Three years ago at Coachella, Arcade Fire brought out a couple of guys dressed like Daft Punk for what looked like a playful fake-out. Yesterday, the Montreal band announced its fifth studio album, Everything Now, which they produced with Pulp’s Steve Mackey—and, hey, Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter. So while the just-released title track may be Arcade Fire’s first new music since their 2013 album Reflektor, it’s not as if they’ve been out of sight in the meantime. And like that strange French-robot connection, their recent musical activities may obliquely foreshadow what they’ll be up to next.
Sure enough, Arcade Fire’s Win Butler and Régine Chassagne have spent part of their time away dabbling in business, whether streaming (via Tidal, whose launch Butler later called “poorly managed”), Haitian cuisine, or, in Butler’s case, serving as a barista. Chassagne has been busy winning awards, sometimes shared with Butler—who it seems, has been playing a goddamn ton of basketball. But the band members have also been dropping various potential hints about their ongoing musical interests, through solo projects, soundtrack work, interviews, and more. Who else, after all, can say they’ve been both covered by Father John Misty and sampled by Future?
Ahead of the July 28 release of Everything Now, here’s a select listing of Arcade Fire’s music-related goings-on since Reflektor.
November 14, 2013: Arcade Fire announce their Reflektor arena tour. There is a brief media dust-up over the band’s suggested audience dress code. While on the road, they cover a great playlist’s worth of classic songs, including tunes by Stevie Wonder, Prince, Blondie, the Smiths, Feist, R.E.M., Future Islands, Neil Young, Nirvana, Jane’s Addiction, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Boyz II Men, Echo and the Bunnymen, Dead Kennedys, and many more. Who knows, maybe Everything Now was mainly influenced by Huey Lewis’ “Back in Time.”
December 18, 2013: Spike Jonze’s futuristic film Her opens in theaters. Arcade Fire and Owen Pallett provide the film’s affecting score and ultimately get nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score.
June 9, 2014: Arcade Fire multi-instrumentalist Richard Reed Parry releases a new solo album, Music for Heart and Breath. Collaborators on the project are Nico Muhly, the National’s Bryce Dessner and Aaron Dessner, yMusic, and Kronos Quartet. Parry described the album as “very soft, very quiet music, played utterly in synch with the heart rates and breathing rates of the musicians performing it.”
October 22, 2014: Word surfaces that multi-instrumentalist Will Butler has contributed music to Bronx Obama, a movie about a professional President Obama impersonator. Simpler times.
October 30, 2014: Arcade Fire share the 21-minute horror film Festi. It features Reflektor co-producer James Murphy, Peter Gabriel, the National, Fleet Foxes, and more. With a rolodex like this, what must be truly scary for the band is accidentally inviting all their email contacts on LinkedIn.
February 16, 2015: Win Butler, as DJ Windows 98, mashes up Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks” and Beck’s “Loser.” At the Grammys, Kanye West had just said Beck’s Album of the Year trophy for Morning Phase should have gone to Beyoncé. Possible takeaways: Arcade Fire wouldn’t mind winning Album of the Year again; also, music is music, man.
March 10, 2015: Will Butler releases his debut solo album, Policy. “Arcade Fire albums come out every three years,” Butler says at the time. “So once the tour ends, you usually get a year of life, and then the next album starts.”
May 19, 2015: Will Butler releases a digital deluxe edition of Policy. It includes the songs he wrote inspired by a news story each day for a week. So if you were looking for Arcade Fire to tackle the Greek debt crisis on their next album, um, well, it’s already been done.
July 10, 2015: Images emerge of Win Butler, Chassagne, Skrillex, and Diplo together in a studio. Butler tweets: “just showing a couple of friends our studio. Not a session.” But still: Would it be so crazy to go from Reflektor disco to tinges of post-EDM house?
September 22, 2015: Reflektor follow-up chatter gets into gear properly. Will Butler says, “We’re all itching to play music together and start recording things. We’re basically in the demo-and-play-together phase, and historically that’s led to realizing that, surprisingly, we’re 30 percent into a record, so we’ll see if that happens.” He adds: “It’s a bit different this time because everyone’s older and fatter and lazier, so it might take longer, but we’re playing music together.”
September 23, 2015: Arcade Fire’s The Reflektor Tapes film comes to theaters. It’s directed by Kahlil Joseph, who’d previously worked with Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar. At a screening before the official release, Butler and Chassagne lead an impromptu dance party.
December 24, 2015: Will Butler shares a Christmas song, “City on a Hill.” Now you, too, can have a very Arcade Fire-y holiday season.
January 16, 2016: Arcade Fire and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band host a David Bowie memorial parade in New Orleans. “David Bowie was one of the band’s earliest supporters and champions,” Win Butler says. “He not only created the world that made it possible for our band to exist, he welcomed us into it with grace and warmth.”
March 6, 2016: Win Butler and Miguel join forces to cover Drake’s “Hotline Bling” with John Oates, Kamasi Washington, and others at the Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival in Florida. At the same event, they also cover David Bowie, Michael Jackson, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Clash, and Earth, Wind & Fire. Will there be any canonical artist Arcade Fire hasn’t covered prior to their next album?
March 11: Arcade Fire drummer Jeremy Gara releases his debut solo album, Limn.
May 7, 2016: Big day for covers. Win Butler joins Best Coast, Perfect Pussy, and Dum Dum Girls members in singing the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the UK.” Meanwhile, he and Kurt Vile cover Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel.” Punk and glam are very much still in the AF mix.
May 27, 2016: Arcade Fire tease their new song “I Give You Power,” in a surprise set outside the Louvre in Paris.
June 17, 2016: It’s high-alert time for Arcade Fire watchers, as Will Butler suggests we might get a new album by spring 2017. He cautions: “No definite schedule though. It’ll be done when it’s done.” The same day, Butler releases a live album, Friday Night.
October 29, 2016: Much as they did during the Reflektor run-up, Arcade Fire debut new songs at a secret show. Their phone-lockdown game is pretty tight at this point, though, so good luck finding footage.
October 30, 2016: During Arcade Fire’s headlining set at Voodoo Music + Arts Experience in New Orleans, Win Butler asks the crowd if they’d like to be on the band’s new record. He sings a tune and asks them to sing it back. So, Voodoo people, you might well be on Everything Now.
January 19, 2017: Arcade Fire release “I Give You Power,” which turns out to be a collaboration with gospel legend Mavis Staples. It’s the eve of President Trump’s inauguration. Win Butler explains: “I talked to Mavis last night and she said, ‘Now more than ever we just need to hold onto each other.’ For us it’s a feeling of solidarity—to not feel powerless and focus on what we can do as individuals and try to do our part.” All proceeds go to the American Civil Liberties Union.
February 15, 2017: And now they announce a European tour, their first major tour since 2014.
February 17, 2017: Another Arcade Fire solo project: Multi-instrumentalist Tim Kingsbury releases his debut solo album as Sam Patch, titled Yeah You, And I. It includes drumming by Arcade Fire’s Gara.
May 15, 2017: The band debuts six new songs at a secret show in Montreal.
May 31, 2017: Arcade Fire tease, “Stay tuned for Infinite Content.” Then they release a new single, “Everything Now,” at Barcelona’s Primavera Sound, where they are set to perform. First an excerpt emerges online, courtesy of a mysterious Twitter account that looks like a Russian spambot, and then the full song. News breaks that the band has signed to Columbia.
June 1, 2017: Arcade Fire launch a cryptic “Live from Death Valley” stream. They announce their new album, Everything Now, co-produced by Arcade Fire, Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk, Steve Mackey of Pulp, and longtime collaborator Markus Dravs. Bangalter is also credited with synths on the title track, Owen Pallett did the arrangement (with Arcade Fire), and afro-jazz musician Patrick Bebey is on flute. The band shares an “Everything Now” video. They also announce an Infinite Content tour. At a surprise Primavera show, they perform a new song, “Creature Comfort.” New Everything Now content now seems poised to pop up, if not infinitely, then at least up through July 28, when the latest Arcade Fire album will enter our world of endless content.