There aren't enough words to express how accomplished this Chicago band is. Amazing sounds good but not good enough. With inspiring lyrics plastered throughout influential melodic guitar riffs, bass lines and intense drum rhythms, The Academy Is... is bound to go far. The Academy Is ... is Mike Carden (guitar), William Beckett (vocals), Adam T. Siska (bass), Adam "the Butcher" Mrotek (drums), and Michael Guy Chislett (guitar).
The Academy Is... came together about six years ago when Beckett and Carden met through a mutual friend during high school. At that time, Beckett was doing an acoustic project and Carden was in a band now known as June. While playing in the same circuit with bands like Fall Out Boy and Plain White Ts, Carden and Beckett decided to form a band and put out a self-titled EP called "The Academy."
After high school, they decided to take their music more seriously. "I remember going to my guidance counselor and hearing 'you're making a big mistake. No one makes it into the music world. It's such a hard thing to make it into,' and I agree. It's not easy but we never took no for an answer," says Carden. "William and I had this thing where we were like we're going to be in this band and we're going to tour. We never thought we'd get to this place."
While opening for Fall Out Boy, the guys were signed onto FueledbyRamen and released debut album "Almost Here" in 2005. " 'Almost Here' is hopeful. It's positive, but it's not cheeky positive to the point where it's stupid, 'everything is going to be OK,' " says Carden. "It has more of the idea of being two kids that just want to go do something and I think that people relate to that very much. I still do."
"Almost Here" put the Academy Is ... on the road for three years straight and while acquiring a large fan base through songs like "Slow Down" and "Down and Out," the band quickly became a force in the music industry.
Going from being 17 when "Almost Here" was written to being 23 for sophomore album "Santi," Carden said the writing for "Santi" was a little different. "Santi" was written in a warehouse where band members all sat down and jammed out ideas that became songs. During these jam sessions they would run a hardware computer system that would record as they played for about three hours. "We would listen back and be like 'that was kind of cool. Let's try that,' " says Carden.
"[After 'Almost Here'] we toured, toured, toured and a lot of those songs are about coming back home and kind of looking at everyone around you and going, 'Wow, we've been gone for three years but this is what happened while we were gone' " says Carden. "'Almost Here' is more self-driven... 'Santi' is more about relationships."
Carden isn't complaining about being on tour for so long, but he says when you're on tour you miss out on "things that you would just be at that you couldn't because you're on tour. As dumb as it sounds, I didn't get to see my brother graduate from high school ... On one hand you could be like 'that doesn't matter that much' but on the other hand a lot of those things only happen once," says Carden.
As far as "Santi" goes, "I'm mostly proud that we didn't repeat ourselves," says Carden. "With 'Unexpected Places' and a few other songs, I understand that these songs are going to be harder songs for people to completely wrap their heads around at first or second listen, but once you get into the record you understand it as a whole and you can really dig it. I feel accomplished because with these more difficult songs, I feel like we've grown with our audience and their tastes have changed with ours."
The Academy Is... has a close relationship with fans. "We don't need to be at the mercy of MTV, or on the radio all the time. We can do that stuff online by Sisky (Adam) writing a journal entry or Jack putting up photos so often so that people know that we're alive and well," says Carden.
"I can go on a message board or MySpace and read exactly what they [the fans] think about my new song or video ... and that's awesome that you can write back and develop some type of relationship."
There are some days where they all grab a laptop and spend about two hours writing back to their fans, Carden said. "I think it's important because at the end of the day these are the people that let us do what we do. I wish I could respond to everyone and talk to everyone. I really do," says Carden.
They also connect with fans through a weekly segment they call "TAI TV" (at www.theacademyis.com). Carden explains "It's a comic relief for us so we get to show our lives every week in our own weird way."
They're all very nice, down-to-earth guys, so when you see them, don't have an "OMG" moment. "I don't want people to freak out. So when someone comes up to me in that kind of way where it's almost as if we've known each other for years because we have that connection, that's important. I'd rather have that connection than stardom or whatever that I'm not interested in," says Carden.
The guys just wrapped up the Sleeping With Giants Tour, but after taking a break for December they'll continue to write new material. Carden mentioned that there is a possibility of touring with Jack's Mannequin, and they've started talking about Warped Tour next summer. They might even finish a new album by this time next year. "We've been blessed because we have our foundation in touring. We've been touring for many years now and we have a fan base that understands us and we understand them. I'd rather play cool smaller clubs that are awesome because they're more fun," says Carden.
So keep a lookout.
Marli Lee McGarrah is a junior at Buffalo Seminary.