Arcade Fire

The Neighborhood Wakes: A Graphic Novella Inspired by Arcade Fire’s Funeral

Wondering Sound Staff

By Wondering Sound Staff

on 09.16.14 in Features

Ten years ago this week, Arcade Fire released Funeral. In the world of independent rock, it was a seismic event, and you can trace a decade’s worth of obsessions to its 10 songs: The devotion to hand-wrought album cover art, to unusual instruments, to massive collections of musicians aiming for joyous liftoff. Win Butler, Régine Chassagne and their bandmates went on to more prominent successes, even winning a Grammy for 2010′s The Suburbs. But there remains something unique, something indelible, about Funeral. It has the quality of a fairy tale, a dangerous and vivid world where wondrous, ominous things happen. Lost children swing from frozen power lines; a year’s worth of tears are caught in a cup, family trees lose their leaves.

When we return to Funeral, it is because we want to live in this world. It is as self-contained as a snow globe, and to pay proper tribute to this spirit, we commissioned an original graphic novel, built on its characters and imagery, from the poet and writer Jess Sauer and illustrator Immer Handbreit. We hope that the result inspires some powerful dreams. — Jayson Greene, Senior Editor

Author’s Note
The Neighborhood Wakes started as a seed. We wanted to pay tribute to one of the most impactful rock albums of the last decade by celebrating its feats of world-building, rather than merely its production. Our idea was to create a new story that picked up where the narrative of the album leaves off — without writing something like Funeral fan fiction. To avoid mimicry, I decided to mine the album itself for material. Using the technique of erasure — in which words and letters are deleted from a text to alter and change its narrative — I created a new story, a sort of sequel, using only words from the album’s lyrics, in the order they appear. Here is an example, from the opening, to guide you through the book:

And if the snow buries my…
My neighborhood

And if my parents are crying,
Then I’ll dig a tunnel from my window to yours
Yeah, a tunnel from my window to yours

You climb out the chimney
And meet me in the middle
The middle of the town
And since there’s no one else around,
We let our hair grow long and forget all we used to know
Then our skin gets thicker from living out in the snow

I like to think of it as the remains of the song book, left moldering for 10 years, revised by the erosion of time. — Jess Sauer

Illustrator’s Note
With this project, we set about the task of creating a world from subtraction. I think of the line drawn under elementary school arithmetic problems: Items to be subtracted are stacked up and then they magically sink through the line to become nothing underground. It is not the waterline of a rising sea, under which things have their second life floating free or coming to rest and forming new hives of life. Underground, everything discreetly fades away, alone. Where does a neighborhood find itself, when it is more on one side of this line than the other? And what of the neighbors? Ten years pass and they have new faces. They peer out at old things that remain stacked above the line, but the world has a new arithmetic in which the numbers all have different shapes. — Immer Handbreit

Flip through The Neighborhood Wakes right here.