Architecture builds on its ever-eccentric path
Even though its 16 legs have been reduced to a mere 12, groove machine Architecture in Helsinki is feeling no pain. After spending most of its existence as an octet, the Melbourne-formed band is finding at least some things easier as a sextet.
"We've done a couple of tours now, and we've found there's more room on-stage," says lead singer/multi-instrumentalist Cameron Bird. He's reached in London, where the group has just landed for a gig the next night. "And it's been easier to coordinate things. Ideas come to fruition a lot quicker. A lot of the elements are the same, but I think the energy has changed a lot."
Those who will miss the frantic antics of the old eight-piece need not fear, at least if the band's latest single is anything to go by. What the group has lost in personnel, it more than makes up for in hooks on "Heart It Races", which spins a deliriously catchy melody on top of steel-drum percussion. Nor has the ensemble's collective imagination or sense of humour suffered from the absence of Isobel Knowles and Tara Shackell: the video for "Heart It Races" shows Bird and company, wearing glow-in-the-dark costumes, acting out a pretend ritual in a jungle setting.
The rest of Places Like This , the group's forthcoming album, follows the eccentric path paved by previous efforts Fingers Crossed and In Case We Die . Bird and Kellie Sutherland vie for vocal supremacy í la B-52's in "Hold Music", which mixes horns, power chords, fuzzed-out synth, and Sutherland's juicy refrain "Give it to me baby, give it to me." On "Like It or Not", the band revisits the calypso feel of "Heart It Races", and why not? The irrepressible beat seems to bring out the Day-Glo best in these musical pranksters, who effectively make kids' music for adults.
"With this record, we wanted to focus on being a band, and make a record in a spontaneous, to-the-point manner," says Bird. "We didn't dilly-dally about and spend a week deciding the best bass sound. We just wanted to make something super-immediate."
And super-quirky, as it turns out. But that must be the nature of Architecture in Helsinki, since its eccentricities have survived, and even thrived in, what sounds like a rather complicated method of writing and demoing the new material. Members exchanged ideas and parts over Instant Messenger and e-mail–a necessary process since Bird has moved to that indie-rock mecca, Brooklyn, while the others have stayed Down Under.
"It was a crazy experience in that we were all working in different time zones," says Bird. "And at first, everyone was kind of freaking out about it being limiting. But in the end, it was the most freeing and liberating recording experience we'd embarked on." Architecture in Helsinki, he says, has never been comfortable just jamming, and when members begin crafting new songs there's usually a certain amount of self-consciousness. "By doing it this way, we removed the awkwardness of playing together. Egos weren't an issue, and I think that makes the whole album stick together really well, and made everyone value each other's parts."
It's not like the newly streamlined outfit is in danger of becoming more polished. "We'll never be that professional," Bird says. "But I think what makes a band great, and have longevity, is chemistry. And the more people you have, the harder it is to get that balance."
Architecture in Helsinki plays Richard's on Richards next Thursday (June 14).