January 26

Arcade Fire’s maternal spark

Jazz harpist Liza Rey Butler of Mount Desert Island has the musical chops to make a lasting impression. Just ask her two sons, members of one of the hottest rock bands on the scene today.

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

click image to enlarge

The mother of two members of Arcade Fire, Liza Rey Butler has an impressive musical resume of her own. “She was a real prodigy,” says Alan Waite, a longtime friend and publicist for The King Sisters and her father, Alvino Rey. She was “probably the most talented musician in the whole family.”

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Arcade Fire, from left: Jeremy Gara, Regine Chassagne, Will and Win Butler, Richard Reed Parry and Tim Kingsbury.

Additional Photos Below

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

Her sons’ band has earned so much attention that Liza Rey Butler has now limited herself to keeping only the magazines that feature Arcade Fire on their covers.

ARCADE FIRE: DISCOGRAPHY

2004: “Funeral”

2007: “Neon Bible”

2010: “The Suburbs”

2013: “Reflektor”

2013: Score of the motion picture “Her,” directed by Spike Jonze

“He was always a trendsetter, going to secondhand shops when that wasn’t cool yet,” said Liza of Win. ”He wore garage jumpsuits, work shirts. He had this pair of tuxedo pants he wore a lot.”

Both boys played sports, including basketball and soccer.

Both also attended the private Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. Win played in a rock band there that did original music. Liza thinks it was also called Arcade Fire. She says she recalls someone in The Woodlands telling Win a story about a fire at an arcade when he was a teenager. The story, which may or may not be true, inspired the name.

Liza remembers going to New Hampshire to see Win’s band play, and Win had arranged for a projector to shine various images on the T-shirts of the band members as they played.

“Even back then Win was as interested in the whole experience as he was the songs,” Liza said.

BAND’S MONTREAL ROOTS

An Exeter classmate, Josh Deu, went to college at McGill University in Montreal, and encouraged Win to enroll. Win did, and got his degree in religious studies.

It was in Montreal around 2001 that Win and Deu founded the present version of Arcade Fire. The duo met Regine Chassagne in Montreal, who joined the group and would later become Win’s wife. Deu later left the band, but the band is still based in Montreal.

Will joined the band about a year later, when they were recording their debut EP at the Butler family farm on Mount Desert Island.

“We had this 1830s barn, where they did a free show, and that’s where they recorded,” said Liza, who played harp with her sons that summer as they recorded.

Later, after they had a major record deal, Win and Will asked their mom to play harp with them again, including their 2007 “Neon Bible” album. Her harp can be heard on the tracks “Black Mirror” and “The Well and The Lighthouse.”

Will, though, is quick to point out that his mother was not given the gig just because she’s related to two band members.

“It’s hard to find good musicians that you can relate to. So if you know a good harpist that you relate to musically, like, for instance, my mom, you try to find a way to work with them,” wrote Will in his email. “My mom and her family are very pragmatic, musically. Like, they enjoy playing music together not necessarily because they are family, but because everyone is a good musician. The family aspect is a bonus.”

Will says his mother never tried to give the band music-business advice. She was often with them for moral support at various stages of their early career, but as a spectator. Finally, when they were going to meet the band’s first accountant, her sons told Liza and Ned that they needed to begin doing things on their own.

The band’s first album, 2004’s “Funeral,” was inspired by Alvino Rey’s funeral, and it immediately garnered critical acclaim. “Neon Bible” was also a critical and popular success, helping Arcade Fire cement its position as one of the top rock bands in the business. The band’s 2010 album, “The Suburbs,” won the Grammy for Album of the Year. “Reflektor” came out too late in 2013 to be considered for Sunday night’s Grammy nominations.

“We usually watch the Grammys, but this year we’ll watch the Oscars instead,” said Liza, referring to Will’s chance to win Best Score for “Her.”

GENRE? IT'S HARD TO PIN DOWN

Growing up with a mother who played jazz and classical harp all the time is probably part of the reason why Win and Will make music with Arcade Fire that is hard to restrict to one genre.

(Continued on page 4)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors


Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Liza Rey Butler publicity photo from her days as a jazz harpist.

Contributed photo

click image to enlarge

Liza Rey Butler plays the harp at a nightclub in the 1970s. She earned a master’s degree in performance harp from the University of Arizona.

Contributed photo

click image to enlarge

Liza Rey Butler’s father, Alvino Rey, was a jazz guitarist and bandleader, and contributed to the development of the electric guitar in the 1930s.

Contributed photo

click image to enlarge

Liza Rey Butler and her family appeared on TV in the 1960s, mostly on "The King Family Show" on ABC. In this undated TV photo, Liza is on the harp on far left, with brother Jon Rey on clarinet, brother Rob Rey on bass, father Alvino Rey on guitar, and mother Luise King on the other harp.

Courtesy Liza Rey Butler

click image to enlarge

The mother of two members of Arcade Fire, Liza Rey Butler has an impressive musical resume of her own. “She was a real prodigy,” says Alan Waite, a longtime friend and publicist for The King Sisters and her father, Alvino Rey. She was “probably the most talented musician in the whole family.”

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

 


Further Discussion

Here at OnlineSentinel.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)