What began as a musical meeting of the minds between William Beckett and fellow artist Michael Carden has become an international success. Though the band has experienced its ups and downs, with their new album, Santi gaining popularity and a headlining overseas tour set for the fall, The Academy IsÖ is here to stay.
Nighttimes.com caught up with Beckett on The Academyís tour bus before a performance on the Honda Civic Tour at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater.
NT: I understand you and Michael (Carden) had separate bands and you combined to form The Academy IsÖ, could you tell me a little about that?
WB: Sure, this was while we were in high school. I had a solo project I was doing and Mike had a band as well in the suburbs. I didnít really know him that well but we played shows together all the time. Adam (Siska) went to my high school, he was a big fan of my solo thing and also of Mikeís band, so Adam sort of coordinated our meeting. We started talking about music, what we liked about music, what we hated about music, and so we just decided to start making it with each other. That was the beginning of Mike and I, and then Adam was the clear choice to play bass. Butcher (Andy Mrotek) is from Milwaukee and we met him because he was also doing a band back then and we played some shows with him, heís a great drummer, so when it came time to find a permanent drummer he was our first choice, and that was a blessing for us to have him in this band. Michael (Guy Chislett) is the newest addition to the band for like 8 months and he came on about mid-way through the writing process of writing the record and thatís worked out incredibly, I feel like he was sort of the missing piece of the puzzle and so thatís how everyone came to be.
NT: Was it difficult with members sort of coming and going?
WB: Well, sure. I mean when you spend a lot of time with somebody that comes to be part of your life and when itís not working out anymore, and you know breaking up with someoneís never easy, getting a divorce is never easy, that feeling is much like it, but when staying together is counterproductive and dangerous then the choice is clear.
NT: How have you adjusted to your fame, being signed, being on the road, etc.?
WB: Well, getting signed doesnít make your band anything. There are a lot of bands that get signed and then just donít get anything going. Weíre lucky the way this happened. But then you also have to be proud of yourself and say we must have done something right with the songs that we wrote, and the way that we play live, and the way that we interact with our fans. And with the constant touring, our building process wasnít as drasticÖit didnít really happen overnight. Because of that we learned a lot. Building slowly, and with the amount of touring that we do, you see the very subtle differences every time you come back to a city. More people know your band, more people sing your songs, more people come to the show. Thatís a really organic and important way to build a band, especially our band. I donít think our bandís the type of band that can just have overnight successÖflash in the pan, pop stars-- thatís not really our thing.
NT: Do you feel like your sound has changed from your first album?
WB: Absolutely, to go back to like my solo stuff in high school, to our first EP, to Almost Here, to our acoustic EP, to Santi is a huge, huge, growth and progression. It was important for us, though, to pinpoint what was so good about Almost Here and why people responded to so much. Pretty much that was just us writing naturally and writing what we felt.
Weíre better musicians now, better songwriters, and I feel that this record is a big statement for music right now. If some people donít like it, then thatís fine with me because what really defines a band is the way that they grow and the way that they build and the way that they progress over a long period of time-- over multiple records as opposed to a band that puts out the same record four times. Maybe theyíll sell 5 million records, but if they put out the same record four times, in 10 years no oneís gonna remember them. Itís really important for us to do it slow and steady, sort of like the whole tortoise and the hare story. But to keep it real with our fans and to keep it real with our music, thatís what weíre doing.
NT: Have you had a favorite moment touring or a favorite tour?
WB: This tourís been a blast. Japan was amazing. Just being able to play shows for people who donít really speak English but they still can respond so passionately. I think thatís a really special thing. Itís a little strange being a lyricist, when people like your band but donít know what youíre saying. Itís definitely about a vibe and presentation over there. Itís really interesting, and my favorite part about being in this band is all the traveling that weíve done and how thatís helped us broaden our perspectives. Not view the world, our country, and each other from one perspective. Now we can actually look at whatís happening for what it really is, whether that be in our own lives or in the world around us. Whatís in our country, whatís on our news, as opposed to the news in Britain or in France. All those things are important if you want to have a well rounded understanding of whatís happening in the world. That stuffís really important to me.
NT: Do you have any goals for the future of the band or any other projects youíre working on?
WB: No, not really. I think that for The Academy IsÖ we just want to keep touring. Weíre doing a headlining tour in the fall, going to New Zealand, Japan and Australia after this tourís over. I think that as our band has more influence, itís more important for us to focus on things we think are important. Thatís what weíve been doing lately: trying to put on the best shows we possibly can to communicate with our fans. As it gets bigger, I think it gets harder because if you go out and talk to fans now, you could potentially get trampled. Itís what we do, after these shows we go out where the merch is and itís pretty intense. We canít do that as much as weíd like. Thatís why we do our TAI TV episodes. We play these webisodes, like documentary style stuff and some skit stuff, every Sunday on our website. Actually we just got a podcast on itunes for it. You can subscribe to it for free, download on your ipod, check it out. Also weíre getting involved in all these benefit shows and things that can help people, help make a difference.
NT: Do you have any band secrets youíd like to share?
WB: Oh man, I donít know, I meanÖIím really disappointed that the Bulls lost last night. Weíre big sports fans. Iím also very passionate about the fight to stop global warming and things like that. Thatís really important to me and weíre gonna try to get more involved and try to help people understand whatís really going on right now. Itís a scary time. So yea, Iíd say if you have time, go check out stopglobalwarming.org, itís a pretty eye opening website.