Border Wars, What Are They Good For?; An interview with Brandon Phillips of The Architects


The Architects

The Architects

That snotty Midwestern drawl and hard-nosed Midwestern work ethic embodied by The Architects has served them well.  They’ve brought certifiably stellar live performances to kids across the world.  In explosive frenzies of drums and roaring guitar are where The Architects thrive, as they deliver unparallelled no-bullshit rock that is as gutsy as it is authentic.

When Ghettoblaster found out The Architects were involved in an extremely unique project called Border Wars which adds a new visual dimension to their alt-rock/punk music through an original accompanying graphic novel we knew we had to talk to them about it.  Singer Brandon Phillips had this to say about the endeavor.

Who from the band came up with this project?

It was a collaborative effort in that we all decided that making a regular old album sounded lame and that doing something narrative and episodic sounded like way more fun and a way bigger challenge. It was me in as much as I wrote the story/script for the Border Wars comic.

Why stray from the typical LP format, which you’ve found a lot of success with in the past?

I’d say it was a bit of a “push/pull” situation. Technology being what it is, people can and mostly do, cherry pick their favorite songs from an LP and then never really feel compelled to revisit it. So, that’s really fine by me…I think singles or smaller batches of songs are cool so being pushed away from the LP format doesn’t really hurt much.

What pulled us into this specific format though was that we guessed that our fans would have a lot more fun if we were releasing songs episodically and if there were some characters to cheer on. Long story short, technology has killed the album as we know it and if you want to chase a creative vision that goes beyond a single, you’re going to have to step up and do something weird.

How do you feel your concept stacks up to previous alt-rock comic offerings from Claudio from Coheed and Cambria or Gerard from My Chemical Romance or World/Inferno Friendship Society? Did those concepts happen to provide any inspiration for your own direction?

Those concepts helped get me through some sleepless nights when I was wondering if we were about to make a huge mistake or not. I definitely looked at those and said, “Well this proves that there is some kind of overlap between liking comics and liking punk rock.” I still wonder if marrying the music and the comic the way we have is going a bridge too far, but I stand by our decision no matter what happens.

What about classic cartoon/music pairings like Beatles’ Yellow Submarine?  Did you give that any thought while pulling this together?

Ha. Yeah. We were definitely keeping Yellow Submarine in mind as an example of what we didn’t want. Same with the old Kiss comics…those examples (and I mean no offense to either band) seem to have an implicit conceit. Like, “We’re going to condescend to lovers of comics and/or animation by animating ourselves into some half-assed, goofball adventure.” Border Wars was not about throwing a bone to the comic nerds, it was about presenting the story and having more fun *with* our fans and friends – so it had to be legitimately more of an experience.

This project took almost two years to come together.  Did you ever think of giving up or throwing in the towel?

Constantly. The amount of work that goes into a single episode is mind-fucking-boggling. Your average record label product manager would be in tears under his desk. The amount of times we were told “no” or “fuck no” by labels, comic studios, publishers, sponsors and age old allies was beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. Just minding the indiegogo campaign from day to day was a full-time job and a 16 credit-hour master class in humility. Our poor illustrator had to deal with exploding tablets, changing formats and sweatshop deadlines. It was all I could do to ply her with liquor. But all that shit is what makes this so fucking worthwhile.

Was matching the narrative and storytelling in the comic to the music difficult or was it a symbiotic relationship where they play on each other’s strengths?

It’s definitely more symbiotic than not. The songs needed to stand on their own *and* be the ideal score for the story so, from that angle we found enough room to maneuver and write songs that were thematically right for the story but not pinned down or held back by the story. Same goes for the story – it can’t depend on the songs to be complete or good.

What is the basic story of Border Wars?

Two lost, fucked-over kids meet in a southwest Texas town that is overrun by all the evils of the drug war. There’s blood, romance, action, sacrifice…all against the drug war backdrop of arbitrary injustice, corrupt power and perverted morality.

How did your relationship with Skeleton Crew and Mallory Dorn begin and evolve over the course of the project?

Mallory is an absolute saint and a wonderfully talented illustrator. I’m really grateful to have met her and so far one of the best, most exciting parts of the whole project has been to see whatever her latest work has been. New sketches, new inks, new colors. She also has a pet snake and rides a motorcycle. Cool, right? She’s just been a great partner for this and I’m sure my excitement over whatever comes next drives her nuts when she’s just trying to catch her breath between episodes.

What is the schedule for the Border Wars releases?  The first episode was in June correct?  Which ones are coming up?

As of right now, we’re looking at having Episode II out early in the new year and hopefully we’ll be able to follow up with Episode III by end of summer.

(Catch The Architects at one of these forthcoming dates:

11/15 Magic Stick – Detroit, MI 
11/16 Now That’s Class – Cleveland, OH
11/18 Great Scott – Boston, MA ^
11/19 Knitting Factory – New York City, NY ^ 
11/20 Milkboy- Philadelphia, PA ^
11/21 Howler’s Cafe – Pittsburgh, PA
11/22 Kobo Live – Columbus, OH 
11/23 The Demo – Saint Louis, MO
12/06 Diamond Ballroom – Oklahoma City, OK*
12/08 Voodoo Lounge – Kansas City, MO*
^With Death Spells (ft. Frank Iero and James Dewees)
*With Blue October)