For a band that's never been to Tampa, Arcade Fire has a lot of love for the Gulf Coast.
Brothers and bandmates Win and Will Butler hail from the Houston suburbs, and the Montreal band decamped to New Orleans to record its latest album, Everything Now.
"It's such a beautiful, unique culture down there, and such a vibe that's unparalleled to anywhere else in the world," multi-instrumentalist Richard Reed Parry said in a recent phone interview. "There's so much incredible music going on all the time. It's like throwing darts at the world's biggest dartboard. Any day, any night, you can go out and there's always some very, very good, possibly really heavy, music going on. I'm a music fan as well as a musician, so for me, that's really heaven."
That could be part of why the band is finally coming to Tampa on Friday, with a show at the USF Sun Dome. After years of critical hosannas and festival-headlining performances, the group will finally show Tampa firsthand how they became alternative rock's spiritual heirs to U2.
"We all play any instrument and see where it leads, and if it leads somewhere, we keep going in that direction," Parry said. "It's all extremely intuitive and super from-the-heart."
Parry's diverse talents and eclectic musicianship informed Arcade Fire's lush, ambitious sound early on, and still does today. His role in the band "definitely changes song to song," depending on where they're recording and what instrument (guitar, organ, percussion, accordion, you name it) he's asked to play.
"I never learned to play jazz or play classical music. I never really learned to play a lot of other music. I was more always centered around creating music, inventing music, writing music," he said. "That's how we've always been as a band, exploring together and banging around until you get an idea that feels like you're writing something, and following that thread."
For new album Everything Now, the band was looking for a new label and debating how to release what they made next. Independently? Some outside-the-box entity like Amazon? Bundled with some physical product? That got them riffing — first "jokingly," Parry said, then "semi-seriously" — about making an album about consumerism, self-promotion and cultural overload.
The resulting album is fluffy and funky in places, obvious and acerbic in others — a combination that irked many fans and critics. Everything Now has its high points, but judged as it was against the band's previous acclaimed work, it's easily their least warmly received album to date.
Nevertheless, Parry said the challenge of marrying the music to Win Butler's message took Arcade Fire to some heady places.
"Maybe it's a culture clash going on within the music a little bit," he said. "You're trying and succeeding, or trying and failing, to incorporate different ideas from different parts of the musical spectrum, giving a nod to different things you maybe haven't given a nod to before, but that may have been influences all along. In New Orleans, you really feel it's a fearless culture of musical hybridization, everyone borrowing and stealing from everyone else, and it's this amazing melting pot of everyone doing their own thing."
Everything Now's tepid response hasn't really impacted how the band will build its set for this tour, but that almost doesn't matter — Arcade Fire's reputation as a rapturous live act hasn't diminished. A concert last week at Madison Square Garden proved "they're still the world's best rock band," wrote the New York Daily News; a show before was "everything the Everything Now promotional campaign isn't," wrote Spin.
Parry didn't get into Arcade Fire to be a touring rock musician — or even to be a rock musician at all. But now that he's in it, he's become addicted to the passion with which Arcade Fire plays live.
"I always knew music was the only thing that spoke to me more than anything else in the world; I always knew music was my No. 1 love," he said. "Almost to a fault, it was never about an event or success or professionalism, it was just almost unconsidered, almost like a moth to a flame, musically speaking: I have to be around this, I have to do this, I have to make this, I have to play this. All of it."
Contact Jay Cridlin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.