DEBATE TEAM The Architects

The Kansas City punk band’s frontman passes MENSA
test, makes new album. Sorry, no rockets.

 

By CRYSTAL
K. WIEBE

 

 

With
his inked-up arms and punk-infused rock songs about partying so hard you’ve
gotta call in dead to work, Brandon Phillips can come off like a stone cold
hardass. But Phillips-who along with his brothers, drummer Adam and bassist
Zach, and guitarist Keanon Nichols make up Kansas City’s The Architects-brings
new meaning to the term “band nerd.” Phillips is a new member of MENSA, and he
talked with Blurt about the perks of
being part of the international league of extraordinary intellects. We also
discussed The Architects’ summer Warped Tour engagement and impending new album
on Skeleton Crew, the label owned by My Chemical Romance guitarist Frank Iero.
(Note: The Architects are not to be
confused with a British death metal band of the same name.)

 

***

 

Your last album, Vice, just came out on Kansas City’s Anodyne Records last year. Are
you that prolific?

 

We
started talking to Skeleton Crew last August, really only a few months after
the last album had come out and were planning on… getting the writing engine
going again when the word came that we were on for the Warped Tour. [So] we
agreed that we needed to step it up and cobble something together quick. Being
prolific is the easy part. There is far more anxiety involved with actually
producing the final product: recording all our instruments, beat-mapping,
quantizing and auto-tuning all our instruments, hiring session musicians to
re-record all our instruments, flying in Metallica’s therapist and a vocal
coach to teach me the emo “death growl,” etc. It’s a lot to handle. 

 

 

What sort of bragging rights
does MENSA membership entitle you to?

 

I
was able to get my MENSA tattoo, which was my principal motivation and then
there are the little ancillary benefits like sweet MENSA rates on car
insurance, all-night chess tournaments and screaming message board debates
about the epistemology and ethical implications of the first season
of Stargate SG-1. Mensans are not
really much on bragging and so as to not offend the cultural norms of my new
clique, I’d just say that I am now entitled to whip your ass at word problems
and not much else. 

 

So, underneath all those tattoos, you’re
just a big nerd?

 

Ask
anyone who knew me before I was old enough to get a tattoo and they will
confirm for you that I have always been a huge, unrepentant nerd. I was 19
years old before I stopped regularly attending the Greater Kansas City Gem
& Mineral Show for fuck’s sake… but I still have all my specimens. My
medals from high school debate (6A State Champ, thank you very much) are framed
in my office. My all-time closest friends whom I look forward to seeing above
almost anyone else are all nerds, too. Since passing the MENSA exam I have been
challenged by some of them to take the LSAT and the Foreign Service Exam.
Challenge accepted. Check… and… mate!

 

If you’re such a smartypants, why aren’t
you out building rockets or something?

 

I
picked up a guitar when I was 8 and got a Dead Kennedys album when I was 12 and
my first band was signed pretty much out of high school, so I just never looked
back. Smartypants shit always seems like stuff I would take up as a hobby when
I retire. Like, retire from music at 50 and go to law school… or take up
model rocketry as you so aptly suggest. 

I bet that big brain of yours is
constantly spinning. What’s the best way to shut it off?

Epic
failures to balance my goddamn checking account are a quick way to pull the
plug on any delusions of superior cognitive function. 

 

Are you the smartest dude in rock?

 

Probably
not. There are tons of chicks and dudes amidst the rock community who have
actually managed to balance their musical lives with their academic lives.
People like Greg Graffin from Bad Religion are surely far more learned than I
for having been dedicated to the pursuit of both avenues. 

 

Are you the smartest Phillips brother?

 

Not
even close. In my family, I just test well. 

 

How are you going to apply your smarts
to the Warped Tour this summer?

I
will be holding seminars on semiotics (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) and normative
critique (Tuesday, Thursday) behind the catering tent. Tuition is only $1,500.00
and credits are transferable to most state and private universities. 

 

You must enjoy schooling people. Who’s
the last unfortunate soul that you schooled?

 

Therein
lies the paradox. I admit the shameful truth-that I do feel unabated joy when I
get to sweep the legs out of some sucker-duck who imagines that he/she has some
game in a serious debate. However, people who flaunt their supposed knowledge
for no reason other than to assert superiority over their peers are just
douchebags and not at all secure or sincere about the very nature of intelligence
(not to mention whatever modicum of it they have been anointed with).

 

So
it is in the spirit of respect for virtuous brains that I make all possible
efforts never to be confused with one of those assholes. So I don’t drop
knowledge unless asked, and I don’t debate unless it’s called for, and I always
accept that having my ass handed to me is a distinct possibility. 

 

But
to answer your question, it was some shit-heel, tinfoil-hat conservative on a
message board who was building an imaginary case against Barack Obama’s
citizenship. I also love debating Pat Buchannan, Ari Fleischer and David Frum
when they are on TV, but I recognize that it’s not fair since they cannot
respond directly and because I am the only one allowed to use curse words in
that debate format. 

 

[Photo
Credit: Todd Zimmer]

 

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