How an accidental trip to a tropical resort inspired Everything Now.
This spring, I received a surprising message: Arcade Fire’s manager wanted me to meet Win Butler and Régine Chassagne . . . in Jamaica. Did they want to go on vacation with me? Not quite. They wanted to show me the “birthplace of Everything Now,” the locale that inspired the lyrical content of their fantastic new record.
A month later, I’m at the airport in Montego Bay. I’m looking for a driver holding a sign with my name on it when Win and Régine themselves saunter up in fabulous matching linen fatigues and black chauffeur hats. I try to say hello, but they put fingers to their lips: “Shhhhh!” Wordlessly, we climb into a convertible Jeep Wrangler. The ride isn't for talking: as Win steers us along the island’s curvy byways, the car stereo blasts Everything Now. When the record ends, Win breaks the silence. “The first time I came here, it was by accident. I was driving with a friend. When security asked for my name, I said ‘Bill Butler,’ and it worked—they thought we were staying there and let us in.” Suddenly, we pass a dazzling sign: Sandals Montego Bay Resort.
The Jeep is whisked away by a valet, and a private butler approaches. “My name is Barrington,” he says. “Welcome to paradise. Here, everything is unlimited, for your unlimited pleasure.” Walking us through the lobby and towards the pool, Barrington lists some of that everything. Swimming, sunbathing, kayaking, waterskiing, tubing, sailing, snorkeling, SCUBA, paddleboarding, golf, croquet, cricket, basketball, tennis, horseshoes, bocce . . . Shuffleboard, lawn chess, table tennis, billiards, rock climbing, Pilates, yoga, cards . . . . Dominoes, squash, racquetball, beach volleyball, and high-energy fitness classes using the world’s finest exercise equipment. “Our guests should nurture a mindset of abundance,” he concludes, while Regine waggles her eyebrows.
“Barrington, don’t forget the Xbox One!” she adds. She turns to me. “It was here that I used that wonderful device for the first time. I achieved a state of absorption so deep that, afterward, I wrote half the record.”
As Barrington takes our bags, Win directs us to the nightclub. “This place is where Everything Now began,” he says. “After we snuck into the resort, we came here. The club was packed, and everyone was wearing feathered costumes. It was a theme night—the theme was ‘Birds.’ I went to the bar and ordered a drink. I was going to have a Red Stripe, but the bartender pointed to a sign. It said ‘Unlimited Premium Spirits.’ He said, ‘When drinks are included, there’s always a party.’ I thought, ‘Uh, okay bro’—but that was before he gave me this Robert Mondavi chardonnay that tasted so amazing with the all-you-can-eat shrimp buffet.”
When they ventured outside, they were shocked by the crowd at the pool. “It was late at night. There were all these teenagers running around. The adults were dancing with their drinks. On the stage, a man was teaching Jazzercise moves using Jamaican patois.” As we walk outside, Win is fully immersed in his reverie, lost in the remembered moment. Getting in the spirit, I offer to buy a round of drinks. “Hahahahaha that’s it, man!” he says. “That’s what I’m trying to tell you! All the drinks, all the food, all the fun exercise and games—it’s all unlimited, all included! Put that money away!” Wait—is “Infinite Content” about infinite booze?
When they see Win and Régine on the prowl, the bartenders begin to pour liquid gold from an Appleton Estate rum bottle into three gigantic glasses. “That first time the bartender poured the rum,” Win recalls, “he kept pouring . . . and pouring . . . and pouring, waiting for us to say ‘stop.’ It was like a game of chicken. Neither of us wanted it to end—And it didn’t have to.” He pauses and, when he resumes speaking, wonder fills his voice. “It’s unlimited, it’s included. All of it, everything. That’s when it clicked. I had no idea it could be that way. That moment was so powerful. Later that night, at the resort’s British pub, in between rounds of darts, I wrote the lyrics for ‘Everything Now’ and ‘Creature Comfort’ on a bunch of napkins. It just flowed.”
Later that night, I discovered that there were nine restaurants on the premises—plus an after-hours speakeasy and a pop-up ramen shop. I started to understand the band’s “everything now” reinvention. The disco mirrorballs of Reflektor, it seems, were merely a gateway drug, leading our wholesome, twee indie heroes into a world of carefree, hedonistic gluttony and spellbound fascination. Who knew it was possible to discover the truth about our capitalist society in the midst of a Jamaican resort vacation? I’ll tell you who: Arcade Fire.
Hey, bartender—I’d like some infinite ABBA with my infinite rum, please!