Arcade Fire's Win Butler Accused of Sexual Misconduct

Arcade Fire's Win Butler Accused of Sexual Misconduct

CW: This article contains discussion of sexual assault and suicide

Canadian indie rock band Arcade Fire is known as one of the biggest names in the genre since the release of their critically-acclaimed debut Funeral in 2004. Alongside his wife, Régine Chassagne, frontman Win Butler's tenderly crafted songs of vulnerability launched the band into one of the most successful bands of the past two decades, both critically and commercially.

Following the band's most recent album, WE, several people reached out to Pitchfork to discuss Butler's offstage behavior. According to the report, all of the victims were between the ages of 18 and 23 when their interactions with the singer began, which took place between 2016 to 2020. Butler was between the ages of 36 and 39 at the time, signaling a significant age gap and power imbalance. The publication confirmed these incidents through text messages and interviews with the victims' friends and family. All victims used pseudonyms in the report.

Pitchfork also reached out to Butler for his side of the accusations. He denied each of them, claiming that everything was either consensual or misunderstood on his part.

A fourth person Lily, who identifies as gender fluid and goes by they/them pronouns, alleged that Butler sexually assaulted them twice in 2015 when they were 21 and he was 34. After meeting him at the band's concert in Montreal, the two began texting. Pitchfork reviewed their correspondence and noted that they insisted that they were not looking for sex. After meeting each other for dinner a second time, Butler allegedly touched their crotch. Two days later, despite their wishes for Butler to not come to their house, he visited anyway and aggressively attempted to initiate sex by pinning them against a wall. After his continued advances were repeatedly rejected, they claimed Butler began to berate them and eventually left.

Butler recounts a different version of what happened and said that he touched their inner thigh instead of their crotch. He also said that during their second encounter, it was consensual but he left after "it seemed like maybe things were moving a little fast." He said he left shortly after.

Subsequently, Lily, who was active in Montreal's art scene, quit a job in the music industry in light of a wave of sexual assault allegations that swept through the community. Pitchfork reviewed their resignation letter, which broadly outlined their allegations made against an unnamed person whose description matched Butler. In the letter, they wrote that his name became too much to handle seeing on a day-to-day basis.

Another victim, Stella, first made contact with Butler in 2016 when she was 18 years old after posting a photo of Butler and his wife at a basketball charity event the singer hosts. Butler reached out to her shortly after via Instagram DM and the two began talking. He invited her to grab drinks at a bar he co-owned with his wife and requested that she not tell her friends about their interactions.

Butler, who was 36 at the time, began sending sexually explicit messages without her reciprocation, including a photo of his genitals. The singer claims that despite being drunk in their first encounter at the bar, he thought the two shared a mutual attraction and he assumed the sexts would be welcome. “I really misread that she was uncomfortable with that second round of sexting and eventually assumed that I must have hurt her feelings by not reciprocating her request to sleep with me," Butler explained.

Stella claims that she had to block two of Butler's numbers, and their interactions became less frequent. Their final conversations happened in 2017 when she attended an Arcade Fire show on the guest list and a brief Instagram exchange a few months later. Butler reflected on the age gap, saying “I didn’t realize the significance of the age difference at the time. I can now see how it could be overwhelming thinking back to when I was 18, but at the time I didn’t appreciate that.”

The two other victims, Sarah and Fiona, had similar stories, both being contacted by Butler who responded to Instagram DMs about their appreciation for his music. They claim he began requesting increasingly explicit videos with a specific set of demands ranging from certain positions to be in, to sex toys he wanted them to buy. Much like one of the aforementioned victims, Butler requested that they do not tell anyone of their encounters. While Sarah, who was 23 at the time, said their interactions were strictly digital, Fiona, who was 20 at the time, had several in-person encounters with Butler.

After a sexual encounter with Butler in her bedroom before Arcade Fire's show in Vancouver in 2017, Fiona became increasingly distressed by having to keep everything a secret as well as the transactional nature of their relationship. She attempted suicide afterward. Both Fiona's friends and family noticed behavioral changes in her around the time of their relationship. Butler claims that Fiona reached out to start sexting again, but none of the screenshots he provided to Pitchfork corroborate.

In 2020, Stella would take to Instagram to refer to Butler by name and go public with her story. "Sexual predator—from when I was an 18-year-old fan girl, he would constantly try to coerce me into sexual encounters and sending nude photos of myself and sending unsolicited nude pictures of himself after I repeatedly told him I was not interested," the post read. Sarah saw the post and reached out to Stella before uploading a screenshot of the post to Reddit earlier this year.

Within a few days, Lily, Fiona and an unnamed woman who claimed to have a consensual relationship with Butler replied in the comments to tell their stories. A second unnamed woman also described an in-person sexual encounter with the frontman that exploited the power dynamic between them. “Yes, it was consensual, but also, there’s a side to it that was almost like, I couldn’t say no," she said in an interview with Pitchfork.

Win Butler and Régine Chassagne's full statements can be found below.

Win Butler's Statement:

I love Régine with all of my heart. We have been together for twenty years, she is my partner in music and in life, my soulmate and I am lucky and grateful to have her by my side. But at times, it has been difficult to balance being the father, husband, and bandmate that I want to be. Today I want to clear the air about my life, poor judgment, and mistakes I have made.

I have had consensual relationships outside of my marriage.

There is no easy way to say this, and the hardest thing I have ever done is having to share this with my son. The majority of these relationships were short lived, and my wife is aware – our marriage has, in the past, been more unconventional than some. I have connected with people in person, at shows, and through social media, and I have shared messages of which I am not proud. Most importantly, every single one of these interactions has been mutual and always between consenting adults. It is deeply revisionist, and frankly just wrong, for anyone to suggest otherwise.

I have never touched a woman against her will, and any implication that I have is simply false. I vehemently deny any suggestion that I forced myself on a woman or demanded sexual favors. That simply, and unequivocally, never happened.

While these relationships were all consensual, I am very sorry to anyone who I have hurt with my behavior. Life is filled with tremendous pain and error, and I never want to be part of causing someone else’s pain.

I have long struggled with mental health issues and the ghosts of childhood abuse. In my 30s, I started drinking as I dealt with the heaviest depression of my life after our family experienced a miscarriage. None of this is intended to excuse my behavior, but I do want to give some context and share what was happening in my life around this time. I no longer recognized myself or the person I had become. Régine waited patiently watching me suffer and tried to help me as best as she could. I know it must have been so hard for her to watch the person she loved so lost.

I have been working hard on myself – not out of fear or shame, but because I am a human being who wants to improve despite my flaws and damage. I’ve spent the last few years since Covid hit trying to save that part of my soul. I have put significant time and energy into therapy and healing, including attending AA. I am more aware now of how my public persona can distort relationships even if a situation feels friendly and positive to me. I am very grateful to Régine, my family, my dear friends, and my therapist, who have helped me back from the abyss that I felt certain at times would consume me. The bond I share with my bandmates and the incredibly deep connection I’ve made with an audience through sharing music has literally saved my life.

As I look to the future, I am continuing to learn from my mistakes and working hard to become a better person, someone my son can be proud of. I say to you all my friends, family, to anyone I have hurt and to the people who love my music and are shocked and disappointed by this report: I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the pain I caused - I’m sorry I wasn’t more aware and tuned in to the effect I have on people - I fucked up, and while not an excuse, I will continue to look forward and heal what can be healed, and learn from past experiences. I can do better and I will do better.

Régine Chassagne's Statement:

Win is my soulmate, my songwriting partner, my husband, the father of my beautiful boy. He has been my partner in life and in music for 20 years. And for all of the love in our lives, I have also watched him suffer through immense pain. I have stood by him because I know he is a good man who cares about this world, our band, his fans, friends, and our family. I’ve known Win since before we were “famous,” when we were just ordinary college students. I know what is in his heart, and I know he has never, and would never, touch a woman without her consent and I am certain he never did. He has lost his way and he has found his way back. I love him and love the life we have created together.

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual assault, contact RAINN via chat or phone at 800-656-4673 for support and resources.

Photo courtesy of Ben Houdijk / Shutterstock