An interview with Andy Mrotek of The Academy Is…
what The Academy Is…, which opens for Fall Out Boy.
when 6 p.m., Thursday, May 17.
where Bradley Center, 1001 N 4th St.
how much $23-$33
As compadres of eyeliner-wearing Pete Wentz and the rest of the Fall Out Boy crew, itâ€™s easy to dismiss The Academy Is… as a bunch of dandy-fop rockers.
But theyâ€™re dandy-fop rockers whoâ€™ve toured across America and Europe, gotten mtvU Woodie Awards nominations and were on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
Over the phone from Denver, drummer and Milwaukee native Andy “The Butcher” Mrotek, 23, talked about kicking off the Honda Civic Tour with Fall Out Boy.
Itâ€™s a crazy schedule, with almost daily shows until July, but Mrotek doesnâ€™t mind.
“I love touring,” the Milwaukee High School for the Arts graduate said. Mrotek toured for two years with The Academy Is… before its debut, â€œAlmost Here,â€ was released.
“I was raised on this band touring; I’ll do it ’til my legs give out,” he said.
The only drawback? Not having a permanent address. “Because we tour so much and fly so much to different shows, we’re in Denver as much as I am home,” Mrotek said, adding, “I still consider my home to be Milwaukee.”
Q: Your sophomore album is called “Santi.” What does it mean?
A: Itâ€™s like, “Cheers,” or a hi. Like “hakunah matata” â€” itâ€™s the same idea. We just started saying it and we couldnâ€™t stop, and we needed a name for the album so we just used that. It means different things in different languages. In Latin, it means “the one who knows.”
Q: Which local bands do you like?
A: When I was in a local band, I was a lot more up-to-date. Iâ€™m not really into the scene anymore, but here are a few of the bands I liked that I used to play with: Queue the Violins, the Response and Revision Text.
Q: Whatâ€™s the biggest difference between bands from Milwaukee and the bands that you meet in L.A.?
A: â€œWhen youâ€™re (from Milwaukee) and in local bands, image is never a thing â€” we had to worry about having enough money to get to a show. Being in an up-and-coming band now, we have a budget and (are able to) work on our image, so weâ€™re able to live (whatâ€™s perceived to be) the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle more. … We may have a kind of image, but most of us come from Midwest. We donâ€™t fit the mold of the generic rock star, and weâ€™re not going to start wearing eyeliner anytime soon. If you can survive as a band without doing anything to your image, then you know your music stands for itself.
Q: Youâ€™re usually described as an emo band. What do you think of that term?
A: People will call you whatever they want, and emo is actually one of the nicer terms theyâ€™ve used to describe us! (I think) itâ€™s better than having people make fun of (us), and the label is funny, but we just accept it.
Q: What has the reception to “Santi” been like?
A: We havenâ€™t played many songs live since it came out, so we canâ€™t really gauge it yet. So far, though, whenever we play new songs … itâ€™s been great. I canâ€™t wait to play a good chunk of the album and have people absorb the songs live. Itâ€™s a whole different experience from listening to it in your car. There’s something special about listening to a band live â€” even when you make mistakes, it makes it real.
Q: Whatâ€™s your favorite track on “Santi”?
A: “Bulls in Brooklyn.” The original musical idea came from me â€” it was the first demo I made for this band. (Mrotek plays guitar, bass and sings as well as playing the drums.) It became this monster â€” it was the biggest surprise in the studio and the most pleasant surprise.
Q: How did you write the songs on this album?
A: There was a lineup change in the middle of it, so it was different. This time we basically would write songs, and we started jamming the songs that were most put together. This (album) was very collaborative and had good vibes.
Q: What happened to your old guitarist?
A: Our old guitarist, Tom Conrad wasnâ€™t very happy in the band. We knew that, but we had to write an album. We met Michael Guy Chislett when he was a guitarist for (their producer) Butch Walker, and we asked him to join the band. Heâ€™s a sweet guitarist who brought new stuff to the table. All our concentration was getting these songs finished, so we just rolled with it. … We werenâ€™t sure if he was going to join the band or not, but he was so good we just hoped he would be into it.
Q: Why are you called â€œThe Butcher?â€
A: I used to be a butcher at Pick Nâ€™ Save, then I became a vegetarian soon after for obvious reasons. But because I didnâ€™t have any money. … I stayed a butcher for about a year. Then the band I was in (Last Place Chance) dissolved, and we had played a show in Chicago with The Academy Is…, which lost their guitarist and drummer. When they asked me to play for them, I originally said no, so they drove up to show me the record â€” and it was so good that I did it.
These guys just said, “Weâ€™re going to call you ‘The Butcher,’ ” and I figured it was OK because there was no way it was going to stick. Now Iâ€™m just conditioned to hearing “The Butcher,” but everyone in Milwaukee still calls me Andy.
Q: Are you still vegetarian?
A: No, that was shortlived. When we first started touring I wasnâ€™t partying too hard, (yet I ) contracted mono and still had to tour. I decided I had to eat. I hear bands surviving being vegan. … I just donâ€™t know how they do it.
Q: Who are you inspired by?
A: The Foo Fighters. I’ve always really admired Dave Grohl; he was in Nirvana as a drummer, which was a super-influential band. And he’s got great voice and gutar skills and did the Foo Fighters, which is now five or six albums deep. You can tell he didn’t do (music) for money or any other reason other than just the music. That is just really admirable.
Led Zeppelinâ€™s John Bonham is great drummer. Jason McGerr of Death Cab for Cutie is a great drummer. I respect Death Cab a lot because itâ€™s a very graceful band. I admire that, bands with grace. A lot of bands struggle to keep doing music, and you can see it.
Q: Is there anything you want us to watch out for at your May 17 show? (The band also will perform at Summerfest.)
A: Watch me, obviously. Oh, and absorb the new songs.