Charming, unrepentant pop craftsmen, Architecture In Helsinki, are headed back to WA to enjoy to sunshine and good vibes of this year’s Groovin’ The Moo at Hay Park, Bunbury on Saturday, May 10. The band’s latest album, NOW + 4EVA, is released this week. SHAUN COWE reports.
Architecture In Helsinki vocalist, Cameron Bird, is in the final stages of preparing for the release of the band’s fifth studio album, NOW + 4EVA. The album has been applauded for its bright, unencumbered melodies and subtle interplay of light and shade.
For Bird though, the release sees the fruition of over a year of patience and hard work. “It’s been really good,” he says. “You know, this might be our fifth record but it’s like Christmas Eve. It’s like waiting for the big day; you still feel that element of enthusiasm and excitement for what will come.”
However, for all the excitement of unwrapping the present, Bird laughingly admits to a little nervousness over whether people will see an Xbox or a pair of socks. “Any musician that tells you that they weren’t nervous before they put out a record is a liar… I’m sure we, in the back of our minds, are waiting for our demise. It hasn’t come thus far, but we roll with it. Que sera, sera.”
For Bird however, the final judgement doesn’t come from critics, producers or record executives, but from a rather unexpected source. “Generally, I really respect the opinions of people under 10-years-old. Because I do feel that children listen to music with such honesty that their opinions are really direct. I’d be more upset to get a 1/5 from an eight-year-old girl than I would from the Sydney Morning Herald.”
One of the main elements that Bird keeps coming back to for his albums is the heavy use of synth. For him, it has been a love affair that began in the band’s early days and has grown steadily from there.
“I really love the synthesiser as an instrument, in that it is completely limitless as to what sound you can make… It’s trial and error, for sure, but it’s also about understanding synthesis and how it works. It’s not about just hitting a preset and going, ‘Yeah, that’s cool. I’m just going to roll with that.’ It’s about understanding what your song needs, and what mood, and what colour.”
To support the release of their album, Architecture in Helsinki are embarking on a series of live shows across the country, as part of Groovin The Moo. For Bird, the choice to appear as part of a festival, rather than holding a series of headline shows, is a conscious decision to play to the band’s strengths.
“I think, for a long time, I would have said we preferred playing club shows, because you’ve got a captive audience and you can kind of do whatever you like. It doesn’t matter if you take five minutes in between a song to talk about what you ate for lunch. But I think we really grew to love playing festivals.
“We kind of feel like we know how to do it, whereas there was a time where we were just rubbish at festivals. I really enjoy the challenge of winning over a crowd at a festival. You know, you might start out and you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s not going so well’. But then it’s like you’ve really got to find another gear and work out how to get that energy back from the crowd. Generally we find the energy we put in comes back at you 10 times louder.”
With the band’s image heavily entrenched in the festival scene, Bird has experienced first-hand the recent, waning popularity of many big name festivals in Australia, and is unapologetic about voicing where the blame lies.
“I will summarise it with this: Groovin The Moo goes well because they understand how to price the festival; they’re making something that’s appealing to a lot of people. I think greedy promoters that, when the Australian dollar got really strong, were like, ‘Oh yeah, we can charge $500 at a festival. People will pay that’. I think the ass was always going to fall out of that, and it’s a very unsustainable business model, and, culturally, just doesn’t have any real benefit on the long term.”
That’s not all he is up front about. Despite the poor reputation of pop music among self-styled music puritans, Bird is quick to voice his deep love for the music he sees as a uniting force for all people, and the driving ethos behind the band’s writing.
“I think that on a really primal level, people really feel melody and rhythm, and when you’ve got a hook that works, that sticks with you, it translates to any language, at any time and any place. That’s the thing about great pop music, it’s so transcendental and it’s so applicable to anyone. I think that’s such an incredibly difficult thing to write music that can move people, regardless of race, or religion, or age.
“We love pop music. We’ll really, unashamedly listen to Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry, and we’re much more interested in listening to that than what the new Animal Collective record is, to be honest. To me, the best songwriting and the best artists in the world are people who write pop music.”