No signage marks the nondescript gate protecting the Arcade Fire’s super secret address in Montreal. As I approach, the rusty metal barrier swings open and a voice from a speaker tells me to follow the dark passageway that bends left then right then left again. I wonder, has the band gone Howard Hughes (or, spookier, Tom Cruise?) Finally, at the end of the tunnel, I’m greeted by a lanky surfer-type in Chuck Taylors and a floral caftan. He turns out to be Sam, the band’s housekeeper, and he welcomes me with a whisper: “They’re ready for you.”
I was as shocked as you are when Arcade Fire accepted my interview request—the last in a series I’ve sent over the past decade. The band, one of their reps said, was finally ready to reveal a lifestyle they’ve been keeping under wraps for years. At first, I assumed they were looking to bring attention to Win’s favorite energy drink - but what I was about to find far surpassed my expectations.
The interior of Chez Arcade Fire looks like a gorgeous Moroccan Riyadh; across the ground, Islamic tiling spells out a mysterious phrase. (Later, I was told it was “EVERYTHING NOW.”) Up above, a wraparound balcony connects the copious sleeping chambers. Sam led me to a small room with sofas and shelves lined with glass jars filled with various loose-leaf teas, each meticulously labeled. As I breathed in the aroma of “Rishi Pu’erh Ginger (Sheng style),” all nine band members filed in, wearing white deconstructed jumpsuits made of crinkled silk crepe. Win and Regine offered to take me on a tour of the compound, while the others drifted to what looked like a craft corner under a handsome fig tree.
The “Everything Now” Lifestyle
“I was born on the anniversary of the day the Titanic sank,” Win told me, “so I expect things to go wrong. A few years ago, I started to look at our lifestyle. I thought, ‘Modern life is poisoning us!’” These concerns were in Win’s mind during the writing of the band’s recent single, “Everything Now,” a euphoric, cautionary, romp about our insatiable desire to have everything and the hangover caused by over-stimulation and indulgence. This fragmented, disposable culture inspired the band to devise a system to weather these unsettling times and keep their creative juices flowing.
“In a world of cigarette ash, where are we going?” Regine said, reciting a line from their second single, “Signs of Life.” “Where we are going is to India for Ayurveda and Guatemala for the Mayan calendar and the Amazon for Ayahuasca, as well as into the heart.”
“We’ve traveled the world, picking up tasty lifestyle tips,” says Win, laughing. “We’ve taken a holistic, scientific approach to self-absorption, and I mean that, even though I know how that sounds.”
Richard Reed Parry approached, holding out a hot cup of tea. It smelled like twigs and church. While we sipped our tea, the band walked me through their lifestyle discoveries.
After the Reflektor tour—a time they say was quite difficult—the band sought to create their own bespoke intentional community, with the goal of strengthening their bonds. They’ve moved in with their significant others and, when they aren’t making music together, hang out, tending their terraced hydroponic garden where tomato and pepper plants grow under LED lights. “I love using my green thumb,” Richie said. “This is how people have lived for millennia, Tim Kingsbury said. “In tight agricultural communities.”
During their Scandinavian leg, the band discovered a lifestyle the Danes call hygge, or “coziness”: the near-obsessive pursuit of homespun pleasures such as lighted candles, fuzzy knitted socks, porridge, and other people. “It’s actually really important to be obsessive about it,” Will explained. “For example, I’ll plan on making a bone broth on the weekend, and so during the week, we’ll talk about how hyggelig it’s going to be, and then during the dinner we’ll talk about hyggelig it is, and then afterwards, we’ll remind each other how hyggelig it was.” Tim breaks it down even further: “When I was trying to quit smoking on tour, it was sometimes hard to get hygge, so I’d flip through my photo stream and stare at a sweet photo of a soft blanket, a homey Poul Henningsen lamp, a stack of burned wooden spatulas, a photo of Paul Krugman.…”
“One of the books that’s most changed my life is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo,” Will said. “I picked it up about a month into my honeymoon with hygge, and it felt right to combine cozy hominess with extreme Japanese de-cluttering. It’s all about alchemy.” “Eliminate what doesn’t help you evolve,” Regine said, adding that, before making the new album, she had thinned out her medieval instrument collection, selling all the instruments that didn’t “bring joy.”
Fasting & Feeding
“I was introduced to the breatharian lifestyle when I was backpacking through India,” Richard says. “It’s the practice of sustaining oneself without the need for food. I ended up becoming anemic, but I learned a lot.” Now the band fasts for days at a time while micro-dosing essential oils. “When we were in South America we met two ethnobotanists, and they’ve been working with us to develop adaptogenic supplements and etheric potions to maximize performance on all levels,” Will said. “We’ve been fine-tuning our alpha waves to enhance… everything.”
“This is something we invented ourselves,” Tim said. “Joy ramping is when you take small things that give you joy and combine them. So I’ll throw some peach slices on that pizza pie and get a rush!” “It’s also about feeling the smallest possible amounts of joy,” adds Tim. “Lately, I’ve been becoming mindful of each move I make, whether I’m stringing a guitar or easing into our cryotherapeutic tub. I fill each movement with intention and charisma. For me, this is what our song ‘Signs of Life’ is all about—looking for signs in the smallest of movements.”
Though everyone in the band grew up as some kind of Christian, their desire to abstain from orgasms is not religiously motivated. By delaying completion until they are ready to propagate, they build up tension which they believe is useful for their creativity. “We touch upon this lyrically,” says Win, “‘with the line, ‘Love is hard, sex is easy.’ As a collective, we are trying to make sex hard. It makes our songs better.” He laughs. “It also makes those peaches on the pizza even more joyful, to be honest.”
De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da
Last year, while staying on the island of Mustique with Sting, the band discovered the importance of gut health. “Sure, we were kimchi-loading,” says Will, “but it wasn’t until we were with Sting that we realized just how weak our probiotic game really was.” Now, on the first Thursday of every month, the band goes to a local clinic to have the stool from a healthy donor’s colon placed into their gastrointestinal tracts, repopulating their guts with good bacteria and boosting their immune systems. “I’m more regular than I’ve ever been,” Tim says.
With that, my time in the compound came to an end. As Sam led me out of the riyadh, through the long, dark corridor, and to the unadorned front gate, I asked him what he thought of the Arcade Fire lifestyle. “I think it’s inspiring,” he said. “They’re just doing everything these days. Releasing albums. Going on tour. Making video games. Creating short films. Staying super-fit. Even partnering with software developers to create music-writing algorithms!” He smiled. “It’s the kind of multi-level, vertically-integrated life the rest of us can only aspire to.”