Reflecting On: The Academy Is… – Santi

It’s been 10 years and I’m still not completely sure how to use the word “Santi” in a sentence. Employing an inside joke from your high school days as the title of your sophomore release and potential mainstream breakthrough is admittedly curious, but The Academy Is always seemed to have an affinity for doing things their own way.

Two years before Santi’s release, the Chicago rock act had their breakthrough on Fueled by Ramen with Almost Here – a scene classic that helped define an era of snide emo pop, even as the album itself remained a relatively underground gem. The ensuing years would see a cast of the band’s label mates rise to pop radio stardom (Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, Paramore, Gym Class Heroes) while The Academy Is seemingly remained a buzz band on the brink.

You can buy Santi on iTunes.

Enter Santi – an album that seemed primed for success. With a stellar debut under their belt, one of the most exciting young frontmen in music behind the mic, and the benefit of rising Fueled by Ramen stock in their pocket, The Academy Is tabbed the legendary Butch Walker to produce the record. The resulting effort remains the band’s most divisive album to date, but is arguably their best.

I still remember purchasing Santi on the day of its release at a Hasting’s book store in Enid, Oklahoma. As a huge fan of Almost Here and a firm believer that the band was destined for stardom, I was giddy to see the CD’s front and center placement when I walked into the store. I also remember those subsequent first listens as I tried to process what I was hearing. Despite spinning the album for weeks on end, I couldn’t decide if I actually liked it.

Everything about Santi (aside from its peculiar title) seemed primed for a breakthrough. The album’s cover, featuring the band’s name in flashy neon lights. The Pete Wentz cameo in the band’s video for first single “We’ve Got a Big Mess on Our Hands” (which was later referenced in a Fall Out Boy video). A prime slot on the summer’s premier Honda Civic Tour. William Beckett’s cocky swagger blossoming even further, placing ruminations on impending fame to tape: “It was a big bang and a bright white light from nowhere / It turned my coach class window to a first class seat on the evening news on NBC”.

Despite all of the signs, Santi never quite took off. True to the band’s free and unconventional tendencies, the album was a complete departure from their debut. Gone were the pop punk leanings and snappy production of Almost Here, replaced by gritty guitars and stark changes of pace that gave Santi a garage or indie rock type feel. As the scene around the band began embracing the successful sheen of pop radio, Santi may have been ahead of its time, simply by avoiding an obvious approach.

If you were to dare administer criticism in the direction of Almost Here, you might draw attention to its lack of variety. That debut, for all of its worthy praise, avoided diversity at all costs, choosing to play to one very commendable strength. Santi, on the other hand, is so full of range that it’s hard to pin the album down to one particular genre.

While rich melody is present throughout, its presentation changes from track to track. Here you’ll find homages to classic rock (“Bulls in Brooklyn”), dance-y post-punk (“Same Blood”), mid-90s alt rock (“You Might Have Noticed”) and even a gentle ballad (“Everything We Had”). A signature Butch Walker underbelly of raw guitars serves as Santi’s refrain, even as the songs themselves vary wildly.

It is my firm belief that there is not a bad song on Santi. In fact, many of the album’s tracks would quietly prove to be the best work The Academy Is produced during their eight year run. Unfortunately, a lack of cohesiveness accompanied by a hard right turn from the sound that put the band on the map made Santi a tough pill to swallow for most fans, even though most seemed to have softened on the record over the course of the past decade.

The Academy Is released three very different albums during their short existence, each showcasing the kind of range that many bands could only dream of. In the case of The Academy Is, this penchant for variety potentially hamstrung the band from cashing in on a definitive sound that could have propelled them to greater heights. Instead, they remain mysterious legends, respected for their refusal to follow the crowd. If I had to make a guess, the band would likely say that they wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Honestly, I don’t think I would either. On a warm, sunny summer day, Almost Here can be found in regular rotation on my stereo – the perfect background music for the season. But when I want to remember how great of a band The Academy Is truly was and ponder on what could have been, I reach for Santi.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Will The Academy Is… Reunite for “Santi” Anniversary Tour?


Last week, The Academy Is… updated their Facebook profile photo with a promo shot from the Santi album cycle. Seeing as how the album turns 10 years old in April, the subtle update raises some big questions about what lies ahead.

Seeing as how the emo pop darlings from Chicago reunited two years ago for a run of dates in support of Almost Here, another round of anniversary dates wouldn’t be outside of the realm of possibility. In the decade since its release, the band’s sophomore effort has become seemingly more lauded than it was upon its release.

Fresh off the buzz of their debut, The Academy Is… hoped to capitalize on the momentum that seemed to be carrying scene bands into the mainstream in bulk. In many ways, Santi was truly a more well-rounded and mature effort than Almost Here, but failed to capture the same spark that their debut did in many fans’ eyes.

Now, 10 years removed from that release, tracks like “Same Blood”, “Seed” and “Bulls in Brooklyn” sound full of life and even outshine the album’s original singles. Based on the turnout from 2015’s mini-reunion, it seems undeniable that a similar run for Santi would be happily welcomed. Here’s hoping for an announcement soon.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

The Academy Is… Will Reunite to Play Riot Fest in Chicago


Talk about unexpected! The Academy Is… will be reuniting to play this year’s Riot Fest in Chicago. The band will be playing their debut album Almost Here in its entirety in honor of the album’s 10th anniversary. Sadly, it would appear that this will also be their farewell performance. You can read a message from the band below:

Hello old friends,
We are pleased to announce that we will be reuniting the band for a our first show in many years. In September, we will come together for Chicago’s RIOT FEST in Douglas Park to perform our beloved debut album “Almost Here” in its entirety. This is a 10 Year Anniversary Show! This is a Reunion Show! This is a Farewell Show! We are extremely excited to take a trip down memory lane — in the city that we call home.
See you soon!
Xo. The Academy Is…

Riot Fest is set to take place September 11-13 at Douglas Park in Chicago. To view the full lineup, go here.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Reflecting on: The Academy Is… – Almost Here


During 2015, we’re going to be looking back on some of the best albums that were released 10 years ago and discussing their legacy. Feel free to share your thoughts and memories in the replies. Enjoy!

You could quite easily call 2005 the year of Fueled by Ramen. Although the indie label was no stranger to success stories (see: Jimmy Eat World), the mid-aughts served as a gold mine. In 2005, Fueled by Ramen saw the meteoric rise of Fall Out Boy and Panic! at the Disco, along with breakthrough records for soon-to-be-stars Gym Class Heroes and Paramore.

For all of the fame and platinum albums garnered by the aforementioned acts, there were a few Fueled by Ramen bands that came ever-so-close to the limelight, only to watch it fade away. Perhaps no band in the label’s history encapsulates “what could have been” better than The Academy Is….

Hailing from Chicago, just like their contemporaries in Fall Out Boy, The Academy Is… hit the scene with their debut album Almost Here after stirring some buzz with an eponymous EP one year prior. Almost Here is a non-stop whirlwind of glossy emo pop that could easily stand alongside any release this scene has witnessed. Not only was the album a near-perfect debut, it was also the best album the band would release during their startlingly brief career.

But before we get to the bad news, let’s just take a few moments and remember why Almost Here was so damn good. As a matter of fact, go ahead and stop reading and put the record on. I’ll wait. The album clocks in just over a half hour and is driven non-stop by the sleek guitars of A.J. LaTrace and Mike Carden. James Paul Wisner handled the production duties for Almost Here, and you can feel his signature polish on every track.

Michael DelPrincipe (drums) and Adam Siska (bass) round out the instrumentals, and each member plays a key role. No instrument overshadows another and each gets their chance to shine. It’s a credit to Wisner, per usual, that the mix feels so clean and full of life. Almost Here is a rockin’ record, but it’s impossible to deny how easy these songs go down.

For as talented as every member of this band proved to be on this debut, the album, and truly, The Academy Is… itself, belonged to William Beckett. It’s fully possible that no frontman in this scene has ever possessed as much swagger as Beckett does on Almost Here. His smooth, confident delivery seethes from every corner of the record. Alex Davies of BBC once described Beckett as a cross between Adam Lazzara and Prince – and he wasn’t wrong.

When Beckett opens the album with the gently delivered lines of, “Attention, attention / May I have all your eyes and ears to the front of the room / If only, if only for one second” we’re all put on notice. What follows is a band making the most of every opportunity. Every chorus, every breakdown, every swirling climax is handled with care. These are songs you can replay relentlessly, but Beckett’s knack for constructing a clever line makes the experience that much more enjoyable.

His lyrics meander from lost love to lasting friendships to a steadfast belief that he’s on the verge. When he snarls the lines of, “Oh Mr. Magazine, I never wrote one single thing for you / And your so-called music scene / You don’t mean a thing to me” on “Black Mamba”, you can hear his defiant confidence in every word. Beckett’s turn of phrase just adds to his repertoire. Consider “Slow Down”, which finds the band delivering one of the most dance-able instrumental bridges in recent memory, only to be eclipsed by Beckett, who effortlessly drops his legendary croon of, “I’m not saying that I’m not breaking some hearts tonight, girl”.

In a decade defined by razor-sharp tongues lashing against heartless former lovers, Beckett delivered a catalogue of one-liners on just his debut. On “Skeptics and True Believers” he opens with, “Don’t be so scared, we will not lead / You on like you’ve been doing for weeks” followed later by, “Someone, somewhere said some things that may have sparked some sympathy / But don’t believe, don’t believe a word you’ve heard”.

For all of its momentary guile, Almost Here is a surprisingly uplifting and forward-looking record. The album is loaded with singles, from the peppy “Checkmarks” to the high-flying “Season”. For every biting remark, there’s a complimentary brush of the shoulder and encouragement to carry on. “Hold your head high, heavy heart”, Beckett sings on “The Phrase That Pays”. The album comes to a close with his triumphant repeated declaration of, “Our time is almost, our time is almost here!”

Despite its artistic successes, Almost Here flew largely under the radar, overshadowed by the band’s contemporaries. Though the band would go on to receive moderate MTV rotation and meager radio play in following years, their follow-ups (Santi and Fast Times at Barrington High) failed to capture the spark of their debut. Sadly, the band always appeared a step or two behind their label mates. Their disbandment in 2011 after a few years of relative inactivity seemed depressingly unsurprising.

In hindsight, Almost Here is more focused than From Under the Cork Tree and more technically sound than A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. It helped pave the way for bands like Mayday Parade and All Time Low. After 10 years, it still stands as one of the greatest and most original emo/pop punk records to release amidst a decade of lookalikes. Even if The Academy Is… failed to burn out bright, there’s no denying that they captured the most thrilling kind of lightning in a bottle in 2005. And we’re all the better for it.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.