Photo courtesy of the band's Facebook
This article originally appeared on Noisey Canada.
In 2014, Victoria-bred garage rock band Slam Dunk were given the opportunity of a lifetime when Canadian superstars Arcade Fire invited them to open for them on a year-long tour. Now, a having spent the past 12 months playing for massive arena crowds, Slam Dunk have chronicled the whirlwind trip with a feature-length documentary film called Playing with Fire.
In the meantime, however, there are still some questions that remain unanswered. Strangely, Arcade Fire’s press materials have never made any mention of Slam Dunk and there’s no indication that they are even aware of the British Columbia group’s existence. What’s more, Arcade Fire weren’t even on tour for most of the time covered in Playing with Fire. Did Slam Dunk make the whole thing up? Or is there more to this story than initially meets the eye? Set to arrive on YouTube in October, Noisey sat down with Slam Dunk frontman (and film director) Jordan Minkoff at a Vancouver park to discuss Playing with Fire. We cued up Arcade Fire's debut album Funeral on the laptop speakers and Minkoff held nothing back when dishing the dirt on how they got invited on tour in the first place, and what it’s really like to spend a year on the road with Arcade Fire.
Here, let me turn on Funeral.
Oh here it comes, flooding back. You’ve opened the floodgates. Both tears and memories coming back right now.
Is the last year of your life flashing before your eyes?
Yeah, straight up. A whole year of this. Just pure Fire.
They’re just “The Fire” to you now?
Yeah, yeah. You get close and you give each other nicknames. We have a lot of nicknames for the guys. We don’t actually call him “Win” [Butler], we have another name for him, you’ll see in there [in Playing with Fire]. Close-buddy style. We didn’t let them give us a nickname. We were like, “woah, chill.” But we got a bunch for them. Mostly the Firemen. It’s quicker to say.
Tell me about the origins of your tour with Arcade Fire.
Well it started when we got asked to play Squamish Festival, which was last year. They just had the other one [in 2015], so it was exactly a year ago. You might want to take note—exactly a year ago, how could I be lying? We had a manager switch-over. Somehow in there they just hooked it up. They hooked it up big and before we knew it we were on cruise control.
What’s it like to tour with Canada’s hottest indie arena sensations?
It’s crazy because the venues are huge. You can imagine. You can’t even see to the end of them. They’re just vast, never-ending landscapes. So that’s mostly what we saw—the horizon up there. So that’s cool, and it’s great getting hooked up with all of the free swag. Those guys have so much swag in their bags, so they would hook up the swag, and we would put the swag in our bags, and that was nice of them. So we’ve got lots of T-shirts and hats. Fire hats, we’ve got the Firemen helmet. They even let us play with the fire hose.
What were Win and Regine like?
Win’s definitely more of a bad-boy than I thought he’d be. He loved to goof around. He’s always got a lot of magic tricks up his sleeve. He’s a real magic guy. He’s got a lot of Magic: The Gathering cards up his sleeve, they keep falling out everywhere. And then the other person too, yeah. I can’t remember any of their names, to be honest. We didn’t really get a very good chance to figure out what they’re like, because both bands were quite busy doing their thing. But I assume they were all really nice.
Did you have any intimate moments with them backstage?
On the first night, there was a pretty intimate moment, at Squamish Festival. They were going on stage, and we were pretty close. I think both them and us agree that was pretty intense—I think they agree. And then when they came off stage too, they whooshed by and I could see Win looking at me out the corner of his eye, like, ‘This is about to happen.’ And then we toured with them across the grass next to the stage. That was one of the more memorable moments with them. They got in their car—it was a really big, long car they got into. And we said, “See you in a bit!”
Your film advertises that it contains a new Arcade Fire song called “Irish Lad.” It’s interesting that a band with roots in Montreal, Texas and Haiti would do a song about Ireland.
Yeah, they get into character. I think with a lot of their songs, they’re always doing silly characters. They’re a silly band. They’re kind of like a “Weird” Al thing, I think. It’s a long con, from what I understand, so I guess “Irish Lad” is just another silly joke of theirs to fill the fans with glee. They’re kind of like an improv troupe—that’s why there’s so many of them. It’s a big think tank, they’re all bouncing ideas off each other. I can’t even—well, I can kind of imagine what it was like backstage because I was there behind them. They were just riffing, and there’s a lot of them. I saw at least twenty of them, and they were all very funny, silly monkeys.
How do you respond to the conspiracy theorists who allege that you never actually toured with Arcade Fire?
There’s been a lot of that. There’s been a lot of doubt. I’ve had people tell me that they were looking on the internet, saying they couldn’t find anything about it. Which is crazy, because I have the internet, and when I look, I see tons of stuff about us and them. So I guess they’re checking out the wrong websites and maybe they don’t know how to use Google. I’m setting the record straight—we journeyed hard.
Alex Hudson is still confused by the legitimacy of the band's claims. Follow him on Twitter