LOS ANGELES — When the Grammy-winning Montreal band Arcade Fire arrived at the Forum last week for two shows, brothers/bandmates Win and Will Butler weren’t the first family members to have stepped onto its stage.
“My grandpa played there back in the day,” Win Butler said during a recent conversation about Arcade Fire’s tour, which includes a stop at the Gorge Amphitheatre Friday, Aug. 8.
Butler was referring to pedal steel guitar innovator Alvino Rey, who played the arena not long after it opened in 1967. Grandpa’s innovations with electroacoustic amplification helped change the course of guitar music. Generations later, his heirs plugged into the same power grid in support of “Reflektor,” the band’s richly textured, percussive 2013 collection that explores deeper rhythms, many influenced by co-founder (and Win Butler’s wife) Regine Chassagne’s Haitian heritage.
“Reflektor” was released last fall to the kind of fanfare that might have made Rey blush and that saw Arcade Fire ascend in equally striking, if polarizing, new directions. Most notable, according to Butler, was the addition of two Haitian percussionists.
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“It’s something we felt right away as a band,” said Butler. “It feels really fresh and different, and it makes it really exciting to play the old songs.”
Referring to an indigenous island music, Butler describes their song “Haiti” as “basically a compas song … To be able to play those songs and have that rhythmic bit locked in is really cool.”
But as the group has promoted “Reflektor” through videos and touring, it’s faced increased scrutiny. Hoping to inspire creativity, for example, Arcade Fire asked concert attendees to dress up, a request ridiculed by some and misinterpreted by others. A few months later, the band released a video for “We Exist” that featured actor Andrew Garfield dancing in women’s clothing. The act was criticized by the LGBT community for using a non-transgendered actor.
At first, the band shrugged off the stream of anonymous Internet criticism. But over time, it’s gotten more extreme and less anonymous
“There’s a pressure to have a headline that people click,” he said. “If any one person says anything negative, it’s a story, because you make a headline, and it makes it seem more negative and people click on it.”
What Butler called “the fake controversy” of the costume request was frustrating for another reason. The intention was to invite joy into venues.
“We’re nowhere near the first band that’s ever done this,” he said, his voice becoming more urgent. “I remember the Beastie Boys doing a tour that was a black tie tour, and they said, ‘If you want to wear cargo shorts, do it somewhere else.’ ”
There’s an upside, though, he added. He said that because of the request, half the fans are dressing up for the gigs.
As an added bonus for Seattle fans, Butler will also appear at Barboza, on Capitol Hill, the night before the Gorge show under the moniker DJ Windows 98, along with Sam Spiegel of the duo N.A.S.A.