Nothing will ever feel as free as the first time you hit the recording studio to lay down your own music, a rush that Irish foursome The Academic channeled perfectly on their 2015 debut EP ‘Loose Friends’. The joyful intensity of those early songs was all ripped jeans and carefree nights, as the band sang about youthful passion with optimistic fervor and a cheeky wink.
That irresistible charm, undeniable wit, and infectious personality shines through again on their highly anticipated debut full-length ‘Tales From The Backseat,’ proof-positive of the band’s embodiment of a refreshing tonic and barrage of fireworks rolled into one. Leaping from mellow, artfully constructed melodic thoughtfulness into wild, explosive moments of raucous brilliance, there’s a surprise around every corner within The Academic’s music and songwriting, all executed with an undeniable measure of passion and grit.
Now in their early twenties, The Academic are one of the most exciting new acts coming out of Ireland. Growing up in the rural town of Mullingar, about an hour west of Dublin and set in the very heart of Ireland’s agricultural midlands the four met in high school, becoming firm friends through their shared of love of toasted sandwiches, Nicholas Cage movies, and of course, music, with each having their own unique influence. Brothers Stephen and Matt Murtagh favored Britpop, Craig Fitzgerald rap, while ‘dark-side’ Dean Gavin was into metal. Those differences soon blended into a shared enthusiasm for the early 2k NYC rock revival lead by the likes of The Strokes, Interpol and Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs and that post-punk sound made an indelible ‘watermark’ on The Academic’s music.
For the four members of The Academic, one thing was clear: they were always going to make music. From their very first gig - an underage school disco where they performed a shoddy MGMT cover with a nerve-wracked Craig on lead-guitar - to their appearance on Battle of the Bands when they came a resounding last, these four Irish Midlanders were resolute in their determination to share their music.
They started shredding through their local live scene. “We played a lot of parties, pubs, clubs, with our friends in the crowd,” says Matt. “It was hot, sweaty and full of energy. We didn’t know what we were doing but those shows were a lot of fun to play, especially the ones where the crowd was on the same level as the band.”
“We realized pretty quickly that this is all we wanted to do” chips in Craig. A live show styled at supporting local bands and playing half-filled pubs on bingo night, now takes to much larger stages across the globe. The Academic have gone on to play Ireland’s premier indoor venue, the 3Arena, sold out tours across Ireland, the UK and Europe and have shared stage space with international headliners such as Twenty One Pilots and Catfish & The Bottlemen. One quite serendipitous twist saw them break festival bread with tier-1 rock-revivalists, The Strokes.
Over time, they became more comfortable in the studio, refining their sound and the youthful perspective in their songwriting. Released in 2015, the ‘Loose Friends EP’ earned them domestic acclaim, while 2016’s “Mixtape 2003” single broke them on the international stage - particularly thanks to the support of UK’s biggest radio station BBC1 who have continued to heavily support. Why Can’t We Be Friends, the latest track to be unveiled from their forthcoming debut album entitled ‘Tales From The Backseat’, was recently made ‘Hottest Record in The World’ by BBC Radio 1’s Annie Mac, one of UK’s most influential tastemakers.
The Academic write indie rock stories from a personal perspective; experiences that are pertinent to their personal geography, but remain universally relatable. Their stories hinge on the central theme of growing up in a small Irish town; seeing life from the side where the grass isn’t always so green, but at the end of the day, it’s still your turf. On songs like “Mixtape 2003” and “Bear Claws,” The Academic commune with the teen selves they’ve left behind as they embark on their 20s. “Bear Claws” in particular nails their onstage spirit, and shows a band fast approaching their zenith.
“Our songs are stories about everything from relationships, to nightlife, to a dissatisfaction with the ‘what’ and ‘where’, and a longing for bigger and better things,” explains Matt. “I think what is interesting about our songs is that they give the world a glimpse of what adolescent life is like in small town Ireland.”
Their songs chronicle the relief of pitch-black teenage winters finally giving way to the adult bright lights beyond their native Mullingar flatlands. But as their lyrics hint, with freedom comes newfound anxieties. In their words: “It’s about recognizing that life can’t be all fun and games forever, but that it’s still okay to have a good time.”