Will Butler + Sister Squares announce their new self-titled album out September 22nd on Merge and present its lead single/video, “Long Grass.” Sister Squares are Miles Francis, Julie Shore, Jenny Shore, and Sara Dobbs; what made them a musical unit was working with Grammy winner and Oscar nominee Will Butler. The resulting Will Butler + Sister Squares is a record with a warm, humane soul.
“I met Jenny—my wife!—in college, the year before I joined Arcade Fire,” says Will. “When I needed a band to tour Policy [Merge, 2015], I asked [Jenny’s sister] Julie to join because I trusted her musically. And I asked Sara, Jenny and Julie’s childhood friend, because I knew she was super talented,” says Will. “Antibalas (who I was drumming for) opened some Arcade Fire shows,” says Miles, who offered to play drums anytime Will needed. Will, Julie, Sara, and Miles jelled on tour and everyone worked on vocal arrangements. All along, Jenny contributed to recordings and general performance ideas, and she joined onstage in 2019.
“After Generations [Merge, 2020], I considered making a weird solo record. Me alone in the basement, etc., etc. Mostly I realized that what I wanted was the opposite,” says Will. He increasingly turned to the band for feedback on lyrics and song structures. He asked Miles if they’d produce the record.
“Will and I organically discovered our relationship as a production duo through making this album. We didn’t have to talk too much about things as they happened, because the music just flowed,” says Miles. “As a producer, working with Jenny, Julie, and Sara is the dream. They connect so innately. In one motion they can conjure a mood, or get at the root of a feeling.”
The band played a run of shows in August 2022, airing out studio ideas in live rooms. After coming home, the band regrouped at Figure 8 Studios in Brooklyn. The album, broadly, is equal parts from Figure 8, group experiments from Will’s basement, and sessions in Miles’ Synthia Studio.
“I had quit my band Arcade Fire very recently, after 20 years—maybe the most complex decision of my life. I had spent the preceding two years at home with my three children. I was 39 years old. I was waking up every morning and reading Emily Dickinson, until I had read every Emily Dickinson poem. I was listening to Morrissey, to Shostakovich, to the Spotify top 50. I had unformed questions with inchoate answers,” says Will. “But, honestly, I was feeling great about the record.”
The album projects widescreen emotional landscapes. Lead-off single “Long Grass” is like a Harry Styles song with 20 more years of life behind it. “I had read this novella called Jamila by a Soviet/Kyrgyz author named Chingiz Aitmatov from the ’50s,” says Will. “It’s about an artist looking back on his childhood in a small town in Kyrgyzstan in WWII. It’s about love, and becoming an artist, and melancholy, and vast landscapes with a single train track running through them. And it reminded me of young adulthood, of wandering moodily down the train tracks. Maybe the song is also about leaving behind the things that formed us, but trying to remember the world as it used to be?”
Will Butler + Sister Squares will tour in support of their new album this fall. Dates listed below.
Will Butler + Sister Squares Tour Dates:
July 29-30 – Guelph, ON @ Hillside Festival
Sept. 23 – Brooklyn, NY @ Zone One
Oct. 3 – Los Angeles, CA @ Zebulon
Oct. 4 – San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
Oct. 6 – Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios
Oct. 7 – Seattle, WA @ Barboza
Oct. 8 – Vancouver, BC @ Biltmore Cabaret
Oct. 17 – Boston, MA @ Deep Cuts
Oct. 18 – Montreal, QC @ Bar le Ritz
Oct. 19 – Toronto, ON @ Lee’s Palace
Oct. 20 – Detroit, MI @ Loving Touch
Oct. 21 – Chicago, IL @ Sleeping Village
Oct. 22 – Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop
Nov. 7 – Riga, LV @ Palladium
Nov. 10 – Berlin, DE @ Privatclub
Nov. 12 – Aarhus, DK @ VoxHall
Nov. 14 – Rotterdam, NL @ Rotown
Nov. 15 – Paris, FR @ Café de la Danse
Nov. 16 – Brussels, BE @ Botanique
Nov. 17 – London, UK @ ICA
Nov. 18 – Dublin, IE @ Whelan’s
Nov. 30 – Philadelphia, PA @ PhilaMOCA
Dec. 1 – Washington, DC @ DC9