Article by Bre Cura and Emily Herbein // Graphics and Livestream Photos by Bre Cura
Acting My Age is a 6-track dive into the minds of one of Ireland’s most prolific alt rockers, The Academic. After a stunning break into the European scene with their debut LP, Tales From the Backseat (2018), the foursome has evolved their sound from earnest indie to something almost pop-rock adjacent. Acting My Age delicately toes the line between modern alt-rock and a new-wave cinematic renaissance with its scene-heavy tonality.
We were lucky enough to be included in a conversation about the process behind the EP. The band walked us through their lives while in quarantine, how they navigated tracking new songs remotely, and what moments stand out for Acting My Age.
You guys have only just recently started practicing music together again – how did that first session go?
Dean: “It was the first time we got to be in a room together and play the songs off the EP. It was really interesting because as the lads were saying, we wrote the songs separately in the studio, we never got to jam it out together. So it was really fun to get to do that, and we are looking forward to playing them in the future.”
With songs like “Aftertaste” and “Super Like,” there is a kind of shift from typical indie rock to a sound that includes more synths and pop based elements. Is there other new musical territory that you are venturing into on the Acting My Age EP?
Matt: “I think part of what inspired it was at the time, all of us as a band going through a really big phase of new wave music. Bands like New Order, Psychedelic Furs and stuff like that. For a good year, we were really into that kind of music. There’s probably only one song that reflects that, and looks back at that synth-pop/cinematic sounding type. The EP covers a bit more ground than that. There’s stuff we haven’t really tried before.”
What inspired the creation of the “Anything Can Happen” music video and how does the narrative relate to the song itself?
Stephen: “‘Anything Can Happen’ was meant to be a very different video. We were coming back from a gig in Dubai on St. Patrick’s Day, and we were meant to head to London the next day and shoot a performance video, and we just decided not to go. Turned out to be the right decision because the country went into lockdown. We got in touch with the directors and realized we might not be able to do a music video at all, or it might have to be an animation, or we were gonna have to do it from lockdown. Then they had this idea for it to be couples in lockdown. That was interesting to us because it kind of doesn’t fit the narrative of the sound at all because when we wrote the song, we thought the lyrics were a little bit dark. We thought it was about people stuck in a rut, or people who aren’t particularly happy and are trying to take control of their lives again. Then when we got the idea of couples falling madly in love during quarantine, and it gave the song a completely different meaning. To me, I find it incredibly upbeat and happy, which was not what we were thinking about the song when we originally wrote it.”
What’s the lyric that took the most courage for you to write? One you look back on and are really proud of?
Craig: “There’s a song on the new EP, it’s a kind of ballad, which we haven’t really tried. It’s called “Them,” and I actually wrote it about my younger sister. She’s going through the “house parties with friends” thing, which I’m kind of out of now. There’s a lyric in the song which I feel that for years I was trying to sum up that feeling. Going to a party with expectations of maybe falling in love with somebody, but then there’s somebody else, and it usually ends up in tears. The lyric is, ‘Perfecting the art of an Irish goodbye, leaving the party with tears in your eyes’. I think that’s my favorite lyric, and I’m excited for people to hear that.”
How did you sequence the track order for Acting My Age?
Matt: “It’s something we thought a lot about, but we didn’t want to overthink it too much. We always like to start strong, and for the most part the ep is pretty obese. The track ‘Them’ is the last one, and it leaves you with something to think about, more so than an upbeat song. I think with sequencing don’t overthink it and go with your gut, if it seems right it probably is.”
What was the most important thing you learned while creating Acting My Age?
Craig: “Patience. Absolute, pure patience. With that song, the verses were really good, and we had a chorus, tracked it a bunch – like twenty vocal tracks of this chorus – and then I remember Stephen saying, ‘It’s not good’. So then we did another one, and the same thing happened. But patience and not forcing it, we took a break, and then the chorus was there. It was like a fresh mind and the payoff was a great feeling.”
Dean: “Yeah there were a few bad choruses in there, so I’m glad we made the right call.”
Acting My Age is the perfect blend of melancholic rock and upbeat pop, artfully fused together with a newly synthetic production. Standout tracks such as “Them” display The Academic’s step into new territory with a stripped-down sound and heavier perspective on transitional periods of life. Whether that’s navigating moments where you feel too old to stay at the party or too young to go home, The Academic pinpoints these specific times in an overtly poetic way. Settling in relationships or feeling stuck in your apartment on a Saturday night emphasize the progress of growth while rooted in a standstill. This EP reminds us that the dichotomy of acting your age is never a linear process, but rather one filled with the trials and errors of learning which self is the one you feel the most at home in.