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Architecture in Helsinki
An Interview with Cameron Bird.

Cameron Bird is front man for the Melbourne, Australia born six-piece indie rock ensemble Architecture in Helsinki. Bird has relocated to New York, while the rest of the band has scattered about the world. AiH is known for their members playing a rotating plethora of instruments including bass, drums, congas, percussion, synthesizers, trombone, guitar and samplers. The group has released three albums, their most recent Places Like This on Polyvinyl in May of this year. They are starting their North American twenty-show fall tour in Philadelphia on October 10th. We talked with Cameron about life in Brooklyn and on the road.

Junkmedia: So I see by your area code that you are still in Brooklyn, how is the borough treating you?

Cameron Bird: Good, real good, good to be here.

I heard you were living in Williamsburg, are you still living there?

Um, just kinda staying here at the moment, don’t really have a house.

Oh, so you’re not stuck cleaning discarded chicken wings and condoms off of your deck?

[Laughs] No, No.

You have a tour coming up, are you excited about it, everything ready to go?

I think so, we’ve pretty much been on tour since April so I mean it’s all kind of blending in to one epic adventure.

What instruments do you play on tour exactly? Your band is known for everyone playing a bit of everything.

Sample drum pads, drum kits, synthesizers, guitar, bass and drums.

What about you personally?

I play a bit of guitar a bit of keyboard.

Where did you record Places Like This?

The new album was recorded in Brooklyn, in a studio called Stay Gold studio which is Dave Sitek’s from TV on the Radio.

For your last album you had mentioned that you recorded in what you had called a glorified garage, so this was certainly a much different experience I take it?

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, well this was the first time we haven’t recorded ourselves.

For the last record you were in New York while the rest of your band were still in Australia. You were probably coming from a different place as a songwriter being away from home, how did your band mates react to your ideas?

It kind of eliminated the ego of the recording process or the writing process whereby you’re in a room together. We’re not the kind of band where we like jamming anyway.

So you mostly lay the groundwork?

Yeah, I come up with a skeleton sometimes it is pre-formed and sometimes it's just drum, bass and vocals, so we don’t really have a method. It has always been the way we worked.

So each album had a different way in which it had come together.

We never try to be premeditated. We try to be as direct and spontaneous as we can and not really dwell on what it is we are trying to say or do.

Do your live shows have the same approach?

The live shows are chaotic; anything can happen, kind of.

Do you guys use setlists?

We don’t play a setlist anymore we stopped that a while ago and we try for the most part to play continuously.

You have spent the greater part of the last two years of the road. Are you exhausted yet? Ready to give it a little rest?

Yeah totally, you always feel really slammed.

Getting wasted every night?

No, you learn pretty quickly that you need your longevity, I mean, yeah it’s definitely a delicate balance to keep sane after so much [time] on the road.

When you are between tours and recording what do you to keep busy, are you relaxing at all?

No, [laughs] never relax.

You sound pretty tired right now actually.

I’ve always got something to do, I can’t relax, it’s in my genetic makeup.

Not to harp on Brooklyn, but the borough has become such a Mecca for indie music and for someone coming from Melbourne, what made you want to leave the safety net of home? Is it the reputation Brooklyn has been getting?

It’s a challenge to be in a new city or in a new country. I’ve been a musician in Melbourne for ten years and it was just time for a change of scenery and to put yourself in the deep end. You don’t want to become complacent about the things around you.

Is there a reason you left Melbourne alone without the rest of the band?

Other people probably just didn’t want to do that at that point in their life and I thought it would be a good challenge to try to keep the band together and keep it progressing.

So it’s not like a Flight of the Conchords type thing?

[laughs] I wish we were as popular as Flight of the Conchords.

I noticed that one of your newer songs “Heart it Races” was remixed right away by Dr. Dog and YACHT. How did that come about?

Well I guess I’m really into the culture of remixing. I’m really into that aspect of collaboration where you are learn so much from people covering and remixing yourselves. We’re always approaching grounds to remix stuff and vice versa, experimenting with different ways and forms.

Whose work have you remixed?

Quite a few. Shout Out Louds, the Bumblebees.

When you tour how many people do you bring with you on the road?

We are a six piece live band. We were an eight piece up until about a year and a half ago.

You have a big sound. Do you ever try to sound even bigger than a six-piece band?

Well when we recorded this record, it was pretty parallel to the way we play live. But we are always looking for new ways to play at shows; the live thing is where we feel like we are in our element.

You were looking for the live sound on your album, in the past that is not something you necessarily have gone for?

Yeah, in the past we’ve been more inclined to obsess over the studio because we always recorded our own stuff, this time we definitely wanted to capture us as a live band.

What bands have you been influenced by lately?

I’m really into this band from Sweden called Studio that are really great, they have a great record called West Coast. I like the Animal Collective.

Did you catch either of the Animal Collective shows this week?

No, I got in half midnight. I wasn’t able to make it.

Are you planning on playing any gigs in Australia in the near future?

End of the year.

Different cities?

Yeah, we usually play a bunch.

Looking forward to that?

Yeah, always.

I know you grew up on a farm, which was pretty far from the nearest city; you ever miss that type of quite life?

Yeah. Right now I’m staying in a place underneath the Williamsburg Bridge which is hardly quiet. [Laughs].

You are right next door to Peter Lugars. Have you ever been there? You should go!

I’m actually going there this week. I love steak. Been wanting to go there for a long time.

Oh, you’re gonna go crazy there. Get the Bacon.

Ok cool. I will.

Good luck with your tour. Hope to see you when you come around.

Yeah, we will be in Brooklyn next week.

By Brandon Ginsburg.
October 16, 2007

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