Arcade Fire's Will Butler fields 'Suburbs' film questions at SXSW
AUSTIN -- For those who sought shelter from the heat and Spring Break insanity of 6th Street in Austin for South By Southwest, there was always the option of heading to the "Suburbs," inside a movie theater.
"Scenes from the Suburbs" -- the short film by Arcade Fire brothers Win and Will Butler and director Spike Jonze -- made its debut during the movie and music fest, included in a shorts program. The 30-minute clip mixed nostalgia, teenaged dreams and a city at war with other American cities.
The younger Butler was on hand to take questions about the clip, which he said sprung in part from an image that came to Jonze's head, of “kids riding around on BMX bikes with BB guns." It's a scene that opened up "Scenes," and an indicator of the interpersonal strife between friends that erupts later on. He said that he and band had really wanted to work with Jonze, and it all started with the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" music vid. Jonze had famously said that he was inspired by Arcade Fire as he developed "Where the Wild Things Are."
The multi-instrumentalist said that they recruited the young actors from Austin skate parks and schools, and allowed those new friendships to take their natural course over two weeks. The result are some silly and sincere riffing in the scenes. “When you have to shoot a scene with four teenagers in a car talking, it’s hard to get them to focus,” Butler explained. He and Win grew up in Texas, before making their way to Montreal.
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It was a crash course and multi-faceted experience for Butler, whose band has been known to experiment with traditional music videos.
"I was on set the whole time. I ended up being the script supervisor, who basically is the guy who makes sure the drink is always in the right hand and doesn't shift to the left hand on camera. It was basically being assistant to everyone. So I'd be wiping the bumper of the car to make it look better on camera, but also telling the kid acting," he said. "It was a lot of fun, but a lot of hard work too."
Meanwhile, NME caught Butler's sleeve after the talk, asking about new material.
"The only vague desire is to have the new album not come out three years from now - it would be nice to get out it a little snappier than that this time," adding that the band has been recording demos and "playing around" in the last couple of months.