Arts

Rising indie-rockers The Academic set for Newry gig

Irish indie act The Academic have supported Pixies, The Strokes and Noel Gallagher and are on the rise. Ahead of a run of Irish gigs – including one in Newry – frontman Craig Fitzgerald talks to Brian Campbell

The Academic play Newry on June 18

CRAIG Fitzgerald was in the midst of live band rehearsals last week but the frontman of Westmeath indie-rockers The Academic had just received a musical masterclass from one of live music’s biggest names – Bruce Springsteen.

Craig (lead vocals, guitar) and his bandmates Matthew Murtagh (lead guitar), Stephen Murtagh (bass) and Dean Gavin (drums) were at Croke Park two Sundays ago to see The Boss at work – and they liked what they saw.

“It was amazing; absolutely incredible. We’re all big fans and we’d never seen him live before, so it was a very spiritual experience,” says Craig. “Just watching that whole show unfold in front of the crowd was special. For a man who plays that long and is able to give so much, it’s really an inspiration to young bands.”

And as an Irish act on the rise, they also got the added Bono bonus of seeing the U2 lead singer join Springsteen on stage at the gig.

“Yeah, that came out of nowhere and was a complete surprise to us all. It was great.”

The Academic are a busy band these days and after wrapping up a run of dates in continental Europe (finishing with a festival in Spain tomorrow), they are back for a series of Irish gigs starting next week.

They play Leopardstown in south Dublin next Thursday, before they headline the new Millers Live festival in Newry on Saturday June 18, the night after The Dublin Legends (featuring original members of The Dubliners) play the same festival.

“I’ve never been to Newry before. We’re actually really looking forward to that one, because we haven’t played that much up north and it’s somewhere we want to play more,” says the frontman.

“We’ve done a lot in Dublin and the south but we want to try out new places, so Newry’s a good place to start. We’ve never even headlined up in Belfast. We supported Catfish and the Bottlemen and we did a Guinness Amplify gig a couple of years back.”

The Academic have yet more big gigs when they support The Coronas as part of Cork’s Live at the Marquee series (on June 24 and 25), before supporting Ocean Colour Scene at the Groove Festival in Bray on July 3 and Bell X1 at both the Iveagh Gardens in Dublin (July 8) and the Galway International Arts Festival (July 16).

The Westmeath band have form when it comes to getting plum support slots, as Craig points out.

“We supported the Pixies and Noel Gallagher at Live at the Marquee in Cork. The Pixies gig was one of our first shows as The Academic, so we were thrown right into the deep end but we always rise to it and we’re always surprised and humbled by the reaction we get.

“The Strokes in Hyde Park [in London] last summer was a bit of a scary one for us. They were one of the first bands we were all completely into and we covered a couple of their songs when we were starting out. They’re a massive inspiration to us.

“It’s amazing that we’re getting to do so much. Our summers are just getting better and better and we have some incredible gigs.”

With their blazing guitars (as on their hit single Different), The Academic are very much inspired by bands such as The Strokes. They can do slow-tempo numbers too (Girlfriend, Northern Boy), while the full-throttle Chasers is reminiscent of Co Down indie-poppers Two Door Cinema Club [TDCC].

“Yeah, I wouldn’t shy away from that. The first TDCC record was the first album I really listened to when I was learning the guitar and figuring out how to write songs, so those guys are a big inspiration.

“We like to mess around with what we do. We’re big fans of upbeat pop songs and we do have slower songs too.”

The Academic – all in their early 20s – have done some interesting covers in their time, putting their own spin on songs by the likes of Taylor Swift and Shania Twain.

“We’ve also done a couple of Bob Dylan covers and Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You,” says Craig.

He says the band greatly enjoyed getting to support the popular Catfish and the Bottlemen in Belfast and Dublin.

“They were great shows, because their fans are completely in love with the music and they’re very accepting of new bands too. I think there is a resurgence in guitar music now, because pop and electronic music has dominated over the last few years.”

And having made their official debut as The Academic supporting Delorentos at Vicar Street in Dublin a couple of years ago (when both bands combined for a cover of Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark), the Midlands boys played a sell-out headline gig at the same venue a couple of months ago.

They released their five-track debut EP Loose Friends last year and Craig says they’re busy working on new material.

“The plan this summer is to release a couple of singles and then hopefully we’ll have an album out at the end of this year or early next year. We have to keep climbing the ladder and we have a lot of ambition to keep on going.”

The Academic already have some high-profile fans, in the shape of Gabrielle Aplin and One Direction’s Niall Horan – another Mullingar native.

“Yeah, we’ve played a few festivals with Gabrielle and Niall Horan does seem to be a fan, but I’ve never met him. It’s very nice of him to support his own!”

The Academic play Bulmers Live at Leopardstown in Dublin on Thursday June 16 and Millers Live at the Canal Court in Newry on Saturday June 18 (tickets £17.50). For more information, see Facebook.com/thisistheacademic.

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