William Beckett of the Academy Is… opens up about the band’s lineup changes and new album

May 27, 2011
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This week, the Academy Is… announced that longtime guitarist Michael Guy Chislett and drummer Andy Mrotek have parted ways with the band. Frontman William Beckett checked in with AP from Los Angeles, where he’s writing with guitarist Mike Carden, to talk about the changes, assuring fans that there is no “big, sexy story.” And while they all remain friends, Beckett says the remaining three members are hungrier than ever, and plans for LP No. 4 are going full-steam ahead.

You just announced some big changes. Walk us through what’s been happening since your tour opening for KISS ended this past summer.
It’s a divide, you know, it’s basically just a natural progression of people at different places in their lives with different goals. And there’s absolutely no animosity. We’ve known it was coming for a while; we took some time after that tour to decompress and sort of reevaluate ourselves and where we were going to head with the record and what we wanted exactly. We had written a bunch of songs on that tour that we liked a lot.

Basically, we came to a crossroads in our lives: Michael got married and he wanted to focus on production and co-writing, and to be honest, he came into the band on [2007’s] Santi to help us progress in sound and help us finish that record. So it’s kind of a natural thing for him to move on. Particularly with the nucleus of our band, the writing has always come from Mike [Carden] and I.

As far as Andy goes, he really just wants to focus on the Animal Upstairs and being the captain of his own ship. We support him, and I’ll always be his biggest fan. He’s a great artist, he’s a great friend. Our friendship [has] actually only gotten stronger recently through the phone calls and conversations of getting to this point. For us, it was important that it didn’t come off like there was any drama. Sorry to say, but it’s not a big, sexy story.

Did Chislett and Mrotek decide to leave at the same time?
It wasn’t exactly the same time. We really weren’t sure about the timetable of things and I guess [we were] waiting to see if [Mrotek] would change his mind. But at this point, I think we’re all on the same page that it’s for the best. He’ll go make his record, and we’ll continue to make ours.

Even when you headlined AP’s Fall Ball Tour in 2009, there was some discussion about the direction of the band and the writing process.
Right. It’s a natural thing, and every road forks eventually. Every road. The individual on that road has to choose which one to take. It so happens that the nucleus—the original three in the band [Beckett, Carden and bassist Adam Siska]—all chose the same road. We wanna conquer it, continue to progress and make this record. I guess the irony of everything is that this will likely be our strongest record. I think refusing to settle is the first thing that comes out. It’s a bittersweet thing, because obviously I’m going to miss them, and I’m going to miss having them onstage. But, you know, it’s just a new chapter. We’ve gone through it before, and it’s here again…

In a previous interview for AP, you talked about how you and Carden had reconnected and were writing together again for the first time in awhile. It sounds like that pulled you closer together in the time leading up to the lineup change.
Yeah, it did. It was just a natural thing, and that’s why I’ve spent so much time out here [in Los Angeles]. Really early on, when there wasn’t even a whole lot of pressure from the label or anyone to start making the record, we just started writing songs together. And we’ve always pushed each other to be better. I think for a while, maybe our egos got in the way or everything was just happening so fast and so strenuously. You really can’t step back and have any perspective and realize why we’re there in the first place is because we wrote songs together. We’ve really improved as musicians and as writers in this time, and I’m excited to be getting into the studio.

Do you have a timeline worked out in your head for recording or a release?
Yeah. We’re really not going to rush the physical recording of things. We’ve taken a lot of time on the songs themselves—more so than we ever have, with more songs being written than ever before, so I think in that way. the cream is rising to the top. And we’ve got a good idea of what the record’s going to be. We’re right on that cusp of locking things in and getting into the studio in the near future. We’ll take the rest of the year to actually record. As far as news on a producer and everything, I’ve got nothing for you yet.

Have you started thinking about adding anyone to the band?
No. I think at this point, we’ve been making this record and making this pile of demos—this library of demos, basically, because it’s quite a few songs—on our own. We’re capable of making this record [with] the three of us. As far as touring goes, I mean, it’s too early to say. Honestly, I’m not thinking about it yet.

For now, the announcement has been made, and everyone can move forward from this same page.
Yeah, and I’m happy that our fans can breathe easily. It’s not like we’re archrivals or enemies. There’s no bad blood whatsoever. If anything, like I said, it’s drawn us closer. It’s an exciting time for us. It’s an exciting time for them. It’s a chance to start something fresh. It’s the same for us three—the tripod that is the Academy Is… I just re-launched my blog, and I’m back in the internet world. It’s actually been a great outlet for me and a great way to connect with the fans again. I wasn’t really ready to do that with this whirlwind of stuff going on in my life. I just felt like things were unstable, and now I’m finally feeling like we’re ready to go. Now I’m hungry for it again. We’re all hungry and thirsty. I guess you could say we are hungry like the wolf. [Laughs.]

Written by Rachel Lux