The way Brandon Phillips sees it, creative freedom needs to be used responsibly when writing songs, particularly within the indie-rock realm.
“It’s fun to be artsy and stuff, but you do create some really bad indie rock habits,” the Architects singer says. “Songwriting kind of fell apart under indie rock — you talked about everything in the space of one three-minute song; you didn’t have to have a narrative; you could switch from past tense to present tense, from the third person to first person. I was bummed out by all of that [and decided] to go back to fundamentals . . . write good songs and make them sound cool.”
For his Kansas City, Mo.-based band’s third album, Vice (Anodyne), Phillips looked to none other than the late Sammy Cahn‘s approach for guidance.
“A song has an architecture upon which the melody is built, the chord structure is built and the lyrics must fit with it all,” Phillips explains. “Certain words don’t sing well, so you try not to use those words — you try and find a better way of saying it.”
And sometimes finding a better way of saying it isn’t easy.
“There’s kind of a perception that making music and writing songs should be an entirely pleasurable experience, and I don’t always agree with that,” he says. “It’s work — why shouldn’t it be hard?”
Phillips’ workload is more than writing songs and fronting a fervent rock quartet — it also includes running Anodyne Records.
“I really enjoy the amount of stuff that I’ve learned in doing it,” he says. “I thought I knew a fair amount going in, and I’ve learned a lot more since. The amount of stuff I’ve learned has provided a lot of perspective, and perspective is incredibly valuable. If you actually work on 10 records, you can learn what to expect from your own.”
Asked to describe the music scene in his hometown of Kansas City, Phillips sounds like someone who has picked up a thing or two from the marketing and promotion end of running a label.
“There are great songs being written, great performances being given, at incredibly low prices, five nights a week,” he says.
— By Chris M. Junior
The Architects on tour (schedule subject to change):
* June 3: House of Blues — Dallas
* June 5: Rhythm Room — Phoenix
* June 6: Club Congress — Tucson, Ariz.
* June 7: Saint Rocke — Hermosa Beach, Calif.