If there’s any one genre that is more indicative of the “get lost in your daydreams” or “get-out-of-this-place” mindset, it would be pop-punk. Songs about being lost, finding happiness, and feeling “too much” all permeate the soundscape that make up the numerous singles, EPs, and LPs that have come as the genre has ebbed and flowed over the years. Academy Killer, a four-piece act from Hamilton, ON, are part of the next wave of pop-punk, with polished and catchy that simultaneously bleed with emotion. What’s interesting about Academy Killer, though, is that each song on their new EP, Lost In Make Believe, feels different; the same style doesn’t fall straight into the next one. There’s a good deal of diversity amongst rock, alternative, pop-punk, and straight pop sensibilities, and it makes
This Friday, the band will release Lost In Make Believe, and Shameless SF got to chat via phone with lead vocalist and guitarist Kevin Talbot about the journey to making this record, how their influences have defined the bands sound and made them stand out amongst the crowd, and much more.
I’m going to take a shot in the dark and assume that you drew influences from bands like All Time Low, Blink-182, and All-American Rejects. Who would you cite as influencing the blueprint sound that makes up Academy Killer?
Those are a lot bands that we’ve kind of grown up listening to. Now, we do listen to a lot of different music, and I think subconsciously and unintentionally, we’ll draw a lot of inspiration from anything that may have inspired us over the years, or anything that we’ve listened to and really connected with. There’s no real conscious “oh this is the sound that we want to go with, this is the sound that we draw influence from”. It’s just kind of the result of listening to a lot of different music over the years and going with the flow. The songs come about as naturally as possible.
I feel like a lot of what it will sound like may come from the emotion that we may be experiencing at the time, or something we may be trying to invoke. That [feeling] itself kind of brings about a certain sound while working on a particular track where we’re just very focused on the idea of [figuring out] what kind of energy we are trying to convey.
I think it’s interesting you said that. If you look back at all of those bands I had just named off to you (All Time Low, Blink-182, etc.), you’ll notice that when they were making their music, they were maybe pulling ideas from songs and people they’d heard. When they would get asked that same question…it’s like you’re pulling inspiration from the DNA or blueprints of all of the music that you grew up listening to. If that makes sense.
Definitely. If you listen to Lost In Make Believe, from one song to the next, it’s very different. And there are some very left-field sounding tracks on the record, at least in my opinion. It really kind of shows maybe what kind of state of mind we were in when we were working on something. It does give it a glimpse into what has inspired us over the years.
When did you start compiling and writing songs that would be on this EP? Did you have a lot of them that you narrowed down to 7, or did you aim for 7 altogether?
We didn’t necessarily have like twenty songs written completely or anything. Between myself and the guys, there were about fifty hashed-out ideas, and chunks to work with. It just, more or less, came down to the seven that clicked the most when we were trying to work stuff out, that came together as fluidly as possible.
Now, in terms of writing, a good chunk of the songs came from ideas that I had. When I’m trying to hash out initial ideas, I’ll honestly sit down with a guitar in my hand, head back, eyes closed, and just kind of strum without putting any real thought into it. Letting my hands do whatever they feel they need to do, just trying to vibe with something I may be feeling at the time, or play off of something that I’m dealing with at that moment. Eventually, I’ll stumble across something that kind of clicks, and then I’ll just take it from there.
How long did it take for the band to get everything tracked and recorded in the studio for the EP?
I believe our session for the EP was ten days. Maybe eleven. The first day, we went in and did pre-production, where we would go over the songs with our producer and talk over possible changes and tweaks, just to really get the most out of the songs themselves. From there, we kinda did it instrument by instrument. We did drums, and then I think we did guitar second. Then we slowly worked away, track by track, until we had the songs done and waiting to be mixed.
Let’s talk a little bit about the new EP. What does the title Lost In Make Believe mean in regards to the overall theme of the songs?
Lost In Make Believe is actually pulled from a lyric in “The Distance” (I chase the stars across the sea/I’m dead tired, I’m lost in make-believe). So in that context, “lost in make-believe” is more about chasing your own dreams, kind of being lost in your own head, [thinking] “can I do this? How far can I take this?” Being lost in that kind of daydream of what you’re trying to do. But I’ve almost kind of applied another meaning to it.
I kind of relate it to the human experience, just because of how crazy and sideways this world is. There are moments when you step back and go, “whoa, is this really life? Is this seriously life right now?” Whether it be good or bad, every now and again, you kind of have to question reality and go, “What is this?” In a sense, we are all lost in make believe.
I couldn’t agree more with that. As someone who daydreams a lot, I totally get that. Would you say that plays into the design that’s on the EP’s artwork?
Yes. That concept essentially ties in with the artwork, as does [sic] all of the songs. It’s basically a visual representation from each song, and then it [illustrates] this delusion of “we may be lost in another reality”, and it’s [asking] what is real and what is not.
In your opinion, what would you say is the most personal song Lost In Make Believe, or was there one that was maybe a little bit harder for you to get down on paper and try to convey lyrically?
One song in particular, “While I Drown”. I struggled to get the lyrics done for that. I wrote the majority of that, if not the whole first verse, the day that we all kind of jammed out the instrumentation. And then I couldn’t get anything down. This was a couple weeks before we hit the studio; this was the last song that kind of came to be. It ended up replacing another one because we felt that it was ultimately stronger. A couple weeks leading up to the studio, I still couldn’t just get in the right state of mind to really say what I wanted to say or felt I needed to say, and how I needed to say it. I ended up writing and then immediately recording the chorus in the studio, and then I went home that night after our session and somehow managed to write the second verse in bed at like 11:00 PM.
As a songwriter, would you say that you’re someone whose constantly writing all the time, or can you only write when you’re inspired?
Um, I don’t constantly sit down and go, “okay, I need to write”. I find inspiration at the most random times. Like, I could be out at work, just doing my own thing, and then I’ve got two lines or a couple of words pop into my head. I work by myself essentially, so I’ll just sing those lines a little bit, and maybe stumble across a couple of others, try to mash them together a little bit. I’ll record a quick little video on my phone so I don’t forget it, and then I’ll go back to that later. Unless something kind of just strikes me or hits me, I don’t want to force it.
What do you hope that fans and new listeners take away from listening to the songs on Lost In Make Believe?
I hope that they take away something that they can connect with, maybe something that will just provide a little more clarity in their daily lives or daily struggles. A lot of it was written out of my own struggles and my own hardships, and even during times of joy. Hopefully, it can show people that you’re not the only one feeling this way, you’re not the only one going through this, and you’ll be alright.