Musicscan: Would you consider yourself a band or rather a lose collective which encompasses an array of different and ever-changing members?
Architecture In Helsinki: We are definitely a band. We just like to keep it as fluid as possible and we try to cooperate with as many people as possible. But we don’t have any specific plans of what the band should be like and what should be next. It is all kind of loose.
Musicscan: What does an average rehearsal look like for you? Is there one major songwriter or do you have different people come in and work on the songs?
Architecture In Helsinki: It works differently with each song. We don’t have a specific formula that we follow. We don’t want everyone to think do the same thing every time. So in keeping it different all the time with different conditions for every song, which keeps it at a certain freshness for us. So invariable if a song comes to the stage of completion we all gather and listen to it either in the studio or the rehearsal room. But it is very different all the time.
Musicscan: Would you say that chaos is a major factor in your creative process? In many ways your music seems to be caught between the dichotomy of orderly structure and spontaneous chaos and somewhere in between something beautiful evolves.
Architecture In Helsinki: Yes, definitely. An element of tension and chaos is very healthy and very important. That is definitely what we are going for and for you to say this is quite wonderful. Our live show is much more in the direction of spontaneous chaos. There is definitely that element that everything could happen and it could all fall to pieces. We wanted to follow our love of arranging and being very particular and pedantic about the way the songs are put together. The spontaneity and the semi-improvised nature of the way we are live is very important and as you said, we are trying to get somewhere in between that is definitely what we are looking for.
Musicscan: Could you picture yourself playing in a “normal” band with four people?
Architecture In Helsinki: I don’t know because that never occurred to me. This seems totally normal and natural to me to do what we do. I have never played in another band before. This is the first and only band I have ever played in and probably will ever be in. It just feels right to do it like this. “Normal” would actually feel not normal, if you know what I mean.
Musicscan: In a lot of ways “In Case We Die” reminded me of some artists from the greater NYC-area, for instance Animal Collective? Do you feel an affinity towards these bands?
Architecture In Helsinki: Yes, definitely. They are my favorite band. I find them very inspiring. This band is something else. They create a world onto themselves. When you have a band that takes their influences and their ideas…and their essence is so strong and unique and so unique to those people. When you hear them live or when you hear their records you can’t think about anything else but them and to compare them to anything else would be stupid because they are simply unique.
Musicscan: Of course, the eclecticism is one obvious aspect in this equation and I think that holds true for Architecture in Helsinki as well.
Architecture In Helsinki: Of course, we like to reference other bands, other elements, other times in the vast history of pop music. I mean we might reference Phil Spector, Outkast, or some New-Wave rock band. As soon as we are recording or as soon as we are in the studio and we hear something that is too much like any of those things we will very consciously get rid of it. We want to make sure that the way we sound is very unique to us and that we don’t turn into a homage to someone else as so many bands do.
Musicscan: How do you manage to include all these different facets and still adhere to a pop song format in some ways?
Architecture In Helsinki: For me, the universality of melody and the universality of the pop song is something that really drives me and the band. Having a song that is really succinct and not really expansive is very satisfactory for us. We enjoy compacting sounds into this little pocket size. I love songs that are really direct and come straight to the point, but have the ability to take the point so many ways in getting there.
Musicscan: What does the Australian or more particularly the music scene in Melbourne look like?
Architecture In Helsinki: I think Melbourne is at the center of Australia as far as music, art, theater and film is concerned. All the best cultural things happen in Melbourne. I guess for the virtue of the fact that it is a really similar to Berlin for instance or other major cities, it is really cheap to live there. It encourages a lot of artists and musicians to move there because you can afford to live there and make your art without having to work very much, which is not really the case in other cities. You can’t really do that in New York City or London. That is really conducive to having a great music and art scene. We have a fantastic public radio community in Australia, which is supportive of all types of music and with all these factors makes it a very healthy scene. There are bands making hip hop records or experimental and sound art records and great pop bands. It is just a really healthy scene. There is also a great camaraderie between the bands. It is a great place to be because with the isolation you have from the rest of the world geographically and musically, it makes for a very good scene.
Musicscan: So would you say there is a better infrastructure for local or Australian Bands then for American or European bands for instance?
Architecture In Helsinki: Artistically and creatively it is really great, but if you ever want to make a living from making music in Australia that is near impossible. I don’t have any friends who can do that.
Musicscan: Is pop music always already global these days or do you think that there are local specificities that mark and distinguish certain regional and cultural aspects?
Architecture In Helsinki: I definitely think that it is global. I mean the fact that we came here last night and played in Berlin and 400 people showed up. Why would that happen to a band from Australia that has never ever played here before? So I think it is in the nature of music nowadays that it is so accessible everywhere, even though there are many downsides to it particularly for independent bands as far as record sales are concerned, because people are just not buying as many records as they were five or ten years ago. It thus becomes much harder to make any money from making records, but in an audience sense the accessibility via the Internet from anywhere in the world is phenomenal. That fact that we can play in a city that we have never been to and don’t know anything about is remarkable.
Musicscan: Do you think the record would sound differently if you lived in NYC for instance?
Architecture In Helsinki: Without a doubt. We actually just talked about that the other day as we flew back to Australia. I can’t really put my finger on it, but I think if we were a band from New York, people would perceive us differently. I think that by the virtue of where we are from, people don’t necessarily take us more seriously. I think that is a very interesting question. I wonder what we would sound like if we really were from a different city. I feel like people don’t take Australians all the seriously, but that’s fine.
Musicscan: So could you identify some specifically Australian aspects and aesthetics in your music?
Architecture In Helsinki: Someone who has lived in Australia for five years recently told me that when he heard us play he thought that our sound was so Australian and had so many elements that made him miss Australia. I am not really sure what they were, he didn’t specify that, but maybe Australian people are generally good-natured people. They are pretty friendly and open. I guess we want our music to have an honesty and not have pretension. None of us care about being fashionable or looking cool. In a place like Melbourne you are less preoccupied with these things. That is not to say that we wouldn’t like to go and live in another city sometime.
Musicscan: Do you think there are still new sounds to be discovered or can modern music basically be reduced to a recombination within postmodern concepts of pastiche and bricolage?
Architecture In Helsinki: I think there is still new music to be made. To a certain extent, everything is going to be a cliché, but every once in a while you hear a band that is doing something that is so unique to themselves. I would like to be in one of those bands that are music that has an otherworldly quality to it. It is those things that give you faith in modern music. When you hear a song on a record it can be like a lightning bolt and, of course, people will always have different takes on it. It also always comes and goes in circles. Different periods are going to come back into fashion and different things happen. There is always going to be brilliant and exotic music being made. There will also be a lot of pastiche but I think technology and people’s perception of music will change enough that there is always going to be exciting music. Of course, there are slumps, but invariably there are brilliant records made every single day.
Musicscan: At what point to do you know when a song is finished? Isn’t it tempting to keep adding different layers of instrumentation?
Architecture In Helsinki: Yes, definitely. Digital recording enables you to be a lot more pedantic about things as opposed to recording to tape, because you have the ability to redo things infinitely and it doesn’t really cost you anything. We could never be a band that records to tape because this would cost us 50 million dollars (laughs). I actually really love the fact that there is a great accessibility to recording. You can get Protools, a decent input into your computer and you can make something sound great so. I think that is beautiful and it means that a lot of studios are closing down, but the ability to record music on your own is a very beautiful thing. We could easily take five years to record an album. We just had to have a point where we were like “ok, we are going to be finished at this day, no matter at what stage the record is at,” because we could still be recording now. We really do obsess about it.
Musicscan: How did you get in touch with Moshi Moshi records and how would you describe your relationship with them up to this point?
Architecture In Helsinki: They are very bad influences on us (laughs). We just had a stay on their couch in London, which was very lovely of them. Obviously we can’t afford to rent rooms in London. A friend of ours is a friend of Stephen who runs the label and is the chief. He actually heard one of our song on an American mp3 music box and our record had come out a few months before in Australia and it was about to come out in America. He just loved the song he had heard and he wrote us saying something like: “Don’t let anyone else put out your record in Europe. We are going to do it.” It is a good mixture of friendship and business, probably more friendship than business actually.
Musicscan: How do you feel about the other bands on the label?
Architecture In Helsinki: I think that Stephen and Michael have a great ear for picking out bands. Not all the bands have that much in common, but they seem to put out a lot of fine stuff. I am a particularly huge fan of Hot Chip. I think they are a wonderful band.
Musicscan: Would you feel comfortable if someone called your music “transgendered?” I think it offers a very refreshing aesthetic since it lacks the usual clichés and male dominated gestures which so often invade popular culture.
Architecture In Helsinki: Yes, absolutely. I have never thought of that before, but that is really cool. I like that. In using so many voices and instruments I like the ability of morphing from one thing to another. I like to push the voice and the power of the voice. I love the ability to sing in a soft and gentle way and then in an aggressive and angry way. When we record, we always try to push these musical gestures, particularly the voices. Six of us actually sing on the record so I guess that means that there is not one gender overpowering the other.