Will Butler | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Will Butler

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Aug 25, 2015 Will Butler Bookmark and Share

Will Butler must be crazy. One assumes that was the first thought that flashed through the minds of songwriters everywhere when they heard that the Arcade Fire multi-instrumentalist had decided to write, record, and release a new song every day during the last week of February. But that’s exactly what Butler did, needing only a few hours every afternoon to turn articles from British newspaper The Guardian into songs about such far-flung topics as the Greek debt crisis and water shortages in Brazil. “Given a choice between new music and a history or political podcast, I’ll choose the history or political podcast,” he says with a laugh. “Because I’m a bad person.”

Butler’s interest in politics and the legislative process also inspired the title of his first solo album, Policy, though you won’t find much obvious social commentary on the album’s eight tracks. Instead, what you’ll find is a certain aesthetica policy of deliberately pairing contrasting soundsthat holds the album together. Just what Butler’s policy is isn’t clear, but shades of rockabilly, synth-pop, piano balladry, garage rock, and space-funk are all included and none of them seem out of place once you lock onto the album’s joie de vivre. Like an iPod shuffling through the last 60 years of popular music, it can be a bit disorienting, and Butler wouldn’t have it any other way.

“That was kind of my goal,” Butler admits. “I don’t always listen to a full Clash album at the same time. I’ll listen to ‘White Riot’ and then something off of Sandinista! and then Give ‘Em Enough Rope. I don’t really think about when they’re from, necessarily. The Clash maintain a sense of identity,” he says, then pauses drolly. “But they’ve built up more trust than I have.”

Even if he’s still establishing trust with his audience, Butler has no shortage of identity right now. With a throaty yelp and an ear for both wiry guitar anthems and softly unfurling ballads, he’s equally adept at delivering heartbroken hooks (“Finish What I Started”) as he is one-liners about his “pony macaroni” recipe (“What I Want”). In short, he’s a weirder, funnier version of his older brother, Win, and no less the charismatic frontman. But if Arcade Fire make albums to challenge worldviews, Butler seems content to simply provide the soundtrack to a pleasant afternoon.

“I want the listener to think of this record as existing in the world that they’re living in,” he says. “I want someone to listen to this record and really like it, then listen to it twice and be like, ‘Oh, right! I’m supposed to go to my friend’s house and watch Broad City.’ I want it to be a part of the world at large. It’s meant to talk and be conversational. It’s meant to be lively.”

[Note: This article first appeared in Under the Radar’s April/May/June 2015 print issue. This is its debut online.]



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