Will Butler complements Arcade Fire with solo project 

click to enlarge Will Butler’s debut solo album is called “Policy.” - COURTESY WILL BUTLER
  • Will Butler’s debut solo album is called “Policy.”

Will Butler has heard of in-fighting rock and roll siblings, like The Kinks’ Ray and Dave Davies, or Noel and Liam Gallagher from Oasis. But the keyboardist and his older brother Win Butler get along quite well in their independent outfit Arcade Fire, and appear to genuinely be having fun in every concert.

How do they do it? “We have a shared frame of reference, so we fundamentally know that the other person isn’t crazy, no matter how crazy their idea is, and that’s always tended to defuse tensions,” says Will, who plays The City next week, backing his first solo album, “Policy.”

Yet as a kid, he was regularly teased, until Win went off to boarding school at 15.

“I was 13 when he left the house, and at that point, our relationship changed,” says the avid reader, who wound up studying verse at Northwestern University, then editing its school poetry magazine Helicon and DJing at the campus radio station, WNUR.

When he and Win reconvened as a group, they immediately grasped each other’s musical concepts, even though they might not agree. “So at least I can discuss it, instead of, say, hitting you with a frozen tuna, or whatever other brothers do,” he says.

On “Policy,” the 33-year-old is his own minimalism-favoring man. He recorded the eight-song collection in exactly one week, playing almost every instrument himself except drums, clarinet and saxophone. Inspired by The Clash and female-fronted, post-punk groups like The Au Pairs and The Delta 5, he constructed the skeleta “Anna” and “Take My Side,” and New-Wave-retro “Witness” and “What I Want.”

The sound might borrow slightly from Arcade Fire, but it’s personable and unique.

“I knew going in that these songs were meant to be fairly simple – they were meant to have only four or five ingredients,” says Butler.

That’s why he booked seven days in the studio, seven more for mixing. “So that I would put a brick on the ego, and not keep layering. Like, ‘Well, no – all that song actually needs is piano. It doesn’t need a piano, a Wurlitzer and a Fender Rhodes!’”

It echoes his creative template: First, be surprising, second, be memorable, and third, always be good.

Butler has been branching out, too. He was nominated for an Oscar for his soundtrack work on the Spike Jonze film “Her.”

At the same time, while he remains happy and artistically satisfied in Arcade Fire, he says, “In my spare time, I’m always working on music. And I finally had a collection of songs that felt different enough that it justified its independent existence.”


Will Butler

Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. May 26

Tickets: $17

Contact: (415) 885-0750, www.slimspresents.com

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Tom Lanham

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