“I wanted it to mirror the monstrosity that it is to me” : William Beckett in the studio

April 26, 2013
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[Photo: Jack Edinger]

While on tour in Portland, former the Academy Is… frontman-turned-solo-artist WILLIAM BECKETT called AP to talk about his time in the studio. “We’re mixing still, so in a lot of ways, I still am [in the studio],” he says. Okay, good. So, we aren’t lying to you. Having just inked a deal with Equal Vision Records to release his proper full-length debut, Beckett finds himself excited for just how big his 2013 is going to be.

Interview: Cassie Whitt

Where did you record your upcoming album?
I recorded in Chicago, which is the first time I’ve made a record in my hometown, even with the band and everything. We always either recorded in… Well , I mean, the first record that I ever did was in Florida, then we recorded in L.A. and New York, but this is the first that I actually have done in Chicago, and it worked out because, the producer who I’m working with is out of Chicago, and he has a really incredible studio we’ve been working out of, so it makes sense. It was also good to be able to come home and sleep in my own bed every night and just make the commute out to the city every day. It was a nice way to record particularly because the writing process was pretty grueling and nonstop. So it was nice to be able to make a record in a relatively stress-free environment.

What was grueling about the writing process?
It was just, like, I was on a roll. I felt like I just didn’t want to slow down. When the inspiration bug bites you, you kind of—I don’t know about other writers, but I go kind of berserk. I wrote—it was, like, a three-week period—I wrote, like, 20 songs in 21 days, and it was crazy [Laughs]. And, I went to Nashville and I went to L.A., because I like those environments–

[Siren sounds in the background.]

Sorry. I robbed a bank about 25 minutes ago.

They’re onto you! 
Nah, they’re not onto me, but I mean, it’s only a matter of time, I think.

You better hide away, at least until we’re done. You put out three EPs last year, and an acoustic album, so you’ve been busy already. This is your debut full-length of original material, your chance to show who you are as a solo artist in one collection. What about you came out during this process that people haven’t seen before?
This is definitely the most honest record I’ve ever made. It’s extremely epic. It’s a very big-sounding record. To me, it’s very important. It’s a huge album for me at this point in my career, at this point in my life, so I wanted it to mirror the monstrosity that it is to me. It’s like a rollercoaster that you never want to get off of, for me anyway. That’s really how I feel about it.

Lyrically, I get into a lot of things about my own faults and my own shortcomings in relationships and trying to make things work while being myself. At the same time, it’s very much about the trials, tribulations, and the triumphs, pain and the joy of a relationship and trying make it work, and trying to sustain it in a world where it’s very difficult to sustain anything, let alone a mutual, loving and caring relationship.

Did you employ any techniques in the recording process that were foreign for you?
Definitely. There’s a lot more piano on this record than I’ve ever used. Everything’s organic, as well. Everything is really being played. We’re not programming drums; it’s real drums and real performance. We tried to keep things pretty minimal, but each of the elements have a huge role to play, sonically. I really can’t wait for people to hear it. It’s definitely my favorite record that I’ve done. I think it sounds the best, and I’m singing better than I ever have in the past. We’re not using Auto-Tune or anything like that. It’s just really real and human, and I think that once people hear it, it will speak for itself.

You said “we.” Who else were you working with?
I did the whole thing with my producer, Marc McClusky (Farewell, Ludo), so we both played everything. I actually had a friend of mine come in and play drums, as well. There are some really, really cool collaborations as well on the record.

Yeah? Any of them you can talk about?
Well, I will say that there are at least two. I will say that one of them is a [current] labelmate of mine.

Oh, that narrows it down…
[Laughs.] I mean, yeah, kind of. And his name his name might rhyme with “sax.” One of the other collaborations is a fellow that I’ve toured with quite a bit. It was on an Alternative Press-sponsored tour. So, those are my clues. Your readers can employ their Sherlock Holmes skills, and see what they come up with!

Do you have a title yet?
I do have a title. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to say the title yet, because the record’s coming out at the end of summer, and I believe I’m not allowed. See, I’m talking about not being allowed to do something, and I pretty much just do what I want.

As far as I know, I’m not supposed to say yet, because it’s going to be a really dramatic reveal. I’m going to scale the Willis Tower in Chicago, the fourth tallest building on the planet. And, I’m going to scale it naked, and then from the highest point, I will scream out the title of the record. But only at that point, will it be revealed.

Great. We look forward to that. You’ve made it weird, William.

Focusing in on the record again: Is there one specific song that you’re really excited to put out there?
Yeah. Right now, on tour, I’m actually playing one new song from the record, and it’s called “Benny And Joon,” like the movie. It’s a fun song. It’s a pretty cool summer song I can envision people [playing while] driving with their windows down, speeding and breaking the law, but it’s essentially about falling in love in an insane asylum. It really hones in on embracing who you are for who you are, with all your quirks and all your weird, little tendencies that are distinctly you, and being yourself, then finding someone who can accept you for who you are, not for who you’re pretending to be.

Is there anything else you want to tell us about the new album?
I think that I’ve covered everything, but I’ll be on the entire Warped Tour, then I’m also going to be on tour with Relient K and Hellogoodbye next month, as well. Then I’m going to the U.K. to play Slam Dunk Festival before Warped Tour. It’s going to be an incredibly busy year, and I’m sure when the record comes out, I’ll be touring some more. And, ask the label about the title!

I mean, I don’t want to foil your grand plan. It is pretty epic.
Yeah. You’re right. Don’t ask them, because you don’t want to spoil my big plans for the reveal. The whole skyscraper naked thing… We’ll talk about my drug problem next time.

Okay. Great.
[Laughs.] I’m kidding. I’m kidding!

Written by Cassie Whitt