On June 4th, 2007, when the Honda Civic Tour stopped in Columbia, MD, I had the amazing opportunity to interview guitarist Mike Carden of The Academy Is… The interview was very in-depth and it went really well. Thanks to Christina and Tom for all of your help!
Tell me your name and a little bit about yourself, please.
I’m Mike, I play guitar in The Academy Is…, and I started the band with William about four or five years ago.
How did you two end up making a band together? Because I’ve heard the two of you were in rival bands in Chicago, so how did that come about?
Basically in high school, we played in different groups and different acts. He had a solo thing, and I played in another band. We just kind of at one point said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Why don’t we start a band together?Ã¢â‚¬ so that’s kind of how that started. I think we were at a Death Cab for Cutie show, and that’s where we first said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Let’s do a band.Ã¢â‚¬
So you two were never unfriendly with each other?
Oh, no, it was just minor bullshit.
So what music genre would you consider TAI to go under?
I don’t know, I mean, I guess that’s for journalists to put down. I guess it’s rock music, but we really borrow a lot of things from a lot of different [places]. Being born in the eighties and then listening to a lot of nineties music, I got to choose from sixties music and seventies music, so I had a lot of different decades to choose from. So I guess it’s a melting pot of all of those things, which is very nice because I get to pick from any genre I want, which is cool.
What would you consider your biggest musical influences, having all of that different music to listen to?
I guess early on there were kind of three stages, well, no, four. Early on, my father would play Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, things like that like Bob Dylan. Then when I was old enough to understand that I could go out and buy CDs, Smashing Pumpkins were a huge band, Nirvana, STP. And then I guess when Limp Bizkit and Korn came out, that’s where I kind of went down and started listening to bands I wasn’t really happy with, where music was going, and even at a younger age I started listening to The Getup Kids, Promise Ring, Alkaline Trio, and so that kind of got me into punk rock music or whatever this has come about, or emo, or whatever you wanna call it. Now, it’s just like anything. I kind of go back and forth. I still love the Pumpkins. That is a band that will always stay with me.
What motivated you to pursue a musical career?
I guess just going to shows and seeing bands play and feeling that maybe I could do that too. Early on, the goals were very small and they still to a certain extent have surpassed our expectations of that we get to do this for a living, so I guess just early on seeing bands play and having a van or a trailer I was kind of like Ã¢â‚¬Å“I want to do thatÃ¢â‚¬, let alone being on a big tour with a tour bus, so I’m very happy with the way it all went.
How do you think, since Ã¢â‚¬Å“Almost HereÃ¢â‚¬ was such a successful album, how do you think your musical style has changed since then, if at all?
I’m twenty-two now. I wrote almost here with William around the ages of seventeen and eighteen, so during those years, influences were different. I guess our relationships were a bit different. For example, just even my family life with my folks during Ã¢â‚¬Å“Almost HereÃ¢â‚¬, we were almost on non-speaking terms, and now we have a great relationship, so obviously things change in four years. My taste changed, the people you hang out with, the way you dress: everything changes, especially in these years of development. So I think we’re finally kind of finding ourselves: where we really wanna be. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Almost HereÃ¢â‚¬ was this beautiful mistake in the sense that we went and did that record, and no one had any expectations for the record. It was cheap, it was fast to make, and the next thing you know, we ended up touring two and a half years off of that, and got all this success off of that record, which no one really knew, so looking back on it, it was kind of a magical little journey that I never thought was going to happen but it lets us do what we do now.
Do you write your songs from personal experience, then?
Yes, yes, absolutely. William basically takes care of all of the lyrics, and as far as the melodies and the landscapes of the guitars and drums, then everyone puts their input into that.
How long does it take you to record an album?
They both were fast. Santi was recorded in twenty-two days, so pretty fast. We just kind of go for it. We’re the kind of band that’s hopefully going to make a lot of records. We don’t get too caught up in, Ã¢â‚¬Å“This has to be the oneÃ¢â‚¬. As long as there’s people that follow our band, and we like what we’re doing, it’s all good.
Tell me a little about your upcoming tour with Armor for Sleep? When is that going to be?
Nothing’s confirmed right now, but it will be around the fall months, so around September, October, November, sometime then. And we’re very excited about it. I don’t have too many details on it because I’m still trying to figure it all out, but as soon as we do everyone will know.
What do you plan to do following that tour?
Possibly a co-headlining tour with someone. We’re also just talking and it’s a lot about scheduling and hopefully touring with your friends but a lot of the schedules don’t sometimes line up so we always try to figure out way in advance what we’re going to do in February and March and April. But there’s also a possibility of going in and making another record. I don’t see why not, so maybe we should just do that. We’re writing songs now.
What bands would you say that you’re really friendly with?
On this particular tour, obviously Cobra Starship. I mean, we toured with Gabe when he was in Midtown, and Midtown was a band that took us out, and we got to tour with them, so I know him very well. I get along with those guys very well. The Fall Out Boy guys we’ve toured so many times with. We basically grew up with them, so I know those guys. Paul Wall’s real cool. He’s very friendly, and he just completely exceeded our expectations of being bros with him. And those +44 guys are just fun, so good times, and jokesters. As far as other bands, we love touring with, actually, one of our favorite tours was with Something Corporate, which would now be Andrew in Jack’s Mannequin. We’d love to do a tour with them, which is just, again, scheduling, and I’m trying to think of other bands we really get along with. Gym Class Heroes we always get along with, and whenever we see those guys we hang out. We pretty much try to get along with everybody, and there’s just only a few bands that have rubbed us the wrong way.
So you don’t have problems with many people?
No, not at all. I hope not. There’s just here and there some bands that you don’t associate yourself with.
What would you say your favorite song is to perform live?
Off of Ã¢â‚¬Å“Almost HereÃ¢â‚¬ probably Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Phrase that PaysÃ¢â‚¬. I like Ã¢â‚¬Å“Black MambaÃ¢â‚¬ a lot too, playing it live. Off Ã¢â‚¬Å“SantiÃ¢â‚¬, I like Ã¢â‚¬Å“SeedÃ¢â‚¬ a lot, that’s one of my favorites, and I like Ã¢â‚¬Å“NeighborsÃ¢â‚¬. Those are fun songs to play. It changes. Some of them we haven’t really gotten to do. There are some we’re holding off for the headlining tour to do some of the stuff, so we’ll see soon enough.
How long do you guys get to play on the Honda Civic Tour?
Half an hour. It’s not very long, so it’s about half and half. We do half songs off of the new record and half songs off of Ã¢â‚¬Å“Almost HereÃ¢â‚¬. It’s anywhere from seven to eight songs. It’s good. It’s get up, do it, and get out. It’s fun.
How was it to perform on Ã¢â‚¬Å“Jimmy Kimmel LiveÃ¢â‚¬?
Great, I mean, TV’s always a little bit weird. It’s weird. When you sign up and you try and do a band, you don’t really think of those things, but it’s like things you need to do. As far as emotionally, it’s a bit more stressful than anything, but we’re getting better at it. As you keep doing it, you start losing the whole thing, but obviously the initial, Ã¢â‚¬Å“This is on TVÃ¢â‚¬ and for some reason when there’s cameras around it’s a different way of performing, where it feels different. It’s just because even though it seems live, and it’s like Ã¢â‚¬Å“You do that every dayÃ¢â‚¬, it’s something different. I mean, I like it. It stirs it all up for a second.
Here’s a final question for you: What would you say to your fans that haven’t had a chance to meet you yet?
A: It’s hard, because we try to…It’s funny because with this band that’s a hard question because a lot of times before the Internet and before technology, you’d have to kind of read about your favorite bands through interviews and magazines, where we attempt to show a window to our fans and specific fans through journals and videos and TAI TV and these things. So hopefully there’s more of a togetherness, where you’re not reading it completely through anybody because we craft those ourselves. So hopefully you kind of get to know us through that. But I guess if they met us, I think…This is so clichÃƒ© because every band probably says it, but we’re pretty down-to-earth guys, and I know for a fact that we’re very happy and proud, and I think we have great fans, so we get to do this because of them, and vice versa, so it’s good!
Actually, I decided I have one more question for you. What message do you try to convey to your fans through your music and everything?
I think with Ã¢â‚¬Å“Almost HereÃ¢â‚¬, looking back on it, it’s a very green message in the sense that we were very ambitious and ready to go and take it all over kind of, and I think a lot of people connected with that idea, especially when I was seventeen and eighteen. I think that was the biggest thing. It was, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Well, let’s go outÃ¢â‚¬. As you tour, and you get off a bit of your high horse, and you tour and you come home, you start seeing that the things you want in life are pretty much the same overall where you just want to be happy and you want to be around your friends, you wanna find that one person that you wanna hang out with a little bit more, and you want your family to be safe and happy. I think a lot of Ã¢â‚¬Å“SantiÃ¢â‚¬, a lot of those themes, deal with a lot of just more things that are really happening, and no matter what’s going on, and no matter how successful you are, there are just some things that are across the board, relative for everyone. And that was a very important record for us to make because in making Ã¢â‚¬Å“SantiÃ¢â‚¬, a lot of the themes, lyrically, William really went in deep to some things and I think the landscapes of the music changed a little bit and we got to be a little bit more. That’s kind of that. But as far as the messages go, the other thing is, which we laugh about and joke about, we take our music very seriously, but as people we don’t take it so seriously. So hopefully through the TAI TV and the journals, people see that side of it, too, that we’re not all sitting here and going Ã¢â‚¬Å“How are we going to do this?Ã¢â‚¬ We’re really just friends and we try to have a good time .
You mean like you’re not just famous?
A: Yeah, exactly! And the other thing is that I would much rather have someone come up to me and go, Ã¢â‚¬Å“I feel like I know you, MikeÃ¢â‚¬ rather than just being in like a hysteria, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Oh my God, this is this personÃ¢â‚¬ because really, we’re really normal people. I know how I am, and there’s still bands for me that when I look up to certain guitar players or certain singers that I’m even impressed or just in their presence I’m happy to be or even to meet them, so I understand it. But with technology, we have a way, a nicer way to do it, because back when you couldn’t really show your own true colors and you’d have to read through someone else’s eyes about a band, where now hopefully people can go up on a blog or go up on TAI TV and look at us and go Ã¢â‚¬Å“That’s them and how they want to present themselvesÃ¢â‚¬ which is the way we are, and hopefully going along with that, that’s great.
Thank you very much for your time! Good luck tonight!