Exclusive Interview: William Beckett opens up about the Academy Is… split and the future

October 12, 2011 by Annie Zaleski

Exclusive Interview: William Beckett opens up about the Academy Is… split and the future

Fans of THE ACADEMY IS… woke up to some heartbreaking news last weekend: With a simple post on their Facebook page, the Chicago band announced their break-up after eight years, three full-length albums and plenty of high-profile tours (including a stint on the 2009 AP Tour). Although frontman WILLIAM BECKETT assured he’s working on a solo record, the sudden split left fans with more questions than answers. AP exclusively caught up Beckett yesterday, as he was strolling around crunching through the autumn leaves—and while he remained relatively mum on his future musical direction, he was candid about what lead to the end of the Academy Is… .
Interview by: ANNIE ZALESKI

The breakup took a lot of people by surprise. How long was it in the works?
It definitely wasn’t an impulse decision. For me, it was a culmination of a lot of little factors that summed up to a very difficult but necessary decision for us. A lot of it had to do with the way I felt after our show in New York for the Fueled By Ramen 15th anniversary. It was meant to be our last show with our drummer, the Butcher [Andy Mrotek]. It felt great. Then we were penciled in for this Jack’s Mannequin tour, and thinking about moving forward without him on tour… I think I naïvely thought before that it would be okay, it would be the same. But those feelings changed after that show; I felt like it wouldn’t be the same anymore, and it wouldn’t be as comfortable as far as the other aspects of things.

The three of us—me, Mike [Carden] and Adam [Siska]—have all been growing distant [with] less emphasis on friendship, and it’s pretty much all taken over into the stress of the record. Our friendships had definitely been taking a toll, and to be perfectly honest, it was never really peaches and cream. Mike and I are definitely an interesting pair, and our dynamic worked for a while, but not without great struggle and internal battles and demons. For me, I feel like it’s the right time to move on, to move forward, and to do something I can champion on my own and be in control of—and feel better about my decisions, my record and how it’s going to pan out. Whereas Mike and I started drifting, as far as our vision for the band and what we wanted it to be.

When it comes down to what you want something to be and what it is, you have to be honest with yourself about what you’re looking at and how  who you are is going to be affect the art of what you’re doing. And Mike and I, while we did write a lot of great songs together, I just couldn’t do it anymore.

Was that a sudden thing, or did that evolve over time?
I mean, there have been eight-month periods when we didn’t even speak on tour, at all. This is dating all the way back to writing Santi. It’s definitely not something that’s happened overnight, and it’s been something I’ve thought about before, but I was too afraid to do it. But at this point in my life, I’ve honestly never felt better being able to have control of my life, feeling like, if I succeed it’s on me—and if I fail, it’s on me. And I’m okay with that; I’m welcoming that.

Sometimes it takes you getting to a certain time in your life so you can get comfortable with that. I could see when you’re younger being like, “Nope, too much pressure; I need people around me, so if I do fail there’s a cushion, and there are other people involved, too.”
Yes, exactly. And I’d rather be friends with these guys and have some friendships. Mike’s extremely talented; he’s grown exponentially as a guitar player and as a songwriter. We’ve both grown incredibly since we started working on  the fourth record. But in a lot of ways, while we both had growth—significant growth—it may have been in opposite directions as far as our goals and what we want out of music.

Some of it had to come down to taste. And people compromising as far as what songs are on the record, compromising what they want just to stay together, I think that works in relationships, but I don’t think it really works in art. You need to commit fully to an idea, and both of us were just compromising a lot in different ways. I think it’s going to be better for both of us to move forward. He’s a great songwriter, and I have no doubt that he’s going to continue with music and write some great songs. I wish the best for him. It just had to happen; we had to move our separate ways and move forward.

It’s true, too—you guys pretty much grew up together in a band. It’s natural people would change. You see that in a lot of bands. As you get older, you diverge. Not everybody’s going to stay the same and want the same thing they wanted nine years ago, when you guys started.
Exactly. It’s bittersweet. Over the past year, I’ve been very active online, on Twitter and on my blog, just really trying to reconnect. Honestly, as much as the fans may need us, and may need our music, I feel like for me, why I started playing music and writing songs and performing was to get that feeling of reciprocation, when you’re sitting there in front of someone and you play them a song and you can vividly see that you’ve changed—even if it’s a grimace of, like, “This sucks.” [Laughs.] Obviously, that’s not what I’m addicted to. To affect someone like that, to move someone like that—that’s the connection I’m addicted to. Fans have been a great support system through this, and for the most part, everything I’m reading is positive. Obviously, people are sad—it was a long road for us, and we did a lot of great things together. I’d rather remember us that way, as opposed to falling apart.

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