Currently, THE ACADEMY IS… are headlining the AP Tour Fall Ball, promoting their new EP, Lost In Pacific Time. However, when AP sat down with the band this past July, the EP was still a work in progress. With five tracks (and, unfortunately, no Paper Lace cover), Lost In Pacific Time shows a band taking the next step in their musical career, adding new elements (bubbling synths!) and working with new collaborators (Jack’s Mannequin’s Andrew McMahon guests on “Sputter”). But on this particularly balmy evening in Manhattan, the band–munching on gourmet guacamole and margaritas at Dos Caminos–are in high spirits, joking about the EP, Almost Famous and how they might’ve been screamo band.



INTERVIEW: Rachel Lux



So, tell us about the EP you’re working on.

ADAM SISKA: The EP. Where do we begin? It’s definitely still a work in progress.

WILLIAM BECKETT: Most of the music is finished for it.

MICHAEL GUY CHISLETT: A lot of music is finished.

SISKA: We got together, when was that? I’m talking about when we got together in Los Angeles and we did some recording in a beautiful studio. I thought the Butcher [drummer Andy Mrotek] did a really good job. And we’re just seeing how it’s all coming together. Our friend Claudius Mittendorfer–he’s a really fabulous engineer. He actually engineered Fast Times At Barrington High. Yeah, I mean, we love working with Claudius. He’s a really talented individual and a great engineer.

BECKETT: And handsome.

SISKA: Really handsome. His name is Claudious Mittendorfer. That kind of says it all.



Is it headed in the same direction as Fast Times At Barrington High?

BECKETT: It’s a little taste of what’s to come I think. There were some songs that we wrote, well, I guess one son particularly that’s on the EP that we worked on while writing Fast Times that didn’t end up coming together the way we wanted it to. Just really because it didn’t…

SISKA: We don’t know why. We liked it; it just wasn’t one of the ones that went.

BECKETT: So that one was one of our favorites from the sessions, so we had gotten to a room in Chicago while [Siska] was in Italy.

SISKA: Mike [Carden] played bass; it sounded really good.

BECKETT: Mike played bass. It was us four, at Masters Studios in Chicago on the South Side. I had a couple songs on acoustic that we ended up trying out as a full band, and it worked out really, really well. We arranged the songs and wrote the songs pretty much in a few days, and we also worked on a couple cover songs. We’re not sure which one’s going to end up being on there, but we have a few options.

SISKA: Cover songs are fun.

BECKETT: We never used to cover songs at all, ever.

SISKA: We used to cover, what’s the song by the Fine Young Cannibals? “Drives Me Crazy.” That was the only other song we covered before.

BECKETT: Only we didn’t. We didn’t even cover that one.

SISKA: That’s not the way I remember it.

BECKETT: [Laughs.]



But there will be a cover song on the new EP?

BECKETT: Yeah, I think so.

SISKA: We did a song called the “The Night Chicago Died.”

ANDY MROTEK: By Paper Lace. [Laughs.]

SISKA: It’s sung by Jack Black in High Fidelity. My dad was really disappointed that we did that song, though. I played it for him, and he was like, “I hated that song when it came out.” [Everyone laughs.]

CARDEN: The first thing I know about it is we’re covering Paper Lace, “The Night Chicago Died.” The jams are back. And then also, it’s either going to be between Paper Lace and Tears For Fears, “Everybody Wants To Rule The World.”

SISKA: We think it’s going to be Paper Lace, though.

BECKETT: [Laughs.] I think it will be Paper Lace.



So you’re saying it’s a preview of what’s to come musically?

CARDEN: Yeah, the Paper Lace, definitely.

SISKA: We’ll know when it’s done what it sounds like. Like when we did our first record, and I can say this about any record, you never know until the end whether it’s good or not. And even then you don’t really know. We went in kind being like… [shrugs] And then listening back we were like, “Okay, sounds good, let’s do it.” I think it’s cool to do an EP, because it kind of reminds me of when we were growing up as little emo kids and bands would come out with EPs all the time. I probably had more EPs than full-lengths. So I think it’s cool. All we’ve got to do now is a split 7-inch.



Who’d you do a split with?

SISKA: Maybe Ryan Ross’ new band [Young Veins].

CARDEN: I think the pressure right now is nice, because usually you have the label and you have managers and, you know, when you’re making a record, people kind of breathing down. And on this one, it’s just very hands-on [for us–we have] a lot of control on it. We’re learning right now the pros and cons of doing it just the five of us doing it as opposed to having a proper producer or an A&R. It’s been nice. There’s not too much pressure on. I think the only pressure we have is the pressure we put on each other to make it.

BECKETT: Yeah, and our standards are very high for each other–we have very high expectations for each other. And we’ve been writing music together for five years now, and we all know what we’re capable of doing, so, it’s liberating to do it on our own, and I think, you know, with less pressure–with less outside pressure, we’re able to really feed off each other on it. When I’m editing my own vocal takes, Michael’s editing his own rough mixes, there’s no harsher critic that yourself.

SISKA: My bass parts don’t need any editing. They’re perfect.

CARDEN: Adam’s actually going to record the bass.

SISKA: I wasn’t able to record much yet, but I’m really glad Mike came to me… He recorded scratch tracks, but he wants me to record it. With everything with my hand, I’m kind of accepting it. And I’m cool with someone else playing, you know, but it does mean a lot that the band wants me to play on it. That feels good.



That mentality seems to be in tune with how the band works.

SISKA: Yeah. Sometimes.



Or at least the band seem open to keeping an open mind about recording. Maybe what worked last year maybe won’t work this year.

SISKA: I think we take it all on a day-by-day basis. We definitely don’t have any sort of formula for how to make records or what tours we should do or anything like that. I think we try our best to do what works.

CARDEN: We definitely didn’t come in with a plan. Sometimes I wish we knew the plan a little bit more, because it would’ve been nicer to kind of come in with an A to B plan, and be like, “These are the goals; these are the kinds of records we’re going to make.” But because we started when we were younger, [now] we’re seasoned. So I think we’ve learned so much, and it’s just like anything. The longer you do it, you want to improve–you want to get better. And at the same time, you want to give each other more space and get more things done. Or maybe have more enjoyable off time. I mean, we’re trying to figure it all out on how to make it all work… So yeah, the EPs gonna be very good, and we’re gonna do some of it this week.

BECKETT: [We will] record bass and vocals on this tour. Hopefully we can do it with minimal roller coaster background noise.

SISKA: That’d be kind of cool though.

BECKETT: It’d be good for the story. Sample the screams. It’s like you were saying, we have to keep up with the times, and mirror our surroundings, so Mike’s gonna start screaming.

CARDEN: Yeah, cause screamo… I feel like we’re almost done with it, and we should bring it back for one last hurrah.

MROTEK: It’s a matter of putting a mic in front of him. He screams all the time, no one hears him.

SISKA: It’d be kind of fun to have a screamo band. When we first started out as a band, we definitely had the conversation, “So Adam, you’re going to be the screamer, right?” We were really into Thursday and At The Drive In and Boy Sets Fire, and Bill comes to practice and we had this song and we had decided that I was going to scream in the metal breakdown. And I did it, and after that, we decided that I should probably never scream again.

BECKETT: [Laughs.]

CARDEN: The first EP is a little bit screamish.

SISKA: We’re lucky I didn’t have a perfect scream that day, because otherwise, our band would be a lot different.

BECKETT: You’d probably be the lead singer.

SISKA: The Devil Wears Flannel or something like that.

BECKETT: [Laughs.]

SISKA: Butcher definitely wouldn’t have joined the band. What was your first impression when we asked you to join? You were kind of not in, right?

MROTEK: I just knew you guys as the Academy.

SISKA: Who were kind of screamo.

MROTEK: Well, the EP and stuff. Not that I was completely against it.

CARDEN: But it was “Black Mamba” that did you in.

MROTEK: I just had to hear one song, and it just happened to be “Black Mamba.”

SISKA: I remember the day I met you, I was like, “Wow, a guy in our band has tattoos now. We’re set.” He’s got a tattoo in his ear. Wow. You know what’s funny? When I met [both] Butcher and Michael, I was wearing baggy bell-bottoms.

CHISLETT: The same pair?

SISKA: Probably. Levi Strauss. Corduroy.

SISKA: You guys could’ve really let me know that they looked like shit. I don’t know if I trust you guys yet. As much as I can trust my band, they’ve thrown me under the bus a few times when it comes to my haircut.



How does it feel to be back on the road after your hiatus?

SISKA: I’m really excited. It feels good to be Sisky again, and not just Adam. I was saying that the other day to the guys. It is a little strange, though, when you’re home for four months, and you’re just kind of, like, a regular, everyday normal guy. Yesterday, we did a signing and it’s just like, “Wow. We’re right back in it.”

BECKETT: It’s really surprising, and I think interesting how quickly you can get right back into it. Like, stepping on stage in front of a the crowd yesterday, I hadn’t done that in forever, really–a long time since the Bogus Journey Tour. Well, besides the UK I guess, so it hasn’t been that long. But with Adam and everybody as a full band going out and doing it. It was surprising how quickly you snap right back into it. And it’s like second nature.

SISKA: Yesterday was crazy for me. When my hand injury happened, I tried to stay positive and that’s the way to work through it and not let yourself think there’s a chance you won’t return, but that’s always in the back of your mind. It’s a pretty serious injury I went through, you know. So when we’re onstage, like halfway through the first job, I was just like, “Wow. Right back in it.” Kinda like a crack addiction.

BECKETT: [Laughs.]

CARDEN: And I think I speak for everyone. There’s a part of getting in the bus again and picking out a bunk, and you’re going to keep all your toiletries in a little bag. And it’s weird, because as you get a little bit older, I guess the bus and being in a band, I guess it makes you feel just kind of like some of those elements never change. You feel like a big kid. Not that I don’t feel like a big kid when I’m at home, because I do. But I feel more like a kid when I’m with Adam Siska.

SISKA: For sure. I miss these guys. Life’s good at home, having a real life, but it’s, like, there’s only a handful of guys that can relate to you in the world. When we’re at home, I try to meet up with old friends and stuff, but it’s just our heads our in different places, and you can’t help that. So the friends that I really turn to are like Michael Guy Chislett–you know, I miss the guy.

CARDEN: I think the live stuff, too, I think with all our recordings and everything, I think we’re really proud of that, and we do a good job at a lot of things we do, but I think live is the one thing we excel, and we were talking about success and all this other stuff. I think a lot of people when they see us live–once they see us live, they sort of understand it. And maybe that’s why we’ve kept our fanbase. Or I don’t know. These are all things I’ve thought about the last four months. But I do think it’s really fair to say that we’re a very strong band live.

SISKA: I think what makes us that way is that we genuinely love to play. I’ve never thought of myself as some sort of amazing musician by any means. But I like to play more than anyone out there. When we get up there and we’re being the band, I think it’s the one place that makes sense for me. That’s to plainly put it. I don’t know what else I could do. I mean, I guess I can work at IKEA or Best Buy or something and it would be okay. But I guess I just like to play, you know? Like I said, we may not be the best musicians in the world, but we go up there and we really give it our all and try to play the best we can. We really take it to heart if we don’t think the show’s going well. It’s enough to ruin a day. So we try to go up there and play the best we can. Obviously not take it too seriously–we like to have fun. If someone screws up, we’ll go smile at them and have fun, and that’s just part of it. It’s good to have that back. It’s definitely good to have that back.

CARDEN: I think even going out on the AP Tour and even seeing the routing, it’s like, “Wow.” And talking yesterday about scrims and backdrops and lighting and all that stuff–it’s all part of the fun. It’s like being in the club and then a lot of the people we’ve worked with, we’ll talk to a guitar tech about how do we make this easier next time, or the drums–how’s it going to be this time. Or the Butcher will design a new kit for a new tour. There’s a whole song and dance that goes into just going out on tour, it’s like, buying a new backpack.

SISKA: Today when we got the dates for the tour, it was the most excited I’d been in a long time.

CARDEN: Yeah, and everybody’s looking at them on their Blackberrys or iPhones and talking about the routing, and it’s like, “Oh, Clutch Cargoes, we haven’t played that venue since blah blah blah.” We’ll do some new songs [on the AP Tour]. We’re thinking about taking some songs that we haven’t played from Almost Here in a long time. Some from Santi. I actually listened to “Chop Chop” not too long ago, and I think we should try it.

MROTEK: Chug a Red Bull, and do it.

CARDEN: Yeah, chug a Red Bull and do some songs we haven’t done in a very long time. Maybe a full-band “40 Steps.” I don’t know. We’ll try to do some new things. And hopefully, what we’re going to do–and this is your first time hearing it–but maybe we’ll play a different set every day. Sometimes with lighting rigs and stuff, we’ve been confined to certain things just to make the show happen.

BECKETT: But in this case, there’s a little more freedom, there’s less restrictions. There’s no script to stick to, and that’s something that we can use to our advantage on this tour, and really give a different and dynamic show every single night.



Is that more for the fans or for you guys?

BECKETT: Both, I think it’s definitely both. I think that we all get off when our fans get off. If they’re excited about us playing a song that they’ve never heard us play, or their favorite song off Santi or a B-side that we’ve never played before…

SISKA: If I see someone out there who’s not getting off, I make them get off.

BECKETT: Wait, wait, isn’t that from Almost Famous? [Everyone groans.]

SISKA: Just make us look cool, all right? [Everyone laughs.] alt