The Academic: ‘Iveagh Gardens is our biggest headline show so far’
‘I don’t think we thought we’d be touring the US on our first album’
All The Academic band members are in their early 20s, yet you have experienced enough of the music industry to know it isn’t all sweetness and light. When you look back several years ago, to when you were teenagers, were you even remotely aware of the vampiric sensibilities of the music industry, or the business surrounding it?
Stephen Murtagh: “We were a bit like that. Naive, I suppose, thinking that we didn’t know what would come next. But that’s all changed. Now we do. In February, we embarked on our first headline US tour and followed that with a European and UK tour. And we supported The Rolling Stones at Croke Park. Our gig at the Iveagh Gardens is our biggest headline show so far, so while we could once have been described as naive, no one could have said we weren’t ambitious. Our plan has always been to come back bigger and better. We were always hard-working, and always full of ambition, but I don’t think we ever thought we’d be touring the US on our first album. So, no, we truly had no notion it would ever come to this.”
It really began for the band a few years ago, when the New York-based indie label, Downtown Records, heard some of your songs on SoundCloud. Did it feel that something important was about to happen?
“Downtown Records got in touch, and then loads of emails were sent to and fro, and we finally met up in Dublin. It finally came across to us that we had met people who were as excited as we were about Academic songs. It got to the point where we wanted to make the album, and so did they.”
Apparently, the album had been sitting on the shelf for some time. Despite the good relationship you clearly have with the record label, why did it take so long for the album to be released?
Craig Fitzgerald: “There are a lot of factors in terms of time in that we were always gigging and trying to build up a fanbase, but one of the big things is that we probably could have made the album quite a while back . . .”
Stephen: “We were aware we were very young, so we decided not to get too excited.”
Craig: “We were grateful for all of the attention, of course, and that people were picking up on it. Perhaps the standout moment was about five years ago when we played Dingle’s Other Voices. There was a crazy news article that said there were up to 30 record company people at the gig, but that wasn’t the case. At that time, we were unaware of the record industry, of how it worked – the record deals, making albums, and so on. We were just gigging. When we learned more about the industry, that made us even more cautious. We knew lots of bands our age who had signed record deals, and then nothing happened.”
So how does a band of your relative inexperience make it work, how do you get the right people around you?
Craig: “We met lots of record companies, big and small, but we liked the independent sensibility of not being on a large conveyor belt, which can happen on a major label. We met the people at Downtown Records; they’re all quite young and progressive, and they really liked the band. It finally came across that we had met people who were as excited about our songs as we were.”
You signed to Downtown Records in mid-2016, and by the start of 2017 you spent about two months in Los Angeles working on the debut album, ‘Tales from the Backseat’. Did all the hard work seem worth it, did it feel that this is where you should be?
Craig: “Definitely, because of our belief in the songs, and that we were part of something special.”
The first album is now out of the way. Do you have any concerns about the follow-up?
Stephen: “The hardest part of the debut was narrowing it down to 10 songs. We have shed loads of material.”