The Academic’s new EP, Acting My Age, contains six sunny tunes which leave no time for summer blues.
Acting My Age as a whole has an undeniably polished sound, with instantly attractive melodies that shine in everything from vocals to big synths to bright guitar lines. It’s grand scope is pulled tightly together with exciting production that demands attention. The six songs cover a lot of ground sonically: Anything Could Happen is punchy and sweet, Unspoken is full of bouncy throwback synths, Sunroof has a soaring chorus that demands (as the chorus suggests) to be screamed from the sunroof, and Happy Hour highlights their sharp edge and takes the album into a gritty, garage rock territory.
But the standout track, album closer Them, finds the Irish four-piece venturing into new sonic territory. It’s a stripped down ballad that has a softly melancholic touch and is unlike anything we’ve heard from the band before. That mixed with the personal quality of the lyrics makes Them in particular a hard one to forget. “I wrote it kind of about my younger sister, who’s going through a lot of the house-parties-with-friends thing which I’m kind of out of now,” says singer Craig Fitzgerald. “There’s a lyric in the song which I feel like for years I was trying to sum up- that feeling of going to a party with the expectation of maybe falling in love with somebody- but then there’s somebody else and it usually ends up with tears.” Craig finally found the words for this feeling in Them: “Perfecting the art of an Irish goodbye/ Leaving the party with tears in your eyes”.
Craig’s sister has played a part in the band for a bit more than the lyrical content too. Craig has mentioned that when he was younger he would play his songs for his sister first, looking for a nod of approval. “She has such a pop minded attitude towards music, she just likes something that sounds good and that’s the kind of music that I like to write. So I used to, if she was sitting in the sitting room, I would go in and play a couple of covers quietly and she would be like, ‘oh he’s just singing The Beatles or whatever’, and then I’d sneak one of my songs in. And if she would go ‘what’s that one? I don’t know that song,’ I would be like ‘yeah that’s mine. So you think it’s good?’ And she’d say ‘yeah.’ And that would kind of be the beginning of me knowing it’s a good song.”
Turns out this is still the case for new Academic content. “I don’t see her as much because she was younger then, now she’s in college doing her thing, but I still send her music. Usually I ask her, am I crazy to think this is good? And I’ll show her a snippet and she’ll come back and say yeah she likes it. So it’s still very important to use someone else as a sounding board.”
Collaboration is for sure something that The Academic don’t shy away from. As a band the songwriting is shared, with Craig usually starting “with a song in my bedroom with a guitar or sometimes just words. I build a skeleton and it’s never fully finished until the other guys put their magic on it. When the guys hop on my wacky bedroom stuff is when it becomes The Academic.”
Working with people outside of the band is also a part of their music. Acting My Age is a great mix of different producers, with two songs citing credits to Nick Hodgson of Kaiser Chiefs and one with Carmac Butler who they worked with on previous singles Superlike and Aftertaste. The three last songs on the EP were self-produced. “It was a healthy mix of the four of us hiding away in a cabin and doing it by ourselves and then meeting new people and going into studios because we love collaborating as well.”
Although connecting with fans and promoting music without the festival season “can be tough,” the band has been doing a lot of Instagram lives and Zoom hangouts “to feel as close to fans as possible.”