Arcade Fire’s Will Butler hitting the books at Harvard

Will Butler of Arcade Fire.
Will Butler of Arcade Fire.Will Butler

A year ago, with Arcade Fire on a break — it’s currently finishing the follow-up to 2013’s “Reflektor” — Will Butler went back to school.

The multi-instrumentalist in the indie rock band fronted by his brother Win, Butler has been studying at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government since last summer, trying to sort out how he and the band can be a force for good.

A force for greater good, that is. Arcade Fire has a longstanding relationship with Paul Farmer’s Partners in Health, an alliance formed after the band read Tracy Kidder’s book, “Mountains Beyond Mountains.” For more than a decade, Arcade Fire has been supporting PIH’s work in Haiti, including donating a portion of all ticket sales to the organization.


“There are multiple reasons I wanted to do this,” Butler said of going back to school. “Partners in Health do really good work, and I wanted to know what more I can do to help these people who are saving lots of lives. The US government can do a lot of good in the places where it’s not doing good now.”

If you detect a bit of disdain for the current administration, that’s because Butler is not a big fan of President Trump. But the election has made him grateful to be educating himself at Harvard.

“Post-election, there was definitely a moment of emergency triage, like, ‘My God, what do we need to focus on to make sure the damage is muted? And then ‘What can we do in 2018 and 2020 to make American society better.’

“What a weird poisonous world,” he said. “How do you suck some of that poison out?”

But Butler hasn’t abandoned music. Tuesday, he’ll be at the Sinclair, playing songs from his 2015 solo CD, “Policy.” As for Arcade Fire, Butler said the band’s new CD might be released before the end of the year. In the meantime, the band will be touring Europe this summer and playing some shows in North America next fall.


“Nobody has an answer to anything,” Butler said. “But [attending Harvard] has given me some strategies, some seeds to plant.”