Fellow travelers of Fall Out Boy and beneficiaries of an ever-growing following thanks to years of constant touring–including a high-profile slot on the 2006 Warped Tour–the members of the Chicago quintet The Academy Is… are pausing to take stock of everything they’ve accomplished during the whirlwind rush of the last few years.
Formed in the Chicago suburbs in 2002 by singer William Beckett and guitarist Mike Carden–with Michael Guy Chislett, Adam T. Siska and Andy Mrotek completing the current lineup–the group is celebrating the fifth anniversary of the release of its first album with a homecoming show next weekend. As the band gears up to return to the studio, it seemed like high time to catch up with Beckett.
Q. Tell me about the idea of doing this anniversary show.
A. Well, it’s been five years since the release of our first album “Almost Here,” and we wanted to do something special for it. We were debating about where to do it, but the general consensus for all of us was that Metro is one of the best venues around. It’s a little smaller than some of the places we play now, but one of our first shows ever was at the Metro. To be able to celebrate where we started, that was just great.
Q. With the following the band has now, it seems as if it has one foot in the emo/punk underground and one foot in the mainstream. Is that a strange place to be?
A. We’re bridging the two worlds in a way. The thing for us is that we’ve always believed our band is its own entity. We’ve clearly separated ourselves from any particular scene, but we don’t belong in the same sentence as Nickelback or any of those mainstream rock bands. For us, we focus on what we do, and what we want to accomplish is something where the mold isn’t already set. We’re not trying to belong to an underground scene any more than we’re trying to belong to a mainstream scene; we’re just trying to make the best music we can and stay true to ourselves and our roots. A show like this brings it all together, and I think it speaks volumes to our fans and their loyalty that there are people flying in from Europe to see the show. It’s incredible.
I guess there are a lot of people who like our band because they’re a fan of the FBR [Fueled by Ramen record label] world, or they’re a fan of Fall Out Boy or Something Corporate. But we also have fans who’ve never heard of Something Corporate or Fall Out Boy–well, they’ve probably heard of Fall Out Boy, because it’s hard not to have! [Laughs] But yeah, it’s a strange place to be, but it’s also strangely comforting, because we rely on ourselves and we don’t need to rely on any particular scene.
Q. It does seem that one of the band’s strengths is it’s never pretended to be something it’s not. You guys were from the suburbs, and you put it right there in the title of your last album: “Fast Times at Barrington High” (2008).
A. We’re suburban kids, and we’ve never pretended that we were on the mean streets. Adam and I never actually went to Barrington; it was meant to be more a state of mind, and it just sounded better than “Fast Times at Schaumburg High.” For us, it was a snapshot of the suburban life–growing up in the suburban American environment.
Q. Tell me how the songs come together.
A. Sometimes I’ll have a song on acoustic and write it and record it and send it to the band, and then they’ll turn it upside down. Other times, it will just be from scratch in a room together; we’ll write a song out of nowhere. Or someone else in the band will have a piece of music that they’re excited about and bring it in. It’s pretty open.
Q. But you write all the lyrics?
A. Yeah, I write the lyrics, but we’ll discuss themes and things that are on our mind that we want to focus on. For instance, on our last album, it was very nostalgic: We were trying to lyrically capture that time and reflect on our experiences growing up in the Midwestern suburbs. We wanted to touch on those things that everybody experiences. But once something is covered, I don’t really want to go back to it. We wrote “Fast Times” and it sounds the way it does and the songs and the lyrics are the way that they are; it’s great, it’s a snapshot, and I feel like we accomplished what we were trying to do with that album and that concept. But now we’ve been there and done that.
Q. So the band is gearing up to record again–what are you excited to write about now?
A. I have a two-year-old daughter, and she’s changed my life in incredible ways and scary ways. I’m viewing the world in different ways through different eyes. I guess I’m just alarmed at some of the things that are happening in our country and across the world, as far as how the economy has been in the s—–er, and how people’s entire lives are being turned upside down and how that’s affecting people socially. And the Internet age and how that affects things socially. It scares the s— out of me, when I think about my daughter. But I view it as an opportunity for me to impart my perspective on the world today and on people and on myself–my fears and aspirations and goals that I still have and the hope that I still have for myself and my family. How you approach these things has a lot to do with how you survive and flourish today.
The Academy Is… , Sing It Loud and special guests
6:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6
Metro, 3730 N. Clark
(773) 549-4140, www.metrochicago.com