It all began at the end of the '90s in a small Australian country town with a teen funk-grunge band called The Pixel Mittens, which featured core Architecture In Helsinki members and longtime friends Cameron Bird, Jamie Mildren and Sam Perry. The three pals outgrew the limitations of rural living and moved to Melbourne to have some fun. After the high school band burnt out, flamboyant lead singer Cameron, who was often seen on stage riding exercise bikes and conducting audience workout sessions, needed to branch out; Primus and Led Zeppelin were no longer doing it for him on a spiritual level. It was then he met a folkie who diverted his taste and inspired him to learn how to play guitar while she was out at work in the evenings.
Rather than figuring out how to play '70s AM easy listening hits, Cameron opted to create his own songs from the outset, fashioning heartfelt li'l dark folk jams with an emphasis on the 'dark'. Within the year he had rounded up a group of friends to try and play the songs in concert. The original line-up played one or two half-hearted shows in small Melbourne dives before going into semi-hibernation, playing only the occasional gig thereafter. The band solidified in 2000 when Bird bought his first electric guitar. It was at this point, while studying photography at art school, that he met James Cecil in a late-night video editing suite. The two instantly had a musical chemistry, and within a couple of months Cecil had joined the band on drums. Around the same time Bird met Kellie Sutherland at a party in North Fitzroy and asked her to play clarinet on some of the band's new love songs. Architecture In Helsinki finally had some stability and with this new lineup, they set about performing their own take on the 90s pop atmospherics scene, getting all shimmery and longwinded.
At this point, the band set out to build the first incarnation of James' recording studio, Supermelodyworld, in a massive church hall on Melbourne's Southeast side. It was here that the recording of the AIH's debut, Fingers Crossed, began. The band was on a tight schedule with Bird about to leave the country for an extended holiday in the US. The aim was to make the whole album in a few weeks. It never did happen. While songs such as "Like a Call," "To and Fro" and "Where You've Been Hiding," made it through, the rest of the intended album vanished into thin air.
Some would say it was fate, because Cameron's trip to the USA saw him falling in love with the Pacific Northwest and forming obsessions with Portland Oregon, post-acid Beach Boys, Wu Tang Clan, The Magnetic Fields and Mexican food. That, coupled with a whole bunch of new friends, sculpted Fingers Crossed into the large technicolor beast that it is. About 3/4 of the album was written by Cameron on a pump organ and a busted-up guitar in his parent's living room in six days after his return to Australia -- songs of longing, pining, foreign cities, excitement and ghosts. The music was gonna be like a first kiss: messy, passionate, exciting and floaty. And the means was... by any means possible.
When Cameron brought these new songs to band rehearsal, it marked a huge change for the group. Gone were the days of drawn-out eight-minute atmospheric wig-outs; the new AIH was all about sub-2.5 minute pop songs, sharp and catchy, with no time to look at your shoes. The live show morphed and the recording safari began. It was at art school yet again that the connection with the hottest wonky session brass in Melbourne, The Rhinestone Horns, was made. They were the logical next step for the fleshing out and development of the AIH ensemble. Tara Shackell, Isobel Knowles and Gus Franklin all brought their chops to the recording, coloring it in, filling in the gaps and bringing the record and AIH's subsequent shows to life. And finally, the lineup was complete. Like a giant Voltron robot uniting at the sunset.
It was after this long, convoluted journey, the band finally let go of its precious, first born, Fingers Crossed, after near two years of work, shifting personnel and studios galore. And AIH had finally settled upon what was to be the perfect lineup, an amalgamation of well-schooled and self taught, loose and tight, happy and sad, city kids and country folk. A group of people with influences and tastes spanning the last 183 years of pop music, coupled with the isolation of Australia.
It was always going to make for something a little different.