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Architects’ Adam Christianson: “We wanted to start fresh and try some new things”

Architects
(Image credit: Ed Mason)

Ask any metalcore diehard which bands are best serving the genre today, and they’ll almost certainly respond with… Well, from experience, a bunch of weird, niche acts their housemates’ cousins and such play in, who barely have a fanbase outside their hometown. But they’ll throw in some big names too – and one of those is virtually guaranteed to be Architects. Thanks to their eight universally adored albums and a touring regimen that’s seen them smash out approximately two bazillion shows in the past decade, the UK-native shredlords have built a community of fans as devoted as they are determined; if there’s just one thing that goes harder than the band’s tunes, it’s their mosh pits. 

With album number nine on the horizon, fears of the quintet running out of steam are admittedly justified – how long, after all, can the one band stay thrashing out to their hearts’ content on just a consistent basis before they hit a ruinous burnout? Yet somehow, Architects are as sharp as they’ve ever been – For Those That Wish To Exist features some of the band’s most exciting and ambitious music to date, lacquering onto their time-tested base of punishing breakdowns and red-hot solos a mountain of cinematic strings, crunchy synths, blistering drum beats and soul-stirring keys. It’s balls-to-the-wall heavy, as you’d expect, but it’s also nuanced and layered in such a way that proves Architects are still earnestly devoted to refining their craft, no matter how perfect it already may have been. 

Before the band kick off what’s sure to be one of their most intense and exciting eras yet, Australian Guitar sat down with rhythm guitarist Adam Christianson to learn a bit more about how Architects brewed up the beast that is For Those That Wish To Exist. 

So this is easily one of the most experimental Architects records to date. Were you guys keen to really flex your creative muscles on this one?
For sure – mainly because the last three records were like a bit of a trilogy, cataloging what we were going through collectively as a band. We kind of wanted to start fresh and try some new things. And as well, when you’re on your ninth record, you kind of need to be trying something new – use your creative liberties and things like that.

What did that mean for you as a guitarist in particular?
All the guitar stuff is quite a bit more simple, I would say. Some of our earlier records were a lot more technical, and the band’s changed quite a lot over the years. It’s been a lot more about just serving the songs and things like that. There are a lot more electronic elements involved and there’s a lot more going on sonically, so it’s more about moving with those sonic differences than it is about playing. We experimented with some different octave effects.

It feels like you’re using the guitar more as a tool to set an emotion than just riff out and go crazy. It’s sounds very cinematic.
We’ve had that element going on for quite a while – probably since 2012, I would say – but it gets more expanded upon with every record. We definitely all really dig things like film scores and take a lot of inspiration from artists like Hans Zimmer. We try to use the guitar more as a complimentary instrument in some cases, as opposed to the main instrument. Because obviously, the double-edged sword of having a lot of elements in the one song is that you have to leave space for things. If there’s this big string section and we’ve got a lot of electronics, there’s not a lot of room left for us to really shred out. You have to find a place for the guitar to sit – it can’t just barge through the mix all the time.

It’s cool to see how many bands are really pushing the boundaries of metalcore and breathing new life into the genre right now. Why do you think it is that metalcore is currently going through this sort of reboot, or revolutionary period?
To a degree, certain genres of music – especially the heavier types – have a bit of a glass ceiling, as to what you can do with the sound. It’s always a balancing act because if you go too far out of your lane, you get criticised for that, but if you’re not different enough, people go, “Oh, it’s just more of the same.” I think it’s just about wanting to breathe new life into the genre and expand what it can be, rather than be ‘just a metalcore band’ or whatever.

This is the second Architects record to be made entirely in-house, with production duties split between Dan [Searle, drums] and Josh [Middleton, lead guitar]. Do you find that such a setup allows you to be more flexible or experimental with your songwriting?
I think it just depends on the band, right? Some bands really benefit from having an outside perspective. But I feel like we’re quite proficient with what we do. At this stage in your career, for the most part you’d hope you’d have worked out a lot of the kinks as far as what works and what doesn’t work, and what you want to achieve with your art. Having it DIY, so to speak, you can really just do what you want, and flesh out your own vision for a song. Not to say that it’s not beneficial to work with a producer – we just feel comfortable not needing one at this stage in our career.

Does that translate much to how you operate as a full unit?
Generally, yeah. Obviously this year has been very different – making this record was quite a fragmented process for us. Earlier on in our career, when we were younger and before the technology to record independently was so accessible, it was all about getting together in a room and hashing things out as a group. But now everyone’s got their own recording rig at home, so you can kind of patch things together and pass ideas back and forth remotely. But it was certainly a very different process this time, just because of the pandemic situation – there were times where we wanted to be in the studio together but we just couldn’t, and we had to adjust how we’d work together in some interesting ways.

How did you feel about the new setup as a creative?
I definitely miss the togetherness – because that’s a big part of it, right? Even if songs were not necessarily written together, or whatever the situation was, part of the experience is being together in the studio when you’re tracking things or listening back to mixes – being together and listening to things for the first time in a fleshed-out sense… That’s such an important part of the experience. But y’know, we did the best we could to make it work for us!