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Architecture in Helsinki Interview

You never know what to expect when interviewing a musician. Getting ready to meet someone who has devoted their whole life towards the art of making music is something that can leave you in awe and, on many occasions, not entirely sure what to say or ask. In so many ways, being an artist for a living is something to be admired becauses you are setting off on your own and embarking on a risky journey to carve not only a living, but also a reputation in the the music industry. An notoriously tough industry that has seen many casualties and not alot of success despite the emphasis the media and our society place on the very few that successfully make it. It is always interesting to listen to the story of someone who has devoted their life towards artistic expression, what drove them and how they go about their process along with the challenges, and the inspiration and that keeps them going. On the spectrum, you run the risk of encountering an artist with an inflated ego which makes questioning them an interview quite a grueling process. These were exactly the thoughts that were running through my head as I geared up for my first interview with Architecture In Helsinki, a band that has been around for nearly a decade and has gained an impressive international following. 

Based out of a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, Architecture started out in 2000 and have, over time, toured on numerous national and multi-national tours and, as their reputation spread, have opened for acts such as The Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’s and Death Cab For Cutie. They have quickly gained critical and commercial success for their straight-forward, honest and fun sound that is reflected in tracks such as “It’5”, “Heart It Races” and “Hold Music”. True to their indie roots, they have always retained complete creative control and have opted for releasing their albums through their own label, Tailem Bend rather than signing to an established record label. I purchased their latest album “Moment Bends” and immediately fell in love with the upbeat, complex and fun sound that the songs portrayed along with with the production quality. It makes for a perfect summer album, which was a sweet coincidence because it was a perfect Vancouver summer day when I sat down with Kellie Sutherland from Architecture In Helsinki.
As I said earlier, you never know what to expect from someone who has toured the world and has spent years making music and I was relieved to find that Kellie was very laid-back and seemed quite happy to meet with me. Looking a bit travel weary, she met with me outside of Venue Nightclub where they would be performing later that evening and we made our way to a nearby coffee shop. Over a red-eye and iced green tea, Kellie and I chatted about music, summer in Vancouver, the Canucks and she opened up about the their latest album, legacy and the chemistry within the band.

MVRemix: The band is performing at Venue tonight. Excited?

Kellie: Well, i found out that thie city is excited because summer has finally arrived and the hockey team is doing well so it should be an excited crowd, which makes it easier to get over the first hump of performing. People don’t really know what to expect and it takes a couple of songs to get them warmed up. If the crowd is already pumped, then its easier for us.

MVRemix: What can people expect from a live Architecture In Helsinki performance?

Kellie: We have a lot of fun performing, we really love doing it. On this tour, i haven’t done a show where I haven’t had a great time. Its a very honest expression of our music, we just get up and have a good time and it allows other people to let loose.

MVRemix: The album is called ‘Moment Bends’. Can you explain the title?

Kellie: Its a lyric in one of the songs. The concept around the title really resonated in the sense that it was the right title for this album and it sounds like a good title. It really encapsulates the feeling we wanted to put forward with the album. It was an intent of ours to project an emotional gamut so there’s lots of upbeat and fun songs and also some sadness and lots of references to the natural world. The title ‘Moment Bends’ is sort of reference to an in-between time, a moment that is bending, like when it is not night or day or not day or night, its sort of the in-between. Its like being at the precipice of an emotional event or feeling of time.

MVRemix: I saw in a previous interview that you and Cameron did where you commented that there is a level of depth and mystery to this album that wasn’t in the previous ones. Can you talk about that?

Kellie: Mostly it came from how much time we spent in the production of the record and making every sound exactly as we wanted it to be, which was a very crucial part in achieving the emotional part. Its really amazing how sounds can make you feel and we spent a lot of time finessing everything so that it all fell into place so that the album takes you on a journey. It was really important that there was an immediate sound and an immediate feeling that you get from the music and that is where the energy comes from. But if you go beyond that is where the depth comes from. 

MVRemix: I was listening to “W.O.W” on the album and your vocals were great. How would you define yourself as a vocalist? 

Kellie: I don’t know, it just comes out [laughs]. I’m a pop singer, I suppose. My voice has changed over the years and will probably  continue changing. I always try and invent a story-telling fashion with my singing, even if the lyrics are not necessarily linear or a narrative. I always intend to tell a story through my voice

MVRemix: You talked about how creating this record was a contrast from previous recordings in that it was such a positive experience. You also said that the chemistry in the band is where it needs to be. What is it about the chemistry in the band right now?

Kellie: In recording this album, we managed to eliminate ego from the artistic process and that was a hard thing to do. Everybody has ideas and everybody really wants to express their ideas and we managed to have everyone feel that they were expressing themselves creatively while not letting it compromise how the songs were meant to sound. For example, if there was a certain keyboard part that i came up but it didn’t fit the track, I wouldn’t take it personally. We have also worked together for so long and had an amazing producer who has an amazing ability to work to each of our strengths. Also, we are all very good friends and the energy is good. It was more important to make the record than to get in the way of the sound.

MVRemix: In the last two albums there has been a bit of a shift in the sound, you have been incorporating more electronic sounds in your music. How is this album sonically different than previous?

Kellie: Well this album sounds good, and none of the other ones do [laughs]. It sounds great in terms of frequency and ‘nerding’ out, its not crunched or amateurish but it still has the playfulness and honesty of all of our other records. The process was very different too because we had our own studio and we were able to spend as much time as we wanted. It meant that we could make it as good as we needed to make it and take as much time as we needed. It really gave us that luxury. in terms of the electronic elements, we’ve always had synthesizers and always had guitars, drum machines and percussion so I think rather than becoming more electronic, its just more production. Our strengths lie in that and we totally ‘dorked’ out.

MVRemix: It’s interesting how you said that this albums is good and none of the other ones are. You had said in a previous interview that you could only rate an album’s true merits in hindsight. So how do you think ‘Moment Bends’ is going to stand in hindsight?

Kellie: Well we finished the album back in September of last year, so it feels like hindsight already and we’ve been performing it for three months now. The production for our live show took us six months to get together too. I got the sense that while we were making this record that we weren’t going to leave it to hindsight and we wanted this one to be where it needed to be before it was finished. We were very happy and proud of how it sounded before it was even released. Also, with any music, as soon as it is done, it is not up to you how the world feels about it and even how you feel about it after some time because there will be so much that happens between now and then. I don’t know really, you’ll have to ask me that in twenty years.

MVRemix: Lindsey Buckingham was a part of the creative process for this album. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Kellie: Fleetwood Mac are perhaps the only band that we all truly love. Everyone has their own tastes and preferences in terms of music, but they are the one group that we are all in love with. They make beautiful, incredible and romantic songs, so we had a giant poster made of Lindsey Buckingham for our studio walls and made sure the feng shui was right and it was something that could look down upon us in a positive and inspiring way.

MVRemix: Architecture In Helsinki has been around for quite some time now. When it is all said and done, what would you want the legacy of the band to be?

Kellie: We started about ten years ago and the industry has changed so much in the way that people relate to and access music. There are no more boundaries in terms of where you are in the world and what you want to listen to because of the Internet. In that time, alot of people have stuck with singles and songs for the radio, ipod and podcasts or on blogs, and it has become all about songs or remixes. For us, we have always wanted to make albums and I’d like to think our legacy is that we made albums in a time where people were listening to songs. Also with respect to our live shows, it is a completely different creative process and I’d also think that our live shows have an impact and leave a memory.

MVRemix: Is there a certain track on this album that is your baby, that you love most out of any of them?

Kellie: No there isn’t. There’s a few tracks that I like more than others because I remember the process of how they came together. I love ‘Escapee’, it came together so quickly and i can’t remember how it happened. Now i can also hear it as a song rather than just about the experience of making it.

MVRemix: Is it ever tough listening to your songs when you walk into a store?

Kellie: It’s always weird, its not hard, just strange. I walked into a golf store while Christmas shopping for my dad and they were playing one of our tracks and I thought it was so weird…in a golf store in melbourne (laughs).

MVRemix: For anyone that doesn’t know too much about the Australian music scene, what can you tell us about it?

Kellie: well, I’ll put a disclaimer out first, because I spent the last two-and-a-half years in a studio making my own album and prior to that touring the world for four years. When we first started, it was really fertile and Melbourne was a cheap city to live in compared to Sydney and it was the cultural hub of Australia. There’s lots of live music venues which is a big part of the culture and you can find real estate to have a studio and you see people all over living together, making albums and there are really great bands with diverse sounds. There is no Melbourne sound because it is so diverse.

MVRemix: So I should move to melbourne then?

Kellie: Well there’d be a lot of people to interview because every second person is in a band.

MVRemix: Does the band ever read reviews about themselves?

Kellie – I haven’t read one review of this album so far, though i have in the past. A lot of people feel like it is an important part of the process, but I find playing the live shows and receiving the response from the audience is far more important.

MVRemix: What advice would you give to anyone who is aspiring to make their mark in today’s music scene?

Kellie: In terms of the business end, don’t ever sign a record deal. You should try to make your own albums and license them to people you really want to work with. With many record labels, its more like a bank because its like they give you money, you make an album and it might work or it might not. It becomes about selling records and even then, the label decides whether they are going to or not…its all about if they want to. We have been lucky enough to stay independent for as long as we have and we’ve made our albums ourselves financially and its been a really good decision because it means we have had creative control over everything. But from a base level, my advice would be that your ideas are the most important thing and you don’t have to know what your doing, you just have to really believe in your ideas and keep that at the forefront of everything you do.

By Aman Dhesi

I've been writing for the past few years as a freelance music journalist and am excited to be a part of MVRemix. Check out our website for album reviews and profiles on some exciting up-and-coming artists along with write-ups on some of the most popular music groups in the industry.

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