Always on the move: Since Canadian indie music big players ARCADE FIRE are currently taking a little break the younger of the two Butler brothers in the band is finally heading on a musical solo adventure. Only a few days ago, we had the chance to talk to the charismatic WILL BUTLER on Skype to catch up on a few things concerning his recently released solo album Policy, his visions of another life, and what it means to win laurels for your hard work. Read below what he had to tell while he was enjoying a ginger-lemon tea in chilly New York city. One thing is for sure: WILL BUTLER is having the time of his life and he has no intention to desist from this positive state of things. And here comes the proof.
After ten years of making music with ARCADE FIRE and an Oscar nomination for the ‘HER’ score, what were your motivations to finally go solo?
I had songs that were gonna see the light of day and it was only a kind of matter when. And when I had my name out there at the Oscar nomination and the ARCADE FIRE tour was coming to an end, and I knew I was going to have some time off, I guess I was like ‘Oh, I have time and songs, so let’s do it!’
What would you say is more applicable: You write songs to create and achieve something new or to get over and handle something from the past?
I think the angrier songs are more based in the past, like Take My Side. There’s definitely some exploring characters that are based on an old version of myself. Songs like Sing To Me or Witness are a bit more future oriented. I guess, actually, the album kinda proceeds from past to the future, weirdly enough, now that I think of it. (laughs)
Where do you draw all your inspiration from?
It depends, but I’ve always thought of it as a song by song basis, both in AF and my own stuff. Some things begin with an emotion, some things begin with a line, some with music and others with an unrelated piece of music that suddenly changes into something else, some stuff begins with a character, and then it’s all about exploring that character, which is the case in many songs. Some of it comes from sitting at the piano late at night. So every song has felt very different to me. But generally, I think I’m constantly creating. (laughs)
You studied poetry, so why didn’t you pursue this form of expressing yourself by this kind of fine art?
I mean I have, I just haven’t really put in out into the world. I just realized I’m better with music than I thought. I was like ‘Oh right, I’ve been doing music for a very long time, so I should do that!’ (laughs) I’ve only recently though of myself as a musician, like in the last three years or something. I still try to use the poet side of my brain, but I also think it’s two different endeavours.
So is there a chance that we will get to read some of your poetry in the future as well?
Well, yeah, at some point if I sit down and focus and finish it ’cause it’s always unfinished. The trouble is I always focus on the music. (laughs)
On a side note: I’d be happy because I’m quite into poetry.
What would you be in another life?
I haven’t gotten that far yet, I mean life is still long. Maybe I end up being a geologist in my old age. You know my ad is a geologist, my mom is a musician, so musician made sense. But I don’t know, I mean I don’t love offices, but there are being exciting offers, like I’ve recently come around on creative businesses. Business that’s only about shuffling money around isn’t that fun but when you’ve got something on the line and you’re trying to create something exciting, then there is something really cool about that. I used to be very anti-business, but I’ve come around and now I’m like ‘Oh, there is some fun in there!’ (laughs)
So now that you’re still a musician, what distinguishes your solo music from ARCADE FIRE?
Thus far, WILL BUTLER has been a little bit lighter, there’s a bit more slapstick comedy in the music. Like there’s some verbal jokes and stupid moments in the songs. I use the term stupid loosely, ’cause I think it’s a good kind of stupid. (laughs)
And what identifies your music as American then?
There’s definitely an element that is very American about it. I mean I was born in California, I grew up in Texas, I went to school in New England and Chicago, I’m in New York now, so I can’t help but make American music. And consciously from that tradition, it’s like I’m very passionate about American music history and history in general, for all the good and the bad we’ve done.
Did you have a good feeling that your album was going to be successful ’cause you’ve been blessed with so much positive feedback in your career so far?
I mean the nice thing about having been successful means that you don’t really think about it. (giggles) ‘Cause it’s working, you know. I mean the amount of work that you put into something, the results come back and they’re kinda proportional to the amount of work that you do. It’s like ‘Ok, great, if I work really hard, something good will happen!’ I mean, I know it’s obviously not true for many many many many people, but I have been lucky enough that I haven’t had to think of the success – I only had to think about the art side.
How do you feel about the response to your album?
I’m happy! I think people are broadly understanding it and enjoying it.
So what’s next then? What can we expect?
I’m playing shows now, I’m in Europe this month and the US next month, and then I’m taking the summer off just ’cause it’s been a busy couple of years. But there’s more to come. There’s a lot of songs in the works of my own and I wouldn’t be shocked if ARCADE FIRE starts working at some point, though there’s no schedule, so I kinda got the rest of the year open after these shows. So I’ll probably hop in the studio and start work on something new.
In the end, we’d like to know what the words hope and passion mean to you?
I always think of passion as a tide in my brain to being patient and to being passive, kind of all those adnate roots where you’re overtaken by an outside force, where the passion isn’t of your own creation. The passion overtakes you from an external force and you are the vehicle for something else. Passion is simply that uncontrollable urge, for the better or the worse. And hope… well faith and hope both go together and I think of hope as a little more naive than faith. Like faith is of something specific, whereas hope is just believing what you are doing is good and that you can do something good. Before you get to talking about communicating with other people, it’s just communicating with the art, and hoping that the plan doesn’t die. (laughs)