Releasing an album in what's considered a traditional rock album cycle sometimes doesn't make sense. For the teeming numbers of lost or forgotten rock records -- decent, independently-released ones -- it doesn't work at all. Some projects are too special to fall into the 2-3 year, 2-tour support, single-video-radio-album-wash-repeat. Under the folkloric, ambiguous wisdom of "spend money to make money," there will expenditures without enough knowledge from the fans' part to see revenue at the end.
Kansas City band The Architects have created a "high-concept" soundtrack album and accompanying five-episode comic book "Border Wars," and found it high time they experimented with crowd-funding. After five studio album releases and high-visibility stints with My Chemical Romance, Flogging Molly and the Warped Tour, the Architects culled the opinions of their own fans to develop an Indiegogo model and self-sustaining execution that seemed realistic (and wouldn't make their base wretch).
"Doing more creative work more often makes a lot of sense to me with respect to sustainability," frontman Brandon Phillips told me in our email interview. "That way you are entering into an ongoing conversation with your fans or supporters instead of showing up for a booty call once a year."
This week, "Border Wars" reached its kick-off $10,000 goal. Interested parties can still preorder a hard copy of the comic and album... for half a day more. Below, Phillips gives his opinion on comics, on when it's NOT OK to crowd-fund and on where Justin Bieber's records are actually being made.
Sample some tunes from the "Border Wars":
So many artists try Indiegogo and Kickstarter campaigns these days. Why did you feel like this project in particular made for a good crowd-funded project?
This project makes a lot of sense for a crowd funding
model because it's so unorthodox. It doesn't *sound* all that crazy when I tell you about it, but labels and distributors have actually expressed intense anxiety over it to me based on the fact that our album will not be the same size and shape as other albums. To me, that just screams, "We are not ready for this!!".
On the contrary, though, when we announced the album concept to our fans over social media, they were pretty unanimous in loving the idea and not giving half-a-f*** about the size and shape of the finished unit. It's vindicating in that sense because the whole point of doing something high-concept and presenting it in episodes was to make it more fun for the fans - create a deeper experience than just tossing 12 songs we cobbled together in GarageBand onto a plastic disc. It's actually adding a new layer of beauty to the whole process that people have been able to get involved so early.
Our contributors know very well that they are in fact making a difference in our lives as a band - can Bieber say that? F*** no. Bieber's albums are made in laboratories secluded beneath mountains of concrete and money and technology and non-disclosure agreements. Bieber's albums are generated by people in lab coats. Board rooms full of executives work late into the night over Bieber albums like it was the f***ing constitutional convention.
When are the times you think bands are doing the whole Kickstarter thing wrong?
I'm far too classy to name names (except Beiber's) but I have seen some things on other band's Kickstarter and Indiegogo pages that definitely disturb me. I saw a campaign in which a band's expense breakdown was something like 45 lines deep and included not only a high five-figure fee for their producer but also the band members salaries and per diems. To me, that sort of thing spoils the crowd funding energy. The day after that campaign ended, something like $50,000 worth of contributions went directly to some d*ckbag producer with an outrageous hourly rate.
I definitely understand that it can be a very expensive proposition to make an album but if you are going to take up the banner of DIY (which I believe you do implicitly when you opt to crowd fund), you may want to find a producer who can work for less than the cost of a brand new Audi A6. Say what you will - maybe I'm the *sshole here but I just can't ask people to pay my rent for me and pay for a year of mortgage payments for my "producer".
Are you afraid people will sniff at the price tag, on how much it takes to make a record and print a comic book?
Afraid? No. I am absolutely positive that someone will gripe and grouse about our version of value. It is as certain as sunrise. There is a certain type of person who feels entitled to free music, free media and it all needs to be of "Led Zeppelin IV" quality or higher. The only thing I have in common with this type of person is that we've both probably spent way too much money on 180 gram vinyl reissues of classic albums.
I feel like we've done a really good job at splitting the difference between what six or so songs should cost and what a 60-80 page comic should cost. Nobody is getting ripped off and we are not going to get rich.
On a scale of 1 to 10 -- 1 being you went to a comics store once and 10 being you tattooed a Spider-Man mask on your face -- how big of a comics fanatic are you? What are your favorite comics today?
I'm going with a solid 4 because most real, true-blue comic nerds would turn their noses up at my taste in comics. I like Hack/Slash, Watchmen, Sin City, Hellraiser. I don't get into superheroes really.
Coheed & Cambria to Coldplay have released comic books in conjunction with their recent releases. What is it about the medium that fits with your music, and with "Border Wars" in particular?
Well, in our case we went to the comic medium because we could not afford to make a film. I don't know exactly what the specific vision was for the Coheed comics or Coldplay or MURS but The Architects wanted to make our "Quadraphenia"....we just lacked the budget to do it on film so, print media it is!
Describe The Architects' sound using only comic book onomatopoeia and sound effects.