In the five years since Will Butler released his first solo album Policy, he has toured the world, recorded and released Arcade Fire’s Everything Now, earned his master’s degree in public policy from Harvard, spent time raising his three children, and much more. All of these life experiences factored into the writing process of Generations, his second solo effort. The album bounces across a range of sonic inspirations from indie to alternative to punk to folk as Butler attempts to examine his role in the greater picture of American history.
To celebrate the new album, Butler talks space travel, Herman Melville, and clam chowder in the latest Indie Mixtape 20 Q&A.
What are four words you would use to describe your music?
Rock and roll, probably
It’s 2050 and the world hasn’t ended and people are still listening to your music. How would you like it to be remembered?
The pilot switched on the speakers — a Will Butler song started playing. “Earth was pretty decent sometimes, wasn’t it?” she said, as she pointed the starship towards Luyten b.
What’s your favorite city in the world to perform?
Dublin, if I must pick.
Who’s the person who has most inspired your work, and why?
Herman Melville. The mix of grand scope and dumb jokes. Big hearted but suspicious of a nothingness deep in the human soul. And so deeply American.
Where did you eat the best meal of your life?
What album do you know every word to?
OK Computer, probably.
What was the best concert you’ve ever attended?
Wolf Parade’s first show, Montreal 2003.
What is the best outfit for performing and why?
Stretch jeans and a long sleeve shirt. You want to be able to roll up your sleeves. You want to be able to leap over any obstacle.
Who’s your favorite person to follow on Twitter and/or Instagram?
What’s your most frequently played song in the van on tour?
New Order, “Age of Consent”
What’s the last thing you Googled?
What album makes for the perfect gift?
Any of the Wendy Carlos soundtracks.
Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever crashed while on tour?
Early Arcade Fire we toured in a mini-school bus we converted ourselves and it was hellacious to wake up in. Any sunlight made it a sauna.
What’s the story behind your first or favorite tattoo?
What artists keep you from flipping the channel on the radio?
What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?
An amazing Rwandan doctor — Agnes Binagwaho — once yelled at me for being falsely modest.
What’s one piece of advice you’d go back in time to give to your 18-year-old self?
I dunno, I think he did pretty ok. I’d be more curious just to see where my mind was at those days.
What’s the last show you went to?
The Mandingo Ambassadors, at Barbès in Brooklyn, in February.
What movie can you not resist watching when it’s on TV?
I don’t think I’ve browsed movies on TV in more than a decade maybe.
What would you cook if Obama were coming to your house for dinner?
What time of year? Probably clam chowder.
Generations is out now. Listen here.