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The Academic Announce Debut Album

These viral Irish rockers have opened for some of music’s biggest acts

Rising indie rock troupe The Academic, made up of a pair of brothers and their two best friends, formed as a middle school garage band in bucolic southeast Ireland. Now a polished act supporting the likes of Noel Gallagher, Cage the Elephant, and Twenty One Pilots, their music remains rooted in the friction of adolescence, balancing raw emotion and wily irreverence. And while their moniker may evoke a bookish authority, it is, in fact, an ironic reference to one iconic enfant terrible.

“We got the band name from the book The Catcher in the Rye, which we read at around 16, 17” lead vocalist Craig Fitzgerald, now in his early 20s, tells us. “The word ‘academic’ just happens to appear in the first couple pages a lot and it stood out to us.”

The band’s sardonic name (Holden Caulfield was, of course, an academic failure) demonstrates the their impulse to subvert the milieu of teen life, a sensibility that may have animated their recent viral video in which they “hacked” Facebook live streaming to create an audio-visual time warp. But when it comes to their musical tastes, the band isn’t totally antiestablishment. “We all are massive U2 fans,” says drummer Dean Gavin of their Irish predecessors. “It’s a bit sad when they get hate because they’re our biggest thing, and have been since the 80s. It’s impressive. Like, leave them alone. They sell out 90,000-seat stadiums.”

While the band has yet to reach that milestone, they have undergone a rapid growth spurt. Less than two years ago, the foursome was knocking around Mullingar, Ireland, population 20,000, playing battle-of-the-band competitions and pubs where they were too young to drink. “We came in last,” recalls guitarist Matt Murtagh, whose brother Stephen plays bass. “This heavy metal band brought literally all their friends and they all got drunk and won that way.”

The Academic, left to right: Matt and Stephen Murtagh (guitar and bass) Craig Fitzgerald (lead vocals), Dean Gavin (drums)

Their big break came when a concert promoter spotted them and asked them to open for The Pixies. “We’d been doing our own thing, and then it was like, ‘Hey, you’re supporting The Pixies,’” says Matt. “Suddenly we were backstage with them and they were just standing around. It was weird,” Stephen adds. Soon after they opened for The Strokes – who had in part inspired the name of the band’s 2015 EP, Mixtape 2003.

“We were all like 10 [in 2003],” says Craig of the EP’s namesake year.

“But it was the year we were just starting to be exposed to and understand music.” Stephen adds. “It was a good year for music, especially for New York bands like Interpol and The Strokes, whose album Room on Fire came out that year.”

Important as New York’s rock scene was to their sound, the newcomers only recently experienced the city firsthand. “This is literally our first day in New York,” says Matt. “We haven’t done any of the Times Square, Statue of Liberty type stuff.” After their full-length album Tales From the Backseat (Downtown Records) comes out on January 12, these scruffy young rockers are sure to be seeing the world.

Main image: The Academic, courtesy of Shore Fire Media.