If I was in a rock band, I would ride onstage on a gold-plated motorcycle. Unfortunately, the members of The Academy Is… had too much integrity for this death-defying stunt. However, Artsweek did interview Academy guitarist Mike Carden, which is death-defying in and of itself. Coming straight from the tour bus, Artsweek brings you 30 minutes of transcribed mayhem before the band’s gig alongside Panic! At the Disco, Hellogoodbye and Acceptance at the Hub this past Friday.
Artsweek: So where did you guys play last night?
It was Las Vegas.
How did that go?
Excellent. Yes, I won a bunch of money too.
Wow, cool. What event?
Uh, I was playing Pico.
It’s a weird card game, a poker-ish kind of thing, and then I was playing craps. So I came up real nice. I started at almost $800, a grand, and then I came out with $6,000.
That’s a 600% profit.
Yeah, so it was good. It was fun. It was a good time. My bus call was at 5 in the morning and we got to the bus at 5:30 in the morning. Do you mind if I have a cigarette?
What’s the first question you would ask if you were interviewing yourself?
Oh boy, that’s a good question. What happened, I guess?
Yeah, what happened with all of this, because I ask myself that a lot, you know? It’s been three years since the band started and now we’re into two years of pretty vigorous touring, and just being able to do all these things, it’s pretty amazing. Sometimes the pressure, especially now going into a new record – you know, everything comes together even more so. When you write the first record, you have nothing, there’s nothing. We did that one very quickly and very painlessly because there was no bar, and now there’s a bar set. The band has, I guess, had some success. It’s a different thing. So I ask myself that a lot – how did we get here in the same way of being humble? But at the same time, what steps did we make? Let’s take those steps again. Or, you know, what made the band?
There’s that old saying in the music industry that the first album you have your whole life to make…
Yeah, the next three months or four months to complete it right? Yeah, yeah. Which is absolutely right. Once it’s the deadline, you take time off, you don’t tour, then your record doesn’t do good. Then if you’re always on tour, it’s usually harder, it might not be hard to write material, it’s hard to arrange the material because you don’t have the means to go “Cool man, that sounds great on acoustic. Let’s head on over to the practice space.”
Do you find that you have a good deal of artistic freedom in the studio? Do your producers ever try to mold your sound?
No, because on the last record we did it in two and a half weeks and it was very quick, quick. The first day we came in, we were there for maybe three hours and we started doing drums. James is good, James Paul Wisner, but under the budget, Fueled by Ramen wasn’t what it is now. It was much different. Obviously for a first record, the label doesn’t want to throw too much money into the band, because money is money. So it has obviously surpassed my expectations, as well as the label’s, as well as James’, as well as anyone’s.
How do you think websites like MySpace or Purevolume are affecting the music industry?
Completely. They’re completely changing everything. We don’t need labels anymore. You don’t need a music label anymore. You don’t need anything. Labels just give you money to make a video now. Because people don’t listen to the radio, really, because you can just go on a bunch of sites and figure out what you want to listen to. Internet has changed everything. For example, our band were [sic] sitting on a bus, I guess you could say, and we really had no radio play. None whatsoever. MTV has been really nice to us and has played the videos a good amount which is very cool, but as far as mtvU, they’re kind of rap formatted now, and MTV proper is “The Real World”, right.
They have different formats of MTV now, I forgot.
As far as the Internet, it’s everything, you know? Mainstream and radio need to keep up with the Internet now, where it was the other way around when I was a kid. A lot of the music we got was from the radio early on, and then the whole indie scene came in and you started hearing about bands. But initially it was the Weezers, the Nirvanas, the Green Days, the [Smashing] Pumpkins, you know. You heard those on the station that you were listening to as a kid and that’s how you got and grabbed your music.
I think MySpace and those type of things are a double-sided coin because on one hand, we discuss them a lot. Music has become more of a club, and when you like a band you’re almost joining their alliance so to speak, where you’re signing up for their message boards. You’re signing up for their MySpace. You’re going to their website and it’s not just about a piece of music, a CD you buy in the store and you don’t really care. You know what I mean? You just worry about the music. I think it has a lot to do with society too. We’re very much into this reality TV show crap and voyeurism of reading things on MySpace and LiveJournal. I’m relatively busy, so I don’t really do too much of it, but I have taken time, and I’m like, “Wow, three hours went by.” What’s the difference between playing in a more urban environment, as opposed to a more rural environment? I heard you guys played in Boise, Idaho recently.
It’s completely different. I mean it’s all kind of the same, where they’re more hip to the game in New York or LA. Things bleed in faster and people are in the know more. Especially with the entertainment business, it comes out just faster and quicker. In New York, they’re wearing these shoes, and the next thing they’re mass-producing [them at] Wal-Marts or whatever. But that doesn’t mean the shows aren’t great, they’re definitely great. There are differences. Sometimes in New York everyone will impress me because a lot of people go to shows, and sometimes in the smaller ones, kids want to have a good time. But at the same time, you get those big markets, which is obviously where you sell most of your product. So you’ll see New York has great sales, L.A. is good, Chicago, Boston. You’re not going, “Wow, we’re selling a bunch of records in Omaha.” I know for Santa Barbara you guys sold out in a day.
Definitely. And colleges I think are different too because you have many kids from different places too, so it’s like this hodgepodge, where it doesn’t make any…you know what I mean? There isn’t an exact vibe here that you could say that like Iowa City could be the same. There are kids from all around and I think in colleges too, with this scene of music it’s really transcending into college and other things. Where before you didn’t see that as much, because for whatever reason this is now the new thing.
We were talking about your singer in line today, and we were wondering if he ever exercised.
Oh, no, no, he’s just a son of a bitch, you know?
What do you guys do for nutrition on the road? Do you mostly eat at fast food places?
No. I mean we try. We were in a van for two years, so yeah it was a lot of fast food, and a lot of crap, and you got sick of it real fast. Now as the band goes on we try to have a meal that’s a little better. Like cereal in the morning, you know? Make sandwiches and whatnot. We kind of get these tortilla wheat wraps as opposed to white bread just to switch it up. It’s the beer stuff and the other stuff that I’m more concerned, or if any concerned, then that would be that. But as far as food, it’s all good, and we’re relatively young. So far, so good. The UK is a different story. When you go to the UK it’s all fucking ass-backwards.
Yeah. No ice in anything. Pops, no ice. Just everything is much more… it’s different. I don’t know how to explain it. They’re into more exotic cheeses and stuff that’s very normal, where here it’s like American Cheese. There’s different little things that I enjoy, but some of the other guys are just like, ‘I just want another hamburger.’ And they have a lot of Indian food. The Indian food is great there. But whatever floats your boat, if you’re not digging that kind of stuff. In London the food is wonderful because there’s a whole Indian population.
In London, you could be there your whole life and still not see everything.
Absolutely. It’s amazing.
I was thinking of playing a little word association. I’m going to throw out a word, and you tell me what comes to mind. I’ll start with the word “college.”
College. I never went.
Yeah, I started playing in the band during my junior/senior year of high school. To be honest with you, I never really experienced it. A lot of people will say, “You’re living the life.” But even today just buying Wendy’s and sitting at the little tables, you know, doing the whole experience was interesting. We live without any set schedule, where all my friends go to college. So I felt it in a sense, where people are saying, “I’m going to be late to class,” and all this, where it’s a complete shift in priorities. It’s just a different kind of life I haven’t gotten to experience, and I don’t think I ever will that way. At my age if I do go back, it wouldn’t be the same at my age doing the whole experience. But I’m definitely not salty about it. I think people who take school seriously and actually are into their classes and don’t bitch…I think it’s wonderful. You know what I mean? They’re there for the right reasons.
How about the phrase “the scene?”
I guess we’re a part of it. I don’t know. As far as the scene, it’s such a broad word because of all these bands. Coheed and Cambria was a scene band and now they’ve obviously gone beyond scene. As far as Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance, I remember seeing them with 400 people going, “Kid’s cool you know, I think he’s going to be alright.” For me it’s more of a movement, a mentality than a music. Emo is a great word because you’ll call Death Cab for Cutie emo, but Thursday’s also emo.
My next word was “emo.”
Talking about emo, we laugh it off to some extent because bands like Cursive will be called emo and then you’ll get a band like Senses Fail or Hawthorne Heights. To me it’s just categorizing more independent music, stuff that’s a bit underground, and as it moves up people want to call it something. For example, even the bands on this tour were all lumped into the same category, from Hellogoodbye to Acceptance to Panic! At the Disco. To us I think that all the bands have different elements. I think it’s funny that the harder, screaming bands are lumped into the same bands as the melodic, Saddle Creek bands.
What about the phrase “major label?”
It doesn’t matter anymore, because as far as the indie cred’ goes, every label has sold out, to a certain extent. They’ve signed many different bands and they don’t fit a format anymore. They’re almost a small major label, anyway. Saddle Creek’s the closest to, you know what I mean, coming out with really solid material. Every band gets huge, and I mean indie-huge, but they keep coming out and they stick to their guns. But even Fueled By Ramen and Victory and Drive-Thru…they pick so many bands, it almost doesn’t matter. The second part is that most indie labels have distribution by major labels.
That’s what I’ve found. These labels are like subsidiaries.
There is no rock music in the major-label form anymore, because as the cock rock and the Puddle of Mudd thing went away, and the whole Creed kind of stuff…well that was very major label. They go in there, put out a record and then they’re on the radio. Now I see how Coheed and Cambria and Fall Out Boy have grown and done a bunch of touring, where it’s the movement. With my band it’s the fact that we haven’t sold a million records, but we can we can go in and sell out a whole tour because we have hardcore fans, or people that really enjoy our music. It’s more focused as opposed to some band like Papa Roach, who sold like 8 million records. You didn’t get attached to a band, you got attached to a song. I’m sure there are people that really enjoyed their record and I’m talking crap, but in the majority, these bands have released just songs and singles. Which is all good because I do the same thing. I go on my iPod and make mixes of ’90s and Semisonic.
All the bands where you don’t know the name, but you know the tune.
But I think with this whole movement in talking about the major labels, it’s almost like it doesn’t matter. The more the Internet comes in, the more the labels don’t know what to do. With the pop and rap they’re doing fine – make a video, show them with a lot of money, show the cars, show the girls, and “Boom!” they look like stars. With rock bands it’s very difficult, because people don’t buy into that anymore. You just see some bonehead on TV with a great video – you’re like “Fuck that.” Now it’s the element of discovery, an element of word-of-mouth, which for me is much better. I want to make great videos and all those things, but I want to do it in a sense that it makes sense.