Earlier this month, the Recording Academy announced that Arcade Fire’s US was nominated for the 2023 Grammy Award for Best Alternative Album. The band is also invoiced headlining a 2023 summer music festival in Spain, along with Florence and the Machine and the Strokes.
The new allegations, like the previous ones, have arisen against the backdrop of a post-MeToo articulation of consent, rooted in factors such as power imbalance and emotional manipulation. Sabina is unequivocal in her characterization of the alleged interactions. “It was an ongoing abusive relationship,” she said. “Emotionally abusive, manipulative, toxic, and using his power dynamics to exploit my body at times that were convenient for him. He puts me when I was so vulnerable.”
Sabina met Butler in the summer of 2015, when she was 22 and he was 35. Recently divorced and leaving a strict religious group, she was working as a waitress at a café in Montreal while studying at a local university. “When I first moved to Montreal, I literally had $40 in my bank account,” she said. Butler, by that time, had sold millions of albums, won a Grammy for Album of the Year, and played to sold-out crowds around the world. Sabina didn’t recognize him when she entered the cafe, but a coworker pointed him out. Eventually, the two talked about the medieval poet Dante, whose work Butler was reading. “I thought he was being so intellectual,” Sabina said.
In early September 2015, Butler invited Sabina to a dance he was hosting and offered to put her on the guest list. She attended with her boyfriend, and talked to Butler for a while at the party. The next morning, he saw on Instagram that Madonna had also been in attendance, giving him a better idea of Butler’s celebrity reach. The two kept in touch. She saw it as a friendly correspondence; she occasionally seemed to cross that line. “He knew he had a boyfriend and he didn’t care,” she said. “He was referencing my boyfriend and he was like, ‘Are you done yet?’”
One night, Butler invited Sabina out for a drink. They flirted and eventually kissed, an experience she recorded as “jarring” in a journal entry seen by Pitchfork. “We were sitting down and probably talking about Simone de Beauvoir or something, and I remember being alarmed that she had progressed to kissing,” she said. She left abruptly.
Despite her alarm at the first kiss, Sabina found herself drawn to Butler and felt they were forming an emotional bond. In the fall of 2015, at Butler’s studio and jam space in Montreal, Sabina and Butler had sex for the first of several times, she claims. They continued to text afterwards, exchanges that Butler often steered towards sex and photo requests. In the spring of 2016, Sabina and her boyfriend broke up.