Behind The Band Name: Arcade Fire

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Videos by American Songwriter

Arcade Fire was a breath of fresh air when they debuted in the early ’00s. The eclectic group of musicians made a name for themselves by being deeply experimental and defying the boundaries of genre. Their musicality is hard to pin down but that is what makes them so enticing as a group.

Below, we’re going through how the outfit landed on the name Arcade Fire, their history as a group and where they’re headed now that Win Butler faces sexual assault claims. Let’s dive in.

Behind the Band Name

Apparently, the name stems from a story about a fire in an arcade. Former frontman Win Butler’s old school bully would constantly talk about an old arcade that burned down and killed a group of children. He once explained, “It’s not a rumor, it’s based on a story that someone told me. It’s not an actual event, but one that I took to be real. I would say that it’s probably something that the kid made up, but at the time I believed him.”

The group was formed in 2003 in Montreal when Butler and Régine Chassagne met at an art opening. The pair formed a songwriting partnership and eventually married. The group’s original line-up consisted of Win’s brother, Will, Richard Reed Parry, and Tim Kingsbury. The group continually added new members to fill out their unique sound.

They earned their recording contract with Merge Records with their seven-song, self-titled EP in 2003. A year later they shared their debut full-length record titled Funeral. The record was inspired by deaths in the band members’ families and explored themes of mortality and mourning.

Will decided to leave the group last year ahead of the release of their latest record, WE. “I left at the end of last year after the new record was complete,” tweeted Will. “There was no acute reason beyond that I’ve changed—and the band has changed—over the last almost 20 years. Time for new things.”

WE takes its name from the Russian dystopian novel by Yevgeny Zamyatin. It debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 chart. It went No. 1 in the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Portugal.

The Future of the Group

In 2022, Win Butler was accused of sexual assault by five different women. All of the women claimed their interactions with Butler were “inappropriate” given the power dynamics between a musician and a fan. The most recent accusation comes from a woman under the pseudonym Sabina.

“When I first moved to Montreal, I literally had $40 in my bank account,” Sabina reported to Pitchfork. “Butler, at that time, was a Grammy award-winning musician with millions of albums sold.

“It was an ongoing abusive relationship,” she continued. “Emotionally abusive, manipulative, toxic, and using his power dynamic to exploit my body at times that were convenient for him. He met me when I was so vulnerable.”

Butler responded to the accusations in a statement.

“I love Régine with all of my heart,” he wrote. “We have been together for twenty years, she is my partner in music and in life, my soulmate, and I am lucky and grateful to have her by my side. But at times, it has been difficult to balance being the father, husband, and bandmate that I want to be. Today I want to clear the air about my life, poor judgment, and mistakes I have made.

“I have had consensual relationships outside of my marriage,” he continued. “There is no easy way to say this, and the hardest thing I have ever done is having to share this with my son. The majority of these relationships were short-lived, and my wife is aware – our marriage has, in the past, been more unconventional than some.

“I have connected with people in person, at shows, and through social media, and I have shared messages of which I am not proud,” he added. “Most importantly, every single one of these interactions has been mutual and always between consenting adults. It is deeply revisionist, and frankly just wrong, for anyone to suggest otherwise.”

Photo: Michael Marcelle / Nasty Little Man PR

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