The first time you ever heard THE ACADEMY IS… was probably when they were opening for your favorite band, but rest assured, their rise to fame has been anything but calculated.

Story: Jonah Bayer

In the course of his hour-long interview with AP, William Beckett will be interrupted three times. First, by the sound of his bandmates shooting fireworks at an abandoned school bus outside the venue in Oklahoma City; second, to be asked by a prospective concertgoer if it’s okay if he goes to the band’s show drunk at 5 in the afternoon; and, finally, by a female fan asking to have her breast autographed (an offer Beckett respectfully declines). While the average 20-year- old would jump at the chance to engage in any of these activities, the Academy Is… frontman is too engrossed in our conversation to pay any of these incidents a second thought. But, then again, no one ever said the Academy Is… were your average rock band.

TAI… were born when Beckett and guitarist/high-school scene rival Mike Carden bonded at a local Chicago punk show over a mutual love of bands like Cursive and Death Cab For Cutie. However, that wasn’t the only catalyst for their collaboration: “We had the same gripes and the same ambition for what we wanted to do artistically that we weren’t accomplishing on our own at the time,” explains Beckett. The group enlisted a few friends to back them up, recorded a screamo-tinged five-song EP for their friends’ label, LLR, and early last year began playing shows with then-relatively unknown peers like Fall Out Boy.

“Sometimes, when you see a band or a person, you can just see it,” says FOB bassist/songwriter Pete Wentz. “I’m definitely a word person, and [Beckett’s] ideas are absolutely amazing.” Wentz hooked the band up with Fueled By Ramen’s John Janick, who came up to Chicago, hung out with the band for three days and-on Wentz’s insistence-signed the band to the label. “I called John every day for two weeks, telling him to sign the band; I was pretty much the most annoying person ever,” Wentz says with a laugh. “I think he maybe signed ’em to get me off his case.”

For the rest of the story, pick up AP 206 below…