suburban hometown of Woodlands as the inspiration for 2010’s The Suburbs. Butler said that he knew from a young age that he wanted to move elsewhere, hence his newfound identity as a “sorta Montrealer,” the city he’s live in for the past 15 years.
Butler got personal talking about his musical upbringing, joking that he recently took his harpist mother to a Joanna Newsom concert, causing her to exclaim, “That’s what I was trying to do!” Butler’s beloved musician grandfather and his death in 2004 was the inspiration behind naming the band’s debut album Funeral.
The in-depth two hour interview included Butler’s decision to leave home to go to a boarding school at 15, with his lack of friends at the new school pushing the aspiring musician to play the guitar all day.
He touched on his early days in music spent toiling away in Boston looking for a band. “For me, it was life and death,” said Butler, who noted that he struggled finding band members who took music as seriously as he did. “I was looking for what I heard in all the music that I loved, which was just the real shit.”
After failing to form a band in Boston, Butler moved to Montreal with his friend and Arcade Fire co-founder Josh Deu, who had dropped out of Concordia University to try to form a band with Butler in the US. Win said he knew nothing about Montreal or Canada, joking that “the US education system is really light on Canadian history.” Butler expanded on his introduction to Montreal, saying what he found there were all the things he had been searching for in New York but couldn’t find, including cheap rent. “Rent was so incredibly cheap. It’s beautiful to think about. And the exchange rate was so strong,” joked Butler.
The Arcade Fire frontman also discussed the death of collaborator David Bowie, his fears about the upcoming US election, and how streaming services are killing the music industry.
Check out the full Red Bull Music Academy lecture with Win Butler below.