It takes only the first few notes of Will Butler's debut album, "Policy," to hear the difference between the musician's solo work and the songs from his better-known "day job" band, Arcade Fire.
The latter act tours arenas with expansive soundscapes, "Reflektor" mirrorballs and massive helmets/masks of self-caricature. As a solo artist, Butler recorded his debut in a week's time, creating a live-wire spontaneity that is as much Texas roadhouse as Canadian art house (though the band is from Montreal, both Will and his brother, Arcade Fire lead singer Win Butler, were raised outside of Houston).
amNewYork caught up with Butler about the new album.
You recorded "Policy" over the course of one week during a break in the "Reflektor" tour. Was such a condensed schedule intentional?
Part of why I did the album in New York, in a place where I had to pay for the engineer, was to have a little bit of pressure to make it, and to keep it fresh. It's not a DIY album by any stretch -- I had really competent technical help on every level. But I wanted to keep it medium-raw, so that you could hear it. And I tried to prepare before going into the studio, to do the nitpicky work in my brain, so that when I went there it wouldn't feel nitpicky at all.
You're going from performing in arenas with Arcade Fire to smaller rooms as a solo artist. How's the adjustment been?
I've always thought of myself as an artist, and my medium is "doing stuff." So this is a different room, a smaller room, but it's the same -- you're in a space, and you're trying to create something.
Obviously it's a change in the size of the operation, too.
The feedback is so immediate because there's no infrastructure. You have an idea, you make it happen, you find out if it's a good or bad idea. On an Arcade Fire tour ... you have an idea, and then you communicate it to someone, who communicates it to other people, and one week later I'll learn it was a stupid idea. Right now, the second I do something I can go, "Oh, that was embarrassing. Never again."
Do you still have your giant "Reflektor" head?
Oh yeah. Those will be around for a while.
IF YOU GO: Will Butler performs at the Bowery Ballroom on Thursday at 9 p.m., 6 Delancey St., 212-260-4700, $16. He also performs at Baby's All Right on Saturday at 8 p.m., 146 Broadway, Brooklyn, 718-599-5800, sold out.