The Architects’ epic “Border Wars” project is a five-part music/graphic novel filled with mayhem and humor, but it unexpectedly has generated some drama outside its comic-book pages.
“It all started with Episode 1,” said Brandon Phillips, the band’s lead vocalist and primary songwriter. That’s when the band ran into issues with a print broker. “It took us forever to recover from that. It ruined my year.”
In July 2013, after the band released the first episode, featuring art work by illustrator/animator Mallory Dorn, the plan was to release ensuing chapters regularly in 2014. It took more than a year to get the second episode issued. Phillips chalked up that delay to more printing issues.
As a result, the music from “Episode 2” was available on iTunes and at Amazon.com for a while before its comic book was available.
“Episode 2” is now out in its entirety, and the band is gearing up for “Episode 3.” Its narrative takes the reins from its predecessors, which established the story’s foundations.
“The whole adult world is corrupt, and everyone is playing both sides of the fence,” said Phillips, the story’s author. “We’ve introduced a villainous sheriff, a villainous televangelist and some characters who are villainous on the surface, but probably not in the long run.”
Each episode has its narrative arc, he said, but “Episode 3” is where “all hell breaks loose, where people start dying and getting killed off in horrible ways. And the plot gets thicker for the love story, but so does the swamp they keep getting stuck deeper and deeper in.”
It’s also the funniest and campiest of the three, an arc with some John Waters in its vibe.
“That kind of vibe exists in all five episodes, but I didn’t trot it out front because I didn’t want it to be seen as supercampy,” Phillips said. “There’s no avoiding being campy, but it was downplayed in other episodes. This one is less Cormac McCarthy serious and dark and more John Waters dark.”
The music component for “Episode 3” is nearly finished, but for now the band is holding back on performing its songs live.
He expects to released “Episode 3” toward the end of March, but that’s a fluid deadline, literally. The books are being printed overseas and will be shipped from Asia by boat. The tipping point was cost.
“As a Democrat, I want to jump out a window for outsourcing our manufacturing overseas,” he said. “But I scoured North America and even Canada for a print shop where I wouldn’t have to sell the books for $40 each. Marvel can do that. I don’t want to.”
“Episode 3” is a nine-track recording that is most diverse of the project so far, drawing from a variety of genres and eras. The arrangements include keyboards from Joe Miquelon, a former member of Irish-American folk rock band the Elders, and background vocals from Havilah Bruders.
Miquelon plays on one of the liveliest tracks, “Eddie Cochran (Wannabe Rocknrollers),” a rollicking, old-school rock song.
“It made sense to add some teenage delinquent-sounding rock and roll,” Phillips said. “ ‘Eddie Cochran:’ that song is almost silly. I love it. … It makes me think of John Waters and ‘Crybaby’ or ‘Hairspray.’ ”
The rest of the recording draws from other inspirations. Phillips mentioned Cheap Trick as one on “Wait on Wait.” “It has some melancholy about it,” he said. “It’s maybe a little more Cheap Trick-y than we wanted. Cheap Trick with heavier guitars.”
“Dead Romantics” has some heavy glam accents: “It’s the most T-Rex we’ve ever sounded,” Phillips said, “which feels good. T-Rex, Bowie, Cheap Trick all did teenage rebellion and delinquency really well.”
And the dark, foreboding “Heroes of A.D.D” is an eclectic mix of “super Slade to the max, and my piss-poor David Lee Roth. It’s weird but it fits the vibe.”
Friday night, the Architects headline a bill at RecordBar. Phillips and the rest of the band — his brothers Zach (bass) and Adam (drums) and guitarist Chris Meck — are itching to play the new material, but for now it’s on hold. Probably.
“We’ll play stuff from the first two (‘Border Wars’ discs), and some of our older stuff,” he said. “But we’ll probably have a big fight in our practice space over what new songs, if any, to incorporate in the set.”
From here on in, Phillips said, the band will take as many matters as it can into its own hands so it’s no longer at the mercy of third parties or drama and circumstances it can’t control: “It’s going to be ‘Hitch your wagon to me,’ because I’m not hitching to anyone else ever again.”
The Architects perform Friday at the RecordBar, 1020 Westport Road. Big Iron and the Rackatees also are on the bill. Show time is 9:30 p.m. Admission to the 18-and-older show is $10-$12.