The Academy Is… – Santi


Artist: The Academy Is…
Album: Santi
Label: Fueled By Ramen
Purchase: Smart Punk
Release Date: April 3, 2007

Overall: 7.0
Music: 7.5
Lyrics: 6.0
Production: 7.5

The Academy Is… happens to be one of the latest pop punk band to fall under the all powerful Pete Wentz’s wing. The story goes that Pete was so impressed by the band’s debut The Academy EP, that he convinced Fueled By Ramen to fly out and sign the band immediately. Their first full length album was a direct continuation of the EP’s sound and gave them their first bit of mainstream appeal. In between Almost Here and Santi two members were replaced, ushering in fresh blood and a fresh sound.

The band’s patented sound is forsaken as Santi features a whole new slew of influences and sounds, but sadly, a lot less hooks. While Almost Here was filled with memorable riffs and wordplay, Santi tries to troupe through a number of different sounds — from the deliciously off key background vocals on “We’ve Got a Big Mess on Our Hands” to the downright painful ballad that is “Everything We Had.”

Santi sometimes chances upon great successes: songs oozing with style and begging to have William Beckett declared the new boy wonder of pop punk. This is best seen on tracks such as “Bulls in Brooklyn.” The song begins with Beckett’s constantly improving voice laid over a steady bass and drum, and moves into one of the more passionate choruses in The Academy Is…’s catalog.

As mentioned above there are as many songs that stumble as those that succeed. “Neighbors” is one example of this. The song sounds better suited in a clothing store commercial, rather than on the album of a band that’s produced such gems as “Judas Kiss” and “Black Mamba.” While listening to the song’s mindless verses and stabs at yet another style of music, the only redeeming quality to this song is found in Beckett’s ability to maneuver his pitch at will. His vocal contribution over and over proves to be Santi‘s saving grace.

If there were two words to describe Santi, it would be “unfulfilled talent.” It could be the relentless touring allowed for the lyrics to lose their bite, and that the loss of LaTrace and DelPrincipe has caused the band to abandon the style of music that had been perfected in previous efforts. While there certainly are successes on Santi, the spotty lyrics and penchant for genre-hoping leave listeners with a foul taste in their mouth. The introduction in “LAX to O’Hare” wraps up Santi nicely, telling us, “What happened next was a series of unfortunate events,” if only Beckett had realized how true this lyric would become.

Track Listing
1. Same Blood
2. Lax To O’Hare
3. We’ve Got A Big Mess On Our Hands
4. Sleeping With Giants (Lifetime)
5. Everything We Had
6. Bulls In Brooklyn
7. Neighbors
8. Seed
9. Chop Chop
10. You Might Have Noticed
11. Unexpected Places

The Academy Is… Interview – June 4th, 2007

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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, “Why don’t we start a band together?” 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, “Let’s do a band.”

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 “I want to do that”, 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 “Almost Here” 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 “Almost Here”, 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. “Almost Here” 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, “This has to be the one”. 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 “Almost Here” probably “The Phrase that Pays”. I like “Black Mamba” a lot too, playing it live. Off “Santi”, I like “Seed” a lot, that’s one of my favorites, and I like “Neighbors”. 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 “Almost Here”. 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 “Jimmy Kimmel Live”?

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, “This is on TV” 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 “You do that every day”, 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 cliché 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 “Almost Here”, 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, “Well, let’s go out”. 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 “Santi”, 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 “Santi”, 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 “How are we going to do this?” 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, “I feel like I know you, Mike” rather than just being in like a hysteria, “Oh my God, this is this person” 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 “That’s them and how they want to present themselves” 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!

Honda Civic Tour – June 4th, 2007

At the beginning of the month at the renowned venue Merriweather Post Pavilion one of the most highly anticipated musical events in the DC area so far this year occurred. On June 4th, 2007, the artists featured in this year’s Honda Civic Tour, an annual tour generally featuring rock-genre bands, performed in Columbia, Maryland. This year’s lineup featured The Academy Is…, Cobra Starship, +44, and Paul Wall, with the headlining act of the recently famed band Fall Out Boy: a diverse artist selection that certainly attracted a diverse, not to mention large, crowd.

As would be expected, an incredible amount of fans and concert attendees arrived early, greatly anticipating that evening’s show. This excitement was somewhat forgotten when the tour buses pulled up, and gaggles of fans also predictably rushed to the gates to screech at those exiting the vans. Mark Hoppus of +44 attracted a lot of screaming and swooning as he appeared from the highly noticeable, cartoon-covered +44 tour bus, although he seemed not to notice, and ignored the excited fans. Paul Wall, however, chose not to ignore the fans as he, a few hours before the show, left the venue, being driven in a car presumably to the hotel the bands were staying at. As fans (mainly girls) surrounded his ride, he waved and, of course, flashed his “grillz” at those squealing to him. To the fans that were waiting expectantly at the gates where the tour buses were in view, it was a disappointment that no members of Fall Out Boy appeared, although Victoria Asher from Cobra Starship was spotted briefly. Others remained at their places in line, clearly hoping to, when the gates were to open at five, manage to snag the places with the best view. Many a fan was not only sporting band merch, but also maybe a sign or a homemade T-shirt conveying individual messages to Pete Wentz: a tribute to his birthday the following day.

Although perhaps an hour before the show, heavy rain began to soak those waiting for the show who hadn’t brought umbrellas and jackets, and Cobra Starship, who were going to see the fans before the show weren’t able to appear, no one’s spirits were dampened. Maybe that was because around this time, wristbands for the pit and seating were being handed out, and excitement was definitely building.

Finally, at approximately five (the show started early presumably because of the amount of opening artists), the gates opened, and, ignoring the mud and heavy rain, concert attendees streamed inside, racing each other for the most elite spaces. Members of Fall Out Boy’s fan club were allowed in five minutes early, so many front row spaces in the large, maximum-packed pit were already consumed when the majority of the crowd rushed in. Pushing and shoving, after the first few minutes when everyone got settled in the crowd, was not at all a problem; mostly everyone seemed to be practicing concert courtesy, and few moshed throughout the performances (those who caused a fuss being lifted out by concert security). However, crowd surfing, once the performances began, was a definite trend, and few were dropped until they reached the barrier.

It took some time, however, for the first performers to begin, due to the rainwater streaming off the canvas shielding the pit down into the pit and in front of the barrier. Cords and equipment had to be relocated, obviously so the water wouldn’t damage anything or electrocute anyone. Soon enough the rain settled, as did those located on the lawn, and the show began, each artist or band throughout the show being well received.

Opening the show was Cobra Starship, the up and coming band whose musical style has been described by frontman Gabe Saporta as “punk-rock Justin Timberlake”. Whatever their genre was, the performance of the unique-sounding Cobra Starship was incredibly well liked by the crowd, many of who had never heard the band prior to that evening. Gabe Saporta had great stage presence. His gift for singing and lyric-writing meshes with the unique sound of the very talented instrumentalists (Alex Suarez on bass, Victoria Asher on keytar, Ryland Blackinton on guitar, and Nate Novarro on drums) to create music that, when performed, if this show was any example, triggers a lot of excitement and an equal amount of dancing and singing. The best received and most well known song that Cobra Starship performed was “(Bring It) Snakes on a Plane”. Something that may have and probably contributed to this was the fact that, during this song, both frontman of The Academy IS… William Beckett (who does vocals for the chorus in this song) and Paul Wall (who filled in for Travie of Gym Class Heroes, who typically does the rapping in “(Bring It) Snakes on a Plane”) made appearances.

Next in the lineup was rapper Paul Wall, accompanied by another rapper and keyboarder. His performance was probably the least well-received, but that is not in any manner a strike against him, since he was performing in front of an audience with, based on the styles of the majority of the artists they chose to see this evening, more of a rock-genre taste in music. He, like Gabe Saporta, had good stage presence. Members of the audience were certainly pleased when he distributed a number of free grillz.

Paul Wall’s grillz were not the only free merchandise to be distributed. Between performances, various activities occurred onstage, including free clothing and other merchandise being shot at the audience through a large gun-like contraption.

Following Paul Wall was an uprising band from Chicago known as The Academy Is… . William Beckett followed his first brief performance with an equally crowd-satisfying one, his one of a kind voice as pleasing as the sound of the generally mellow instrumentals produced by his equally talented fellow band members. The crowd was especially interested in TAI’s performance of “Slow Down”, “We’ve Got A Big Mess on Our Hands”, and “The Phrase that Pays”—three popular singles of theirs.

By the time +44 got onstage, the crowd, perhaps growing weary of standing, was beginning to get antsy in anticipation of Fall Out Boy’s performance. However, +44 successfully recaptured the audience’s attention for the time in which they were onstage, playing a number of songs that the crowd both knew and enjoyed. Some numbers that were particularly crowd-pleasing including “Your Heart Stops Beating”, “Baby Come On”, and “Dammit”. That particular song was not in fact by +44, but by Blink 182, the renowned former band including two of +44’s band members, drummer Travis Barker and frontman Mark Hoppus. Victoria Asher of Cobra Starship made a surprise appearance for the song “Make You Smile”, a popular +44 song including female vocalist Carol Heller, which Asher carried out fantastically.

Although all of the acts prior to the headlining act were very much so enjoyed, many in the audience were in huge anticipation of the appearance and performance of Fall Out Boy. Fans grew impatient at the long stretch of time between +44 and Fall Out Boy’s performances, during which a large structure was being assembled. This mystery structure detailed a tall platform on which Andy Hurley’s drum set was located, and plenty of room for the other band members to stand at different points in the show, with a ramp-like addition stretching down from the platform to the stage (used most often by frontman Patrick Stump). On either side of the construction were two opaque capsule-like structures comprised of what appeared to be a glass-like material. Audience members looked for any visible sign of the band with no luck, and when they finally did appear, their entrance was to everyone’s surprise—as, instead of simply walking onstage as one might think they would, Joe Trohman and Pete Wentz literally popped onstage. Patrick Stump and Andy Hurley appeared suddenly as well, although not with as big of a bang as Trohman and Wentz—who burst out of the two capsules and onto the platform, Trohman on the left side of the stage and Wentz on the right.

It is probably needless to say that Fall Out Boy’s performance was a huge hit with the audience, as it can be assumed that a lot of those comprising the audience came to Merriweather Post Pavilion mainly for their performance. Stump’s voice matched the sound conveyed on their three full-length albums—a unique voice that, while it rarely enunciates words clearly, is nonpareil in tone quality. Surprisingly, Fall Out Boy’s lead singer was not the band member that spoke and encouraged the audience, as seems to be the norm, but instead Pete Wentz tackled this role, to the enjoyment of some huge Pete Wentz fans in the crowd. If this weren’t enough to please the audience, Joe Trohman certainly contributed to captivating the audience by never failing to jump, spin, or a combination of the two, something that would be, as one might think, difficult to do while playing a guitar. Not only this, but the screen behind the stage, which, up until Fall Out Boy’s performance, had remained blank, was constantly filled, whether by FOB music videos or other clever visuals.

Fall Out Boy played a refreshing variety of all of their biggest hits and best sounding songs from all three of their albums, even their first and least well-known album, “Take this to Your Grave”. Their performance was very unpredictable, as they proved throughout their encore, during which Joe Trohman and Pete Wentz left the main stage (through those mysterious capsules) and reappeared at the back of the audience, by the lawn (to the happiness of those further back). Andy Hurley was also relocated, but only to the front of the stage, where he continued playing the drums. In addition to these surprise relocations, pyrotechnics was part of Fall Out Boy’s show, and the appearance of fire made their encore’s quality superb.

All in all, each of the artists performed incredibly well, and each of the performances were a pleasure to watch. Those who share my opinion of the quality of those on the Honda Civic Tour will be pleased to know about some upcoming tours announced that evening. In August, The Academy Is… and Cobra Starship will be touring together in Australia and Japan, for those of you willing to travel! The Academy Is… will be following their Australian/Japanese tour with a fall tour with Armor for Sleep. And finally, Fall Out Boy has announced their own fall tour with Gym Class Heroes. I recommend that if given the chance, you attend one (or all) of these shows!