Will Butler is on fire. On March 10, the 32-year-old's debut solo album Policy arrives, and its eight tracks spanning 28 minutes spiral through genres, chucking out ideas like a blazing catherine wheel. "My artistic pyramid is: be surprising, be memorable, and then be good" says Butler between sips of tea over an afternoon Skype chat. After one spin of the record it's no surprise that the lesser-known Butler brother now occupies a space of indie-rock one might have a hard time forgetting, because Policy is positively a no-frills joyride.

Still, when musicians plunge into the murky pool of solo-album debuts there's always one question tickling the tip of the tongue: will they sound just like the band they've created? After a decade as a core member of the Grammy-winning band Arcade Fire, these set of songs read more like miniature short stories alluding to Arcade Fire's signature sound, but sound nothing like them in the end. Taking a new approach toward the recording process helped, "It's more studio driven, the Arcade Fire work," he muses, "We go in, experiment, experiment, experiment, and then erase everything and start again. This was more go in, do it, and eat an ice cream cone."

With five consecutive UK tour dates booked in April, and Dublin selling out in ten minutes, he'll unveil new songs that "no one has ever heard," so it's safe to say that Butler is already having his, err, ice cream... and eating it too. Before his tour kicks off we chat about the low risks of going solo, the band wanting to stab each other in the eyeballs with forks after a tour, and a documentary that changed his life.

As far as I believe the only Arcade Fire album you didn't provide backing vocals for was on Funeral, it's been a pleasure to finally hear your voice.

Anytime... Anytime! [Laughs]

So when did you write this particular batch of songs?

There were two or three that were mostly complete and kickin' around for 3 to 5 years already, then there were just bits of incomplete songs kickin' around, and then the other songs were made around the time of the album recording. I then pulled together everything that felt aesthetically right, not necessarily aesthetically unified because I didn't want it to be too unified. It felt right, in the end there were just a couple of holes to plug. 'Anna' was done on the last day, I was like oh well what else do we need, oh let's do something like this.

I'm always interested in the concept of where people write and if being on the road inspires you, or you have to be isolated in the studio.

I can write anywhere but I can only finish things super focused. Like now you have your phone and you're walking down the street you have an idea and you step into an alley and sing the idea into the phone then think about it. To actually finish lyrics, to finish an arrangement, and decide how many verses and choruses I kinda need to wake up at 7 in the morning and start work at 9 and then lazer in on it a bit.

Do you believe that the group's longevity has given you the freedom to indulge in this solo project?

I've always thought I would eventually do something on my own. I feel like most musicians feel that way at some point. Arcade Fire is completely satisfying aesthetically, artistically, and humanly - I just had time. We tend to take a long time recording after a project and I realised I was still young enough that I didn't need to recuperate that much [Laughs]

But do you feel that your success in some capacity with the band allowed you to be more confident about your songwriting?

I've got confidence, but because we've been successful it's never been destroyed. If people had hated all the Arcade Fire albums I would have gone into that band and said 'ah I feel great!' and then I would have had to go sell hamburgers coz' this sucks. But it's always been uniformly positive for ten years so I've kept my original artistic confidence. Definitely - for better or worse - the fact that the success of this project has low stakes financially too, I've got a day job which is nice on a human-level it takes a bit of urgency out of it and I'd probably be more worried about logistics right now if this was the only thing I had artistically. So there is an element there that gives you confidence, you're working with a net and it can take a bit of the edge off in a negative way too. We'll see.

So then on a human-level, how are you feeling about it?

I'm naturally very confident! Every single song I'm like oh this is obviously a Top 40 hit. I also don't care that much what the world thinks, so when inevitably none of the songs are Top 40 hits it has yet to damage my psyche, but it's also people have been generally quite positive. So I'm just rolling with my natural over-confidence.

Speaking to you now it seems genuine. It would be a little weird if you were all coy and shy up on stage for Arcade Fire, then loud and opinionated during interviews. Is there one through-line concept for Policy?

It's more Revolver [Beatles] than Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, but it's kind of a book of short stories set in the same universe. There are a few different characters and it's trying to magnify character flaws in a loving way. There's a lot of anger and trying to dodge responsibility. These are characters going about their lives with their flaws out.

And you shine light on the flaws by using the idea of the 'uncanny' in your storytelling, like on the track 'What I Want', you rhyme pony with macaroni, but it's about being completely lost.

I'm good with irony and anger as long as is it's not coupled with despair. There's a lot of art that is a super black hole and I can't quite watch those kinds of things anymore.

It definitely begins on quite a contrarian note with 'Take My Side', then ends on an uplifting, marginally gospel note with 'Witness', was that storyline intentional?

It's structured like a dinner where you have your savory courses and your different appetizers. I wanted to play with contrast causing a certain degree of surprise from song to song and from inside the songs. I think being a little surprised opens up your brain to what is going to happen. My artistic pyramid is: be surprising, be memorable, and then be good. I wanted at the end for you to feel ready to go do something, to leave you in a pushing stance.

How does the title of the record fit into that concept?

One dimension is that there is a purpose behind all these decisions, that it's not an accident, it's not an idiot savant - it's constructed with purpose. The other aspect is, the album is fairly light for all its darkness and not particularly political. I think people are engaging with boring news stuff in a way that's exciting. An album isn't meant to open up that conversation necessarily, but it's meant to live in that world where you read something about economics and then you listen to a song that makes you feel angry/happy.

Sometimes the only ways I can feel or catch my feelings is by listening to a song and have some sort of melody dictating it, so I completely hear you.

I was listening to more radio shows and policy podcasts than new music whilst making it too.

Is that where the idea for your latest Guardian 'Song-a-day' project came from? You're writing a song every day based on news stories?

I write it in the day from 9-3pm. I'll go to bed at midnight and read the headlines just in case there's something that resonates with me.

I love the idea of artists exploring how pop music can be presented in new ways, it seems like the ultimate goal. I've seen some comments saying that it's making people want to listen to your solo work.

You know it came from trying to write about how the radio sucks. I really love a certain type of science news that takes you out of yourself. That Werner Hertzog documentary called The Cave of Forgotten Dreams is about a cave in Spain. When they found the cave there's art that's 40'000 years old! Just reading about that I was like 'oh that's 40'000 years old, that's terrifying'. Shakespeare's been around for like what, 400 years? Like goddamn that's so long! The concept of a black hole where we're all gonna drift into the sun and the sun is gonna float to space and everything will freeze - that's bigger than complaining about the radio.

Was there anything on your new album that you thought could potentially suit Arcade Fire too?

Well Win [Butler] and Régine [Chassagne] write the songs and then we all figure out how the songs work then rewrite them, but I don't write the lyrics or anything. I think a lot of the ideas just come out musically and some of the riffs, feels and drum beats have already come out in Arcade Fire at some point but more from osmosis because it's more studio driven the Arcade Fire work - we go in, experiment, experiment, experiment, and then erase everything and start again. This was more go in, do it, eat an ice-cream cone.

It seems like you work pretty well together as a band, but how did it feel to have full control?

I did miss them halfway through the process, but it was mostly liberating and fun. You have an idea and then you do it, see it's good or bad as opposed to having an idea and waiting for someone else to say if it's right or wrong.

From here going forward, do you feel like your songwriting is limited to your solo work? Would you contribute toward Arcade Fire's new album?

You know I really like Win's songwriting so I haven't felt it's necessary. It doesn't feel like we need more input, but we'll see what happens.

And it's quite a far way away... Arcade Fire records always have a few years between them.

Yeah, I'd be shocked if our next one didn't come out three years and a bit from the last one.

And your last tour must have taken a lot out of you all?

It was a few months shorter than the Suburbs tour, but we actually played more shows. We tried to do it so that we would be tired, but not stabbing each other in the eyeballs with forks. At the end of the Funeral tour, which was two years, everyone was just like "Get me out of here!", we tried to do it so we've got a little left in the tank.

People always assume there's a family feud that needs to happen, but it seems there's no fork-stabbing going on. Does Win like the new album?

We know each other pretty well and he liked it. I think everybody liked it to a varying degree. [Laughs]


Will Butler's Policy is out now. Read our review of it by heading here.