Like sports, Rock music can turn one-time rivals into partners. That was the case for guitarist Mike Carden and vocalist William Beckett who were in competing Chicago bands. But the music world is survival of the fittest. Carden and Beckett joined forces in '02 as the Academy, and eventually, Academy Is. Bassist Adam Siska's arrival came around the time the duo added a second guitarist and drummer. A locally released EP came to the attention of Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz who brought the group to F.O.B.'s label, the Gainesville based Fueled By Ramen.
Before the group relocated to Florida to record, there were some changes. Guitarist/vocalist Tom Conrad and drummer Andy Mrotek entered the picture. This new line-up opened for F.O.B. and Something Corporate, among others. Their full length debut, "Almost Here" arrived in February of '05. The following year, Academy Is released a six song acoustic EP, "From The Carpet" exclusively through iTunes. The set included a cover of John Lennon's "Working Class Hero." Academy Is then ventured back out on the road, this time as co-headliners with Panic! At The Disco.
In late '06, Conrad left the band. Whether he quit or was fired was never made clear. Regardless, Michael Guy Chislett was his replacement.
Once their stint on the '06 Warped Tour was finished the group went into the studio to work on "Santi." Recording was completed just before the end of the year with the album's release coming in April, '07. Academy Is then went on the '07 Honda Civic Tour with Fall Out Boy and +44 before undertaking their own headlining trek.
Most people can't wait to get out of high school. Somewhere in their junior year most students realize that only one-third of what they've been taught will ever be of any use - of course, the trick is discovering the one-third that is. Grads hit the door and vow never to look back. But a couple years later nostalgia kicks in and so does the suspicion that those high school days might be as good as it gets.
Academy Is played on that feeling for their '08 release "Fast Times At Barrington High," a nod toward the '82 film Fast Times At Ridgement High. The film earned Sean Penn his first notices and soundtrack featured Jackson Browne's hit "Somebody's Baby" and songs by Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmit, Don Henley (hey, was Glenn Frey too busy?) and Stevie Nicks. The Academy Is album didn't have much to do with the original film/soundtrack except to show that there are some constants in Rock and the high school experience is one of them.
And yes, there is a Barrington High - actually two. One is in Lake County, IL and the other is in Barrington, RI. So figure which one the album references.
Hint: Academy Is is from Chicago. See above.
2005 Almost Here
2008 Fast Times At Barrington High
Academy Is plays clean, high energy, melodic Rock. They make an impressive debut with "Almost Here." Carden and Conrad are a potent pair of guitarists while Siska and Mrotek give the songs a strong backbone. But it's Beckett's vocals that provide Academy Is with their most identifiable sound. His urgent vocals nearly jump ahead of the group as they drive through songs.
"Season" is a kick-start Rocker while "Slow Down," races through the Hollywood Hills. The critic bashing (they must have got some nasty reviews in the past) "Black Mamba" and "Skeptics And True Believers" demonstrate the band's "your either on our side or out" philosophy. On "Classifieds" and "Checkmarks," Academy Is varies song textures with good results.
From the very beginning, high school has been fertile ground. And it's always the social aspect that gets the attention. "No one in the darkroom but me and you" is a line from "His Girl Friday" a song on "Fast Times At Barrington High." The track goes on to celebrate the "taste of the chase."
Academy Is takes a relatively upbeat, cheery view of high school. Oh sure, there are rotten girlfriends and insoluble dilemmas but that just comes with the turf. As might be expected, given the subject matter, "Fast Times At Barrington High" suffers no lack of energy. High school is an excellent place for Academy Is to hang.
"About A Girl" is an engaging guitar driven pop song. It's followed by the Punkish "Summer Hair = Forever Young." "Coppertone" covers the trials of youth while "Beware! Cougar!" takes on the reckless games people play. The album ends with a pair on songs about finally breaking out. "Paper Chase" and "One More Weekend" glance at life post-high school.