Everyone involved in the Fayetteville music scene knows that it’s a house of cards. A small number of people start bands, book shows, promote shows and attend them, and chances are they’ve been doing it most of their lives.
I was lucky enough to meet Phillip Farris at Clunk Music Hall a long time ago and am adamant in saying that he’s one of the most creative musicians in Arkansas. Aside from being in a number of influential hardcore, grindcore, and metal bands, Phillip is also a singer/songwriter. His newest band is Archbuilders, which he somehow finds time to do while being in Cowards and writing solo material.
Where did the name Archbuilders come from?
A few years ago a really good friend of mine named Chris (infamously known around town as Gangster Football) let me borrow a book called “Girl In Landscape,” written by Jonathan Lethem. It’s a sci-fi kind of thing. In the book, the native race of beings on this certain planet are called the Archbuilders. Chris and I always talked about how we thought Archbuilders would make a good band name. A few years later, here we are.
How long has Archbuilders been a band, and how did it start?
The idea started a few years ago. Crogaus (Zach Coger, the drummer for Cowards and The Thunderlizards) and I used to sit around his old apartment and write these songs. He would play drums on his legs, and I had an unplugged electric guitar. But it was mostly just something we talked about when we were hanging out. We finally rounded out the lineup with Max May on bass, and Nick Thomas on guitar earlier this year. Nick and I were in a band called Take It Back! that put out a couple of records on Facedown Records. But we were in the band at different times. We really only got one tour of playing together with that band. When Take It Back! disbanded, Nick and I started working on what would eventually become these songs.
What separates the band from Cowards, and your other bands?
Cowards is really straightforward. We only do the one thing. It’s all go, all the time. We don’t have any clean passages, or anything like that (laughs). Archbuilders is very different. We work with effects, and try to build a bunch of different layers of sound. There’s a lot happening. Plus I’m singing, which is really different for me. I’m not the world’s best singer (laughs).
What non-musical influences affect your music?
Hmm… Well, I guess recently I’ve been going through a pretty rough streak as far as personal and family stuff goes. My dad recently lost his job of 20 years, and currently lives in a motel room. And my aunt is a diabetic, double amputee, that can’t get her meds, or the simple services that she needs, and was recently forced to put her house on the market, move into a living facility, and has basically lost everything. I never write when things are going well. So I guess I have our current economic and political situation to thank for this current group of songs (laughs).
What have you been writing about lately, as far as lyrics go?
I would definitely have to say that these are among the most personal songs I’ve ever written. To the point that every time I write something new I have to take a step back and question whether or not I should say these things in any kind of public forum (laughs). But I honestly feel like if I had to attribute any kind of “success” or longevity I’ve had in this town to any one thing, it would be that I always try to be as honest in my songwriting as possible. Even though it tends to get me in trouble sometimes.
You’ve been involved in the Fayetteville music scene for over a decade, how would you describe it then versus now?
Man. I’ve seen it go from extreme highs, to extreme lows. Of course, it’s really easy to look back with a sense of romantic nostalgia. I’m never going to get to see The Soophie Nun Squad, or The Hijinks, or Hundred Years War play on the floor of Clunk Records ever again. I’ve accepted that. I’ll never get to see Lucero, and The Paper Hearts tear down the downstairs of JR’s ever again. Ive accepted that. The saddest part to me is that a lot of my current friends missed out on all of that kind of stuff. Now everyone seems to be so much more focused on an image. We need a web presence. We need eight million likes on Facebook. We need to have professional promo pictures… That kind of stuff bugs me. It’s like really? You’re in a local band. You’ve taken an hour and a half to set up and soundcheck your samples, and drum triggers, and light show, etc… Come on, man. I hate all of that stuff. If more people would put that kind of effort and thought into their music, there would be a lot more interesting art being created. But I don’t want to seem like it’s all bad. Things are getting better. At least in my opinion. There are some really good bands in town. And we’re getting really good shows come through here more and more consistently. Things definitely seem to be on the up and up. I love Fayetteville. And its music scene. I have been blessed to have been able to do what I do for a very long time. Probably longer than I deserve. You don’t think about it until you’re at a show, and you look around, and you realize that pretty much no one you came into the scene with are still here. They’ve all moved on. Made beautiful families. Found careers. I’m not knocking that at all. I think it’s awesome. I just don’t know anything other than music. I don’t have children. I have a dog, and he doesn’t care how many shows I play (laughs).
Has getting older changed your outlook on music, and reasons to write a song?
That’s a really good question. I’ve been writing music since I was probably thirteen. I’ll be twenty nine this year. That means I’ve been writing music for longer than I didn’t write music. I would definitely say that things have changed. Not necessarily my songwriting process, but the way I look at writing songs. Recently I’ve gotten into the habit of injecting little secret things into my songs that no one will get but me. Or I’ll literally sit and look at a sentence, and change words around until I feel like I’ve milked everything I can out of every syllable, and I think it’s as good as it can possibly be. I know that no one else will analyze the songs to that point. And that’s perfectly fine. I try to write about things very specific to my life, in a way that is sort of universal. I like the fact that people can take words that I’ve written, and the feelings they evoke, and apply them to their own lives or situations. When I was thirteen, I didn’t think about songwriting with that kind of depth at all (laughs). It was more of a “Well, this rhymes with this…” kind of thing.
Any recording plans? How can we hear Archbuilders?
Man, right now it’s just about coming up with the funds. We don’t make a lot of money individually, so it’s just kind of a long process. But we do have some very big plans, that we are currently setting into motion. As far as hearing us goes, you’ll just have to come see us live for the time being. We have a couple of shows coming up here in town, and it’d be nice to see some new faces in the crowd!