Interview with William Beckett
It’s becoming a common thread in my interviews lately that we are leaning to a more do it yourself movement in the music industry. Established bands making records that maybe their record labels don’t like is becoming scarily more of a pattern then it truly should. One band that had their fair share of being pulled around by record labels was lead by vocalist William Beckett who spent several years with his band The Academy Is. Instead of leaving a label, he is now doing his own solo project during the aforementioned band’s hiatus and decided he wanted to do it all on his own!
Artist: William Beckett
Title: Walk The Talk
Release date: 04/17/12
William Beckett Official Website
Buy at: Amazon
The first EP was an independent release and the two EP’s to follow this year will be independent as well. For fans of the scene, William Beckett has been a huge part of the alternative scene for years so it may come as a shock to many that he wants to be independent now that he has returned to music. He took over a two year break from the road and plans to be on it constantly this year and I’m assuming in the future. In our time together during the interview, I learned a lot about William. His need for toothpaste on the road, his love for the cover of Green Day’s “Dookie” but we got serious I promise you when we talked about his career and his songwriting. Read on for our exclusive!
A little soft one to start because obviously it’s been a while since you’ve been on the road. I believe it’s the first since the AP tour in Fall of ‘09. What are like the three things you must have while on the road to survive?
Three things? Toothpaste (long pause). Can that count as all three?
Just all three? That’s cheating!
Toothpaste. I actually bring a few luggage bags at least. It’s now coined the “diva” bags because we are actually on the road with Cara Salimando who is a girl clearly and she has smaller bags then me by a lot and I just thought that was pretty embarrassing. But on the plus side, I have fifteen different looks with me on the road.
Looks ready to go?
Yeah. And I would say, yeah that’s three right? My diva bag and just supplies for the road.
That diva bag right there! Hey, good job!
And then ‘Walk The Talk’ was obviously your first solo record you’ve put out. So maybe how has that been going over while on the road? Having that music out?
It’s been great! I’m playing a pretty good mix of my new material and a few old songs from my band and it’s really interesting to see that there are some people that really gravitate toward The Academy Is songs and there are others who like don’t sing along to those but they sing along to the new stuff which is really interesting. So I’ve kind of discovered that like I’ve gained some new followers which is really fun and it’s cool to see that. But it’s been a combination of both ends of it. On this tour, just playing whatever I want. It’s great to have the music out finally. It’s been so long that I’ve had this record ready to go. So to finally have it out is really exciting. The new EP comes out in July so I’m pretty non stop.
Well, that’s what I was going to ask because I was talking to your publicist in the past and she said that you were already in the studio working on something new and so maybe is it because you have had those songs written for so long?
Well, my plan all along was to release an EP every three months. So every three months, I’m releasing an EP for the rest of the year so then at the end of the year, there will be twelve songs that would have otherwise been on a full length record. But since I have the freedom to do what I want and really arrange it the way that I want, I wanted to do some things that were different and fresh and exciting since I hadn’t put out music in so long. I wanted to do it more frequently. Sort of like high end material quickly as opposed to like an all you can eat buffet. So it’s like my Top Chef approach to music.
To music? Putting out the EP’s every few months?
Little tapas. It’s like a tapas bar.
The tapas bar way to your music!
Yeah, small portions! Perfected.
Then obviously you’ve been in music for so long considering how long The Academy Is was active and was around playing music. Has it become something still really different of a writing process? Or is it something that’s really become a consistent idea?
Well, I mean well writing songs, there is no right way but there’s no wrong way. Often times, it starts with melody and often times it starts with lyrics or just a musical piece. But the good thing about writing the new music is that I wrote and recorded it all at once so this record would be conceptualized in the song writing it and then performing it. And seeing it out and what it should do as far as production elements were all right then and there so it was all super fresh. Where as in the past, I would write a song in pieces and still have it being involved in for the next month and sometimes I would lose perspective. I would just get used to the acoustic versions and wouldn’t know where to implement it into a full band production. So it was fun doing it that way.
And then I wanted to ask you something! I recently talked to Joe Trohman from Fall Out Boy for his new project With Knives. He talked about how he’s kind of going about it very indie and booking their own shows. Like begging people to put them on a show and just getting started. Him obviously doing Fall Out Boy before, it was kind of like them in the beginning. Maybe how do you think that experience of being in a band that was touring and was signed to a major label, how do you think that like affected you, maybe helped you as an indie artist “starting over”? Having to re-grow.
Yeah, I mean it’s intense. I’m intentionally doing it on my own. You know the last thing I wanted to do was after getting the run around for a year from a major to go out and find another major label. I had 40+ songs under my belt and basically I wouldn’t have had music out for another eight months. Just how it is. I really wanted to feel like a part of it and they wanted me to do more songs with different writers and all that crap. So, for me, I was just ready to put music out and Fall Out Boy is a good example. I mean, we started the same way that they did. A lot of touring, a lot of emphasis on work ethic and putting in your time and your miles and it wasn’t pampered. We were very very DIY. That’s how they started and that’s how we started. So it’s not really new to me. It’s exciting in a lot of ways because of the freedom. The additional control over everything.
So it’s then maybe going back to the way that you started.
Exactly! Yeah and building it in a organic way so it’s not like on the radio but you hear it some times and that’s how you hear it. That’s why I wanted to do a tour like this. Have something really intimate, small because this is how I started. I wanted to go back to that place and share this new beginning with everybody in a comfortable setting.
And then I’m from suburbs of Chicago too so I wanted to ask this. Like Wheaton/Warrenville area. What up (laughs)?
I pitched against Wheaton.
Did you really?
Yeah! In high school.
Then obviously there are the bands that have broken out of Chicago’s scene but there are some that do like one tour and they kind of stop. You know it’s hard for a lot of Chicago bands to really break out. It’s a big scene, it’s a hard scene. Maybe what advice would you give to bands that are trying to break out of that area?
The largest bit of advice I would give to any band from any city is just focus on your songs and knowing exactly what it is you want. I’ve seen a lot of really talented writers who get lost in the writing shuffle of just trying to write hits. And I feel like focus on doing you. Focus on whatever is unique about what you do and emphasize that. And run in that direction! As opposed to trying to chase a hit because those songs usually end up boring and no one cares. It’s usually how they end up and I’ve written a bunch of songs like that too but I’ve shelved them to never be heard.
Yeah. Just when you’re trying too hard to just write good songs that aren’t that meaningful to you and then also don’t rely so much on the internet because that’s the worse thing you can do. Is to start a face book and expect people to care. You know I feel like as much as the human element seems to have been ignored or just left to seem not important for bands, it’s extremely important. For me, that’s what I’m most in love with. The human interaction as opposed to having a bunch of likes on your face book.
Then a softer one! Maybe the first CD or first cassette you ever remember buying as a kid and the first concert?
“Dookie”. I remember looking at the cover art and all the poop. So many poops.
Yeah there was a lot.
Looked at it all day. Just poop. And couldn’t find Waldo in all the poop. And monkeys. Monkeys and poop. In their own poop. Oh, “Dookie”! “Dookie” was the first record that I purchased with my own money. I was so excited.
That’s a big one!
Do you remember the first concert?
I think I saw The Lawrence Arms at Our Side in Chicago. A punk rock place and I didn’t really go to like big shows. Like I would never go see Third Eye Blind or something like that. I would just always go to punk shows and that’s a big part of my attitude and our attitude as a band early on. I remember seeing those bands on tour in small places just doing their thing. It was really eye opening. It was cool to see that and inspiring.
Do you think those obviously influenced you then?
Yeah, for sure. Yeah I mean the great thing about them (Green Day) is that they were kind of a punk rock band that had made really great songs with really good lyrics and that’s what really drew me to them. The whole package is important. Not just being a cute dude with a cute haircut in a band and playing cute songs. There’s more to it for me at least.
And then you said the next EP is coming out in July so that’s obviously coming up but do you think you’re going to tour again pretty quickly after this one or are you going to hold off for a bit?
Yeah, I’m touring a lot. May 29th is the last show of this tour in Chicago and then the next day I fly to Japan and I’m there for ten days. Then that EP comes out after that. Going to tour Malaysia, Thailand and then where else? The Phillipines. Which is crazy.
Is it because you have been off tour for so long so like you’re doing it all right away.
Yeah, it’s my first time there.
You never went there with Academy?
That’s crazy. That’s awesome!
It’s pretty cool and then in July, we’re doing this tour on the West Coast which is supporting. I can’t talk about it yet but it is happening. Right now, we’re looking at the fall to book it up. Hook it up!
Book it up! Are you excited to get back going on the road more like you’ve done in the past?
I mean, yeah! I’ve been doing this tour which we’re over half way through and it’s been a lot of fun. Tough to be away from home but it’s part of it, you know.
"Walk The Talk" by William Beckett - release date: 04/17/12..