It’s a packed floor, hundreds of sweaty bodies pressed together to get as close to the stage as possible. The lights go down and the screaming begins as the band takes the stage. When the lights go back up, William Beckett is standing martyr-like with a cheeky grin on his face before he starts crooning to the crowd. There’s a pound to the drums by “The Butcher” and the sea of people begins to move, singing every word as guitarists Mike Carden and Michael Guy Chislet strum the initial chords to electrify the air.
“It’s definitely been a bogus journey but we’re having a good time, We’re almost done. [with the tour]. We have two weeks left which is a little bittersweet,” commented bassist Adam “Sisky Business” Siska from the second floor of The Roxy, before The Academy Is…’s show in Boston, Mass on Nov 12.
The band has been touring non-stop since early this year to promote “Fast Times At Barrington High,” named after Siska and lead singer William Beckett’s former alma mater. The entire album revolves around a high school motif, but the band stresses that the record was never meant to be a “high school album”.
Upon listening to “Fast Times,” it is evident that without the high school theme, the songs have their own significant meaning that can be applied to all aspects of life. Whether it is the beginning of a complicated relationship (“After The Last Midtown Show”) or moving on from a certain experience (“The Test”), the lyrics deliberate on emotions that affect everyone even after graduation.
“I think that high school is a pretty interesting time for people, people like us, middle class American suburban kids. I think that a lot of things that I’d been through in high school have really become reoccurring trends later on in life,” said Siska. “The record certainly is not just about high school and many people think that but high school is kind of a platform, or a metaphor for the things that we are talking about, we always have been talking about — which is motivation and the drive to do something exciting.”
“Fast Times at Barrington High” has become more than an album title for The Academy Is… – it’s a lifestyle. After recording the album, a third for the quintet (“Almost Here” in 2005, “Santi” in 2007), they headlined the entire Vans Warped Tour. The band spent their album release day flying to Australia for another tour with label mates Panic at the Disco and Cobra Starship. Along with a brief stint in Europe, The Academy Is… has been keeping busy with their own headlining tour this fall – The Bill and Trav’s Bogus Journey. Andrew “The Butcher” Mrotek laid down drum tracks for the entire record in a day and a half. The Academy Is… prefers a hectic schedule to make things more exciting, Siska said.
“I think when you spread [work] out for that long the aim for that focus, and that natural energy could be lost. Working quickly in the studio keeps us really spontaneous and fresh all the time. This record was definitely our favorite one to make [because it was the] the most fun,” said Siska.
The third album comes only a year after the release of their sophomore effort, “Santi,” which proved to be disappointing in record sales and caused turmoil among eagerly awaiting fans. “Santi” became the embodiment of the pressure and struggle in the band, especially after the removal of guitarist Tom Conrad right before recording.
The process of writing and making “Fast Times at Barrington High” became about regrouping and finding again the essence of The Academy Is….
“Coming back in to make the third one was back to basics. It was just like ‘Oh, we get to make another record.’ How many bands get to make three albums? For us, we had gotten back to a place where we were good enough friends that we knew what we wanted,” said Siska.
The band’s revival from a “sophomore slump” was not dependent solely on their songs and material. The Academy Is… seems to have acknowledged that from the start. They have created a unique and open relationship with the people that directly determine their livelihood – their fans. Not only do they offer meet and greets and early entry access to their fan club, Santi’s Little Helpers, but they also write blogs and post episodes of their weekly TV show – “TAI TV” – to stay in touch with thousands of kids worldwide that dedicate their time memorizing lyrics and going to shows.
“We just want to encourage our fans to be creative and have a good time. In terms of the closeness with our fans, we just think it’s exciting,” said Siska. “I think the days of the rock star, as we thought of them, are over. I think the hotel trashing days are over. We just want to have a good time, play music and have a positive relationship with our fans, and that’s that.”
There are only couple of few hours before the show and they still have to sound check, get dinner, and greet all of their fans before doors open. The band will not to neglect their “Santi’s Little Helpers”. Even with less than thirty minutes, every member of the club walks away with a signature and a few precious moments with the people they have been waiting hours outside in the cold to see.
“When you spend so much time with other guys all year round the tension can build up and I think this time we just had a blast hanging out and playing songs. We really found who we were in the sense that we got comfortable with everything in our lives just in terms of our friendships and our relationships,” Siska adds before heading back to the bus with hopes that he’ll be able to catch a nap before the madness. Despite being tired, Siska makes it obvious that The Academy Is… has no complaints about where they are, “We’re happy,”
It’s 10:05 p.m. when William says this is going to be the last song of the evening, and they were supposed to be off the stage five minutes ago. There’s a shifty glance between Beckett and guitarist Mike Carden because they know there is a stage manager somewhere in the building having a heart attack. They were brought here to put on a show and something as trivial as a curfew is not going to stop them from delivering the screaming crowd a full set. Beckett only asks for everyone’s “eyes and ears to the front of the stage for only just one second” at the beginning of “Attention”, but it’s three minutes of chorus jubilation. It seems everyone in the building knows the words. No matter the struggles and disagreements it took, The Academy Is… is here, there’s no almost about it.