Posted On 14 Nov 2017
The band has been exploding overseas, and you’re about to be seeing way more of them here stateside this year. In the last 18 months alone they’ve supported The Strokes (at Hyde Park), Pixies, Noel Gallagher, Cage the Elephant, Twenty One Pilots and more, sold out their first-ever UK tour (playing 1500 cap venues), and racked up millions of Spotify plays – all with just a 5-song EP to their name. Their debut album, “Tales From The Backseat” will be early next year on January 12th via Downtown/Interscope, but check out lead single “Bear Claws” here, which Uproxx says “boasts an anthemic sing-along chorus with the indie edge of groups like The Strokes”: http://uproxx.com/music/the-academic-bear-claws-premiere/
The music digs deep into everything from American Football to The Supremes for inspiration, incorporating guitar-driven hooks reminiscent of early Arctic Monkeys or Bloc Party. Fantastic live video from a couple years back: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFJa7dqSxKI
Learn more about The Academic in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! Where does this interview find the band today? Is there music playing in the background? What music do you all like to listen to when you are relaxing or answering interview questions?
You’re very welcome. We have just gotten off a flight from Kansas City and arrived in Little Rock, Arkansas for a show tonight at Metroplex. We are on our way to the venue right now, there is some serious bluegrass playing on the radio! The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac and Beach Boys are always on the playlist for relaxing!
How does 2017 so far compare to last year? How differently did you all approach this year than you did 2016?
Our focus this year was very much on getting our debut album made. There wasn’t much of a window in 2016 because we were playing a show every few days. Also, our logic is why spend a shit load of money making a record, putting it out and nobody really knows who you are. I don’t think we would have done ourselves justice if we had just rushed it just for the sake of getting something out. In hindsight it was the right decision. Maybe our mindset is a bit old school but getting out there and building our fanbase made more sense before we released.
Can you recall the moment you all realized that you could really make music together and be this band? Why do you think your name truly represents this group and the music that you create?
I don’t think there was a sudden realization exactly, but we did all start discovering music together, around the same time, maybe at about 12 or 13 years old in the early 2000’s. When we heard bands like The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys, The White Stripes or Interpol for the first time it was like having this life affirming moment that made us want to be in a band. We went through a few names back in the early days but about half way through school we were introduced to “The Catcher in The Rye.” It was a book at the time we could all relate to and it had a big influence in some of those early songs we wrote. The word ‘academic’ kept coming up in the first chapter. We all thought it worked well and seemed pretty apt as we were all in school together at the time.
I always like to ask artists how their hometown has been an influence on the kind of music they make and really what kind of a band they are today. So how do you think your hometown in Ireland has affected you and the music that you create?
A lot of the writing on this first record is largely influenced on where we are from, which is the outskirts of a small town called Mullingar. The town itself, while small, has always been a hive of activity when it came to music or the arts in general. You didn’t have to go very far to hear some kind of live music. As a town it has always been very supportive of new bands and singers, and we owe a lot to all those places who let us into their establishments in the very early days to play even though we were underage at the time. It gave us an outlet to start playing in front of people, although there were many school nights where it was just us and the guy behind the bar! We were so young when we started out, we were all still living at home, going to school together, going out together, finding our feet as young adults together, so it was natural that those experiences are reflected in our music.
Later this year, you will be releasing your full-length album. What was it like making it? Did anything about the whole process surprise or unexpectedly challenge you?
What might surprise people is the fact that since we have been a band we never actually spent much time in studio. It was never really our thing. We made a conscious decision early on to just get on the road and do it the old fashioned way, build up our fan-base and release a full length record when we thought there might actually be people interested in listening to it. To finally get in and spend some proper time putting it all down was a really great experience and we think in hindsight it was worth waiting to do it. We were lucky to have had Tim Pagnotta on board to produce. Tim is just such a talented guy, he has such an easy way about him but still was able to push us out of our comfort zones when needed. He completely got who we were as a band. We recorded the majority of the album in LA earlier this year and got to finish it off in London a couple of months back. We were probably most surprised at how well we adapted in a studio environment and how much we learned through the entire recording process.
Do you think that if you went into the studio tomorrow to start making a brand new album, it would sound the same as the one you are going to be releasing soon?
I think as a band you’re always trying to push on from the last thing you’ve done. A lot of the songs that are on this record were formed over the last couple of years as we were experiencing life through our teens. Now that we have just turned into our twenties, I guess we would have a different story to tell. Whether sonically it pushes on from this record remains to be seen, I guess we will just have to see how it goes.
What was the inspiration for the album and in particular your lead single, “Bear Claws”? Typically, how do you all go about putting songs together from beginning to end?
The inspiration behind the album, it’s very much about the trials and tribulations of growing up basically. A lot of it is about socially observing the people we were surrounded by in our lives in a small town, the emotional highs and lows of being a young adult that type of thing. “Bear Claws” is a coming of age song. It’s about looking at the emotional development through adolescence, about not holding things back and being open with yourself and those around you, which is much easier said than done around that time of your life.
You guys have supported so many incredible artists on the road so do you have a favorite touring experience so far? What bands have really taught you the most about playing music live?
Touring with Judah & The Lion across the US has been an amazing experience. Those guys and their crew have all become like family to us over the last month and they put on one hell of a show for their fans.
I have to ask about your first ever show in LA and in the US at the Peppermint Club. I was there (I came by and introduced myself to Craig at the end) and had a blast so I would love to know what you guys thought about it all? You seem to have a very easy and effortless dynamic up on stage together. Do you sense that as well? Since it was your first show here, were you all really nervous? How was the rest of your time here in the US?
We loved it. Like you mentioned it was our first ever headline show in the US, so we were a little nervous. We only announced it a couple of days beforehand so to see the room that busy was pretty crazy. We genuinely didn’t expect such a big crowd. We have been best friends a long time and playing together on stage now feels like second nature so I guess that dynamic comes across to the audience in our show. The rest of the time was great, we flew to New York to play a secret show the following night, which was really cool. We love the US and we can’t wait to get back on tour here in 2018.
Where do you think you are all happiest- on stage performing, in the studio recording new music or elsewhere?
I think we would all agree to being on a stage performing is where we are most comfortable and happiest.
In the 8 years that you have been playing together, how do you think that you have grown or really changed?
We have definitely grown stronger as a band in a live environment but on a personal level I don’t think we have changed as people that much, we are all pretty grounded.
With the summer being just about over, what was your favorite part about it? What was something fun that this group did or tried?
The most exciting moment of the summer for us was probably the release of ‘Bear Claws’. It’s a song we’ve loved for so long, finally getting the chance to share it with the world was a special special moment. Something interesting we tried…We dined on alligator and it was surprisingly good!
We are living in a crazy and at times rough world right now so I am curious how you think being in this band gives you the most joy in life today? Do you think that new music being created today is going to reflect these hard times?
What is great about music, it allows you freedom of expression, there are no limitations to say what you want to say. We are living in the most bizarre age that’s ever been known to man. Seeing the creative forces in the world respond to so many of the different situations that surround us inspires us as a band to have our say on certain issues.
Who are some of your favorite artists? Is there anyone that you would still love to work with in the future?
What would be a dream collaboration for this band? We all share a common bond in our love for guitar music from the early late 90’s 2000’s. Bands like The Strokes, Weezer, Blur , Arctic Monkeys were bands who made us want to be in a band! Collaborations…haven’t thought about it too much but hey if Frank Ocean or Lorde were up for doing something we would probably be down with that.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
We hope people feel the same way as we do about our record! It’s definitely a happy album, lots of up-tempo songs and singalong moments. But we also hope that the coming of age stories are relatable for our fans. The ups and downs of accepting adulthood and sacrificing some of your innocence to get there.
What advice would you give to a band just getting started? Or even to someone young that is thinking of becoming a musician one day?
The best way to learn is to do. Take risks, put yourself out there, make mistakes, and enjoy the ride.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about the band or your music?
I guess we just hope that people enjoy our record. We feel like it’s a really unique listen. Coming of age in rural Ireland has never really been given this sort of indie treatment before. The album’s out on Jan 12th and we will be on tour all through 2018!