Stephen Murtagh, a quarter of independent fire brand The Academic, says: ‘The death of fascism. “The rise of remote rights in our country is astounding. There are so many things that make me angry about Ireland.”
the band he plays bass guitar, high-octane alternative pop performers, is a good reason to feel positive about Ireland.
Growing up in Westmeath, Stephen’s heroes were not The Killers or Kings of Leon, but Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry – Arsenal’s stars in the team’s 2003/2004 ‘invincible’ era.
“They made me love football,” he said. “But when I realized I wasn’t going to be a footballer, my love of music took its place. There is an incredible guitar teacher outside of Mullingar named Vinny Baker. He passed, but I was lucky enough to do some lessons with him. He made a huge impression on me.”
Sitting in a house in their home district, Stephen and singer Craig Fitzgerald ponder modern living and The Academic’s place in the scheme of things. In February, they will release their first major label album Sit pretty – and big things are expected for this worldwide release. The band was signed by Capitol in May 2020 after their debut, Story from the back seat, received numerous critical acclaim and also peaked at number 1 in Ireland. So global fame is on the horizon.
Craig of the new single ‘Pushing Up Daises’ said: “We’re tackling existential questions in our new songs. This title is rational, in the sense that we probably shouldn’t sit pretty as the planet perishes
“It’s like people looking at each other and saying, ‘Everything’s fine,'” says Stephen – but the reality is the house is on fire.
“I think, in the process of composing the song, the glass was half empty,” mused Craig.
Stephen added: “Probably a little nervous. “It’s not insecure about how we perceive our music, it’s not safe to let your personality flow into our songs and see yourself through an honest lens.”
When he was nine, Craig moved from Dublin to Westmeath – and
It was there, at St Joseph’s High School, that he met Dean Gavin, from Rochfortbridge, and Matt Murtagh, from Raharney. Friendship will change their lives.
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“Study in the same class, we always hang out together and just need to shoot. We are all interested in music. We met Stephen shortly after, because he was Matt’s younger brother. He was still in elementary school when we met.”
Miss Taffe, Stephen’s teacher at Raharney National School, played her student Yellow Submarine by The Beatles.
“I was hooked. I still have the CD and the booklet has worn out almost nothing.
“I was the youngest in the band,” he said, “So when I first met Craig and Dean, I thought these elders were a lot cooler than me. It’s natural when you’re young.”
“We all have a lot of the same interests,” says Craig, “not only music but sports as well, and we just hang out a lot. We were always playing music, but in different forms – so when we were all free at the end, we decided to do the full band job.”
He has memories of going to Mullingar for the weekend with Dean and Matt. They would go into Golden Discs and joke about forming a band, he laughs, “throwing around with terrible band names.”
In terms of heroism and influence, there’s no doubt.
“The influence Oasis had on us as we were growing up was huge. Between The Beatles and Oasis, that’s how we learn chords and song structure. We would meet after school and start showing the chords that we chose them. “
When the boys came to see Oasis play at Slane Castle in June 2009, they were “urged to start writing, form a band and go out and play,” says Craig.
“Oasis was the first band I was really obsessed with,” agrees Stephen, who says the trip to Slane was his first gig. “I believe Noel Gallagher is the greatest musician of all time. No one can tell me otherwise.”
In their teens (with Stephen even younger) they practice after school. They started playing weird music in the Danny Byrnes pub in Mullingar. They proceeded to play Kings of Leon and Killers’ cover mini gigs in Dalys, across the street.
“We used to play gigs on Thursdays for 50 quid, really just for bar staff,” says Craig. “We’ll have to play enough music for two hours.”
“We basically did the whole back-end catalog of The Killers,” says Stephen. “It definitely left internal scars. I don’t think I’ve listened to them much since then, which is weird because I think they’re excellent. “
With Craig on vocals/guitar, along with the Murtagh brothers (Matt on lead guitar, Stephen bass) and Dean Gavin on drums, they began playing together loosely in 2012.
Stephen has a video of them from there, playing (under the name Maginot) a song called ‘Girlfriends’, which was on the first album.
Craig said: “I didn’t really have a girlfriend at the time. “That song is about being a little bit rebellious and hanging out with girls a bit taller than me in the food chain.”
Academic officially formed in 2013 and that year released ‘Girlfriends’ as a single. In October 2015, they released their debut EP, ‘Loose Friends’, which was followed by a sold-out performance at Dublin’s Vicar Street. People love them and in 2016 they opened for The Pixies at the Marquee in Cork.
Craig said: “Pixies was born right after Stephen made the movie Leaving Cert. “To go from that final exam to opening a legendary band in the same week is a miracle. We had a great chat with Frank Black after the show, which made a huge impression on us. “
In May 2018, they opened the doors for the Rolling Stones at Croke Park, showing to an audience of 80,000.
“We swore an oath to secrecy,” Stephen said. “But it’s incredibly hard news to keep to yourself – although I think we hardly talk about it ourselves, in case we record it and it’s not going to happen.”
Two months later, they performed a title show at Iveagh Gardens in front of 4,000 fans of their own. In January 2018, the debut album, Story from the back seatwhich they look back on with “infinite pride”.
Stephen said: “I didn’t think I could handle it properly at the time, but for an independent debut album to go straight to number one was a bit outrageous. It has taken us around the world. I have nothing but love for that record. “
New album Sit prettywhich is due out on February 10, is “very different from the first,” said Stephen, checking out the name ‘Pushing Up Daisy’ to show an aspect of the band he liked, noting “The swagger of the lyrics and the sweetness of the 1970s backing vocals were inspired by the Beach Boys. And ‘My Very Best’ is probably the most emotional song we’ve ever recorded.
“I had a very strange experience when we first heard it again. I hope people will find it as moving as I am.”
“There are definitely a lot of new flavors of music that we haven’t studied too much before and that hopefully excite people,” says Craig.
“I get really excited when people listen to songs like ‘Buy Smoke,’ ‘Homesick,’ and ‘My Footsteps Walk.’ I listened to a lot of Dylan, Lennon and Paul Simon around the time we did it.”
How do they approach this differently from other distros?
“With our first album, we perfected all the songs and played them up and down in the water,” says Craig. “I mean, we had a lifetime to write that first album and knew what to expect when we started recording.
“This time around, the studio was our creative space, location, and audience.
“We wanted to give it a bit more of an attitude – like the band we were when we first started, back with explosive songs, not thinking about it too much, not being too complicated. grocery it.
“This time around, we feel much more comfortable in the studio and we have a great team working with us, Nick Hodgson. [of Kaiser Chiefs] led production. We have good chemistry with that man and everything flows really well. “
Stephen adds: “We didn’t play any of these for the audience before we recorded them, which was the exact opposite of our first recording. “Feels like buffet tracks Storiesbecause we know how much our fans love listening to the live versions.
“But on Sit prettythere are a few songs that we’re ready to put on the burner later – before the studio picks them up. “
Finally, what is people’s biggest misconception about The Academic?
Stephen laughed: “We are a bunch of half-bloods from Mullingar. “No way, buddy. Shout out to our glorious little Westmeath villages. Up Raharney! Up Killucan! Up Rochfortbridge! “
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/music/the-academic-we-opened-for-the-pixies-in-the-same-week-stephen-finished-his-leaving-cert-42122726.html Academic: ‘We opened The Pixies the same week Stephen finished Leaving Cert’