The Academic’s new release, Sitting Pretty

By Levi Leffler

A lot has come for the Academic since their beginnings jamming in Drummer Dean Gavin’s shed. Starting in 2013, the Mullingar indie rock quartet made its presence known with the hard-hitting EP Loose Friends. Full of driving poppy rhythms and a sharp indie rock swagger, the band’s sound exploded taking over speakers across Ireland. As their music developed so did their notoriety playing with such legendary acts as Twenty-One Pilots, The Strokes, and Catfish and the Bottlemen. Their debut LP Tales From the Backseat hit #1 on the Irish album charts and in 2020 they signed with Capitol records accompanied by a series of singles culminating into the Community Spirit EP. For their newest LP Sitting Pretty, the Academic grasp and expand on the formula they’ve seemed to have already perfected yet simultaneously take a step back to see how they got here in the first place.

When talking with the Academic, they described the album as a learning process using each step of the general album process as context for the development that led to Sitting Pretty. Being crafted in a void of vulnerability, the band’s second full-length album acted as a test of patience with each member wanting “to respect the album process”. The concept was an “open field” yet there are noticeable intimate moments where the tone of each song bottles into a tight standstill of emotion and character with each member’s distinct voice able to be heard. The vivid literality of the songs helps elucidate the times of high anxiety and reflection that act as the album’s foundation. It was then no surprise when they described their process stating “there are good days and there are bad days and there are those special moments where an idea arrives” and that they “all come from a personal place”. The spontaneous creation of each song helps encapsulate those current feelings that if left ungrasped can easily be forgotten left festering inside. As bubbling emotions arise from song to song, it sets the tone for the album reinstating Stephen Murtagh’s three-word definition of Sitting Pretty calling it “mature, neurotic, and unpredictable”.

Sitting Pretty acts as monumental in the band’s growing history, not just for its musical achievement but for its ability to help further bring the band together. Constantly on the road, COVID took a toll on the continuous work schedule forcing the band to “go back to their roots”. Studio sessions turned to hunkering down at home to better understand their instruments and each other as a band. Guitarist Matthew Murtagh states, “no matter if you spend every waking hour, people need space” and that time off gave each member a chance to “learn each other’s patterns”.

It’s always a sign of notoriety when groups are able to make it out of tough times completely unphased and it seems for the Academic, the pandemic only made them stronger. “The EP’s allowed the band to experiment with sound” and helped the band expand musically, escaping classic genre cliches. Similarly, the songwriting became more personal with the band collectively agreeing that it was most rewarding to “be open and tell people how they’re feeling”. Writing songs and putting them in a personal point of view proved beneficial with the song “What’s wrong with me” burgeoning from the fact that at the time of writing, each member was asking the same question. Sitting Pretty holds a conversation with the listener but acts as an introspective to the Academic’s personal outlook on growing up. 

An international headlining tour and a major label record deal are quite the accomplishments for a couple of guys just hitting their twenties. While it takes a little bit of navigating, the Academic prove they’re mature enough for the world that lies ahead. Although finding a sense of self and belonging can be hard in modern times, the Academic prove that for the time being, they’re prepared and are sitting pretty. 

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