Filed under: Interviews, Scene Around Town | Tags: August Premiere, Bandersnatch, Chicago, Fall Out Boy, Foo Fighters, interview, Interviews, Knock Out, Led Zeppelin, Syracuse University, The Academy Is..., The Plain White Ts, University Union, William Beckett
It’s not often you find a band that makes a tiny underground venue feel like massive arena. But University Union found such a band in the second concert of its Bandersnatch series: Chicago pop-rockers The Academy Is… headlined an energetic and mesmerizing set on Tuesday night, backed by Hot Chelle Rae and local opener Fazeshift (see photos here).
20 Watts’ Irina Dvalidze sat down with frontman William Beckett and bassist Adam Siska before the show. She knew they’d talk about fame and touring — but she also got a glimpse into the weirdly philosophical minds of these two well-adored musicians.
20 Watts: Could you describe your sound for those of our fans who are not really familiar with The Academy Is…?
Adam Siska: That’s probably my favorite question… no.
William Beckett: It’s impossible to describe your own sound, because what we think of our sound is not only what we have out right now, but what we want to be, what we are going to be, so its kind of hard to describe that. I would be weary of a band that can describe their sound right away, because it’s clear that they are going through something particularly that’s more planned out and calculated, contrived, as opposed to the band whose sound evolves naturally which I think our band does.
20W: Since we are talking about sound and you guys are from Chicago, how would you describe your evolution from that local scene to something that has become nationwide and legitimately big?
Adam: I do think that there is definitely something in our sound that definitely is a product of Chicago and the time period that we came out of. I do think that our surroundings especially when we were writing the first record, our surroundings being high school, young adults, basically teenagers, that affected our sound a lot, being from the Midwest. We really were fortunate enough to come out of Chicago at a time when there really was something special happening with the scene and the community of bands playing together.
Those are the times we’ll never forget. I used to go to those shows, and eventually I started the band with this guy (Beckett), and we got to play those shows, which was a dream come true. I’d love to go back and relive 2003 in Chicago but it all feels like such a long time ago now.
William: Plus one of the coolest things about where we came from, was that, well I used to play acoustic, and Adam has always been a big supporter of my songwriting but back then he was one of the only people locally that actually believed in what I was doing. We used to play some small shows with Fall Out Boy and The Plain White T’s, small events like that. Also the bands that had broken up but were essential to the local scene, bands like Knock Out, August Premiere, Spittle Field…
Adam: It was a great thing going on back then. The coolest part was that you would go out and see 50 to 100 people out to see the shows and you would know 75% of those people. You used to get to know the bands too and everyone was pretty much all on the same wavelength. There were no rock stars on that scene — there was just a group of friends. These were people who really liked music and who didn’t quite fit in. Going out to high school parties was not our thing so we just went and put on concerts.
William: The high school party just didn’t offer what we were looking for. But since then we have learned a lot from those times and at those times it was all about being your own entity, being self-sustaining and self-aware and to be honest a lot of our work ethic came from those formidable years.
Once Fall Out Boy got signed, along with August Premiere and Knock Out all around the same time, that was when we knew that we had a chance cause there was something really special going on and we were certainly part of it, as pioneers of that scene along with those bands. So then we just started touring and held that work ethic. So as our sound has evolved and our influences have changed and we have grown exponentially as individuals, as friends and as a band, it has indeed been a very long and winding road. Yet I don’t think we are at our destination yet.
20W: You guys have been on tour for a while, what is it like being on the road 24/7?
William: It’s a dream come true and its your worst nightmare. We are all making a huge sacrifice being away from our families and being away from our friends, what little friends we have left, having toured pretty much consistently for four years. Its hard to keep relationships going with friends or loved ones, it hard to keep those relationships up because life is so unbalanced when you are on the road. Home life and band life is pretty separated unless you work at it extremely hard.
On the other side of the token this is our dream, this is exactly what we want to do with our lives, this it what we are best at, this is what we are good at: performing live, being a band and being on tour, meeting with our fans, conversing with our fans after shows…
Adam: I personally find touring to be a little bit of a comfort zone. When we are not on tour for even a couple of weeks, I can start to feel surrounded by a small place where I don’t really fit in. However when I am on tour with other musicians and other bands it feels like home to me.
William: You usually become a prop of your environment and our environment is this traveling circus basically. It’s hard to feel like you are a part of life at home, which is what it is. And us being all very different people you respond to things differently, like I love being at home and while we all love being at home, as much as the tour is a safe haven for all of us, home is essentially more important to some of us rather than others.
It’s a challenge in a lot of ways, because you need to live harmoniously with five different guys in a small space on the bus. For us, we are used to it but for baby bands still growing into this, it can be the cause of why they don’t last very long. Can’t complain though, ’cause well, this is our dream, and we do love it. Frankly to be honest if we didn’t love it, we would not be doing it at this point.
20W: You have been around for a while now — since 2003. Where do you see yourself a few years down the road?
William: That’s an impossible question to answer, you know, three years ago would you see yourself where you are now? It’s a tough question. I’d say that our ambitions now for the short term and for the long term is to make the best album that we possibly can. Whether that takes a year to make, whether it takes months to make, we just want to make the album of our career. I guess that’s just where we are right now.
Adam: I believe that is the key to where we will be in three to five years. We can’t predict the future. Five years from now I could be a monk living in a monastery somewhere or a body builder or the biggest role model bass player on the planet.
William: There is so much that is out of your control, doesn’t matter whether you are in the music industry or anything else, there is little in your life that you can control. I’d say you can control maybe 30% of what happens day to day and it just comes down to what you do with that 30%, comes down to how you live your life day to day to better your self and those around you.
If you start thinking too long term you are going to get lost in your day to day, and your day to day is all that matters — the little things that end up making life worth living and fruitful. None of us even know if we are going to be here in three years. Having a plan is important, but it is equally important how you manage your day to day and the relationships in your life. It’s the small things that count.
20W: Lately on the Internet there have been rumors about a hiatus, along with the rumors that there will be a new CD next year. Could you guys talk about that?
William: Sure. Hiatus, if by that you mean taking time to write and record a new album. In that sense we have taken a hiatus after every album we have made if you want to look at it that way.
Adam: People throw that word around a lot, anyone says hiatus and people think, oh they are breaking up, but what’s going on is that we are taking a break after this tour to make another record.
William: Yes, the main focus for this time off is to re-evaluate who we are as individuals and take a little time to decompress, all of us do. And then follow that by conceptualizing and writing the best album that we have ever written. Now if that is a hiatus, then yeah, that is exactly what we are doing.
20W: So fans can definitely expect a new CD?
William: Yes. There will be another album.
20W: Speaking of touring, you have played small intimate venues and massive full arenas. Which one would you say you prefer?
William: For us it can go either way. The small intimate shows are incredible and tonight is going to be one of them. On the other hand we have played in Chile, headlining in a massive arena and it’s packed with thousands and thousands of people, and it is a whole different feeling, because it is larger then life. You just feel like this is so much bigger than you.
Adam: I think its good having both cause you if you had to play an arena every night you would just get sick of it, just as if you played a small venue you would get sick of that too. It’s two different experiences that you need to have.
William: One thing that is for damn sure, a show is more fun and more rewarding for us if it’s a small venue and it’s packed. Small packed room is just simply better then half-empty arena. I’d always rather have a small packed room full of die-hards, cause that is just what we are.
If you could tour with anyone, living or dead, who would you pick?
Adam: I want to go on a tour with Foo Fighters. That would be fun, plus they are living too so that’s even more fun.
William: I would love to tour with Led Zeppelin, and actually looking back on it since we have toured with Jack’s Mannequin, doing that again would be great as well.