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Making the grade 'The Academy Is -- ' guitarist talks about the band

The Academy Is -, a band hailing from Chicago, has taken the indie and emo music scene by storm. The band recently appeared on "TRL" during Spankin' New Music Week. The band is singer William Beckett, guitarist Mike Carden, bass player Adam Siska, Tom Conrad on guitar/backing vocals and drummer Andy "The Butcher" Bishop Mrotek. NeXt interviewed Carden before their headlining concert Friday at Town Ballroom.

>NeXt: What should people look forward to on the [next] album?

MC: A new batch of some cool songs. Writing on the bus is different because you're writing on an acoustic guitar. You don't have the whole band, you can't go at [the music] real hard. William has been writing a lot. It would be easy to say it sounds 'folky' because of the nature of an acoustic guitar. I guess that's the next step in the writing process; transferring those songs that are more like campfire songs and kind of giving them The Academy Is [rock].

>NeXt: Is there a large basis of inspiration for your lyrics?

MC: On "Almost Here" it has a hopeful vibe. "Down and Out" is more of a serious song. A lot of it is metaphorically making it in the music business, but really it is a metaphor for anything, whether it's going to school or running a marathon.

>NeXt: Where do you usually write?

MC: Right here on the tour bus.

>NeXt: What are your favorite bands to tour with and why?

MC: I love Armor For Sleep a lot, I like Fall Out Boy. Motion City Soundtrack's great, Mae was really nice. The [All-American] Rejects guys were even so cool. We did the Something Corporate tour in January of last year. They went out of their way to be nice to us.

>NeXt: Speaking of Armor for Sleep, what did you think about being on their DVD?

MC: It's like boys being boys I guess. We're definitely not always like that. It's the same thing where we do the video journals on the Web site, where people kind of go "are they really this crazy all the time?" Well, we're really not; you're not going to show us just sitting around listening to a CD, that's not very humorous.

>NeXt: What do you think of the mainstream music industry?

MC: As far as indie or emo music goes, it has blown so far out of [what it used to be]. Remember when a few people had iPods; there would be that one kid at school with it. Then someone else got one, and now everyone's got one. Then there are bands like Panic! at the Disco that just kind of sideswipes everything and do it their own way. They wrote a great record at the right time. I guess there are no rules to this game.

>NeXt: Speaking of Fall Out Boy, how did you fall upon meeting them?

MC: We used to play VFW shows, it's almost like a church basement show. We would play those shows with Fall Out Boy and other bands. William and Tom were in different bands. There were all sorts of bands there like Spitalfield and Plain White Ts. We've played shows with [Fall Out Boy] and then they got signed to Fueled By Ramen and one day Pete called me and was like "you know John by Fueled by Ramen is coming" and I was like "who's that?" and he said "he's the guy that owns FBR and he wants to meet you guys." So that's kind of how that connection came about.

>NeXt: Describe the experience making the "Checkmarks" video.

MC: We had to cancel some of the dates here with Fall Out Boy because Butcher's grandma passed away and he had to go home. We were actually on our way to Buffalo when he got the call. So we stayed in New York. We just kind of walked around New York for five days because we had time to kill. We just kind of made this montage, cliche rock video.

>NeXt: What are some of your tour hobbies?

MC: I play guitar, I watch movies, I hang out with the other bands a lot. I'm kind of the guy that's behind the scenes that looks everything over. I'm with William a lot writing, too.

>NeXt: How did you feel about the TRL experience?

MC: Our management called us up and was like "They want you to do TRL" and I was kind of like "I don't know" because I didn't want to go on there. They said it was Spankin' New Music Week and Panic was going to come on and Avenged Sevenfold was going to play. So we actually said yeah and it went over really well. TRL taught me a lot; all of the people working were really cool people. It sounds kind of corny but we could tell those people really cared about music. Maybe they have to play the Mariah Careys and play the pop stuff.

>NeXt: How did you learn music?

MC: My dad was kind of a Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin kind of guy, and that's where I got my start. And then I kind of got into the grunge stuff. Weezer was the first band, Green Day, and I really loved the Smashing Pumpkins when I was in junior high. I started playing guitar so I took a few lessons and then I wanted to write songs. I started playing in bands when I was in high school. I used to play in a band with AJ from the band June. I knew William and Tom, I saw Siski at a Coheed show and I was making fun of his hair. Early on I was listening to a lot of classic rock; I was really into bluesy stuff. Then punk rock came like Trio, Saves the Day, The Promise Ring, The Curse, Death Cab for Cutie before they got massive. I started playing with William and we just started a rock band after that.

>NeXt: Who are your main influences?

MC: I like Elliott Smith a lot, The Cars, Death Cab -- I actually really like the new OK Go record. Another band I really like is Third Eye Blind. I really like Radiohead. New stuff I've been turned on to -- definitely when I heard the Panic record that Pete sent me before we started the tour. Pete sent a few tracks and I thought it was really cool and different.

Jessie Lewis is a senior at Williamsville East.

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