Underoath: The Fierce Awakens
Here’s a line we never thought we’d write again: Underoath are about to embark on an Australian tour. Honestly, that felt super weird. When the Florida sextet announced their breakup in 2013, it felt more definite than most mid-naughties hardcore band disintegrations: from the outside looking in, tensions looked high, the band weren’t having as much fun as they once did, and a core element of their success – drummer and vocalist Aaron Gillespie – was three years out of action. So, when they eventually did announce their reunion (with Gillespie intact!), we were initially skeptical.
“Here we go,” we thought. “They’ll head on a quick run around the States to gather some loose cash, and then fuck right back off into the shadows.” And for a while, that’s more or less exactly what happened. Except, as frontman Spencer Chamberlain explained to us, that first Rebirth tour did exceptionally well. So well, in fact, that they decided to break free of their American shackles – which, given the current political climate of the US right now, might have been a good idea for more reasons than one – and take two of their most iconic albums on a sprint across out own fair land.
For those of us that grew up in the golden era of the alternative scene, those two albums – 2004’s They’re Only Chasing Safety and 2006’s Define The Great Line – are damn close to musical perfection. They’re riddled with memories, both good and bad, great production and even better singles. But of course, don’t call this a reunion tour. Ahead of the tour kicking off in just a few weeks, BLUNT caught up with old mate Chamberlain to talk all things Underoath (yep, including what comes next), touring, and… Dogs? The man fucking loves dogs.
It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since the last time we saw Underoath on our shores! Are you all as stoked as we are for the Rebirth tour?
Dude, absolutely! We’ve always had a lot of love coming our way from Australia, so it’s pretty exciting to be coming back. Like I’ve said in other interviews: the farewell tour was so short and abrupt, and we never thought that we were going to play again. But somehow we managed to get the band back together, and now that it’s full steam ahead, the first thing we did after we finished the Rebirth tour in America was go, “Y’know, it’d be pretty unfair to not let the rest of the world have the chance to see such a special show.” And it is such a special thing because from hereon forward, we’ll obviously play these songs mixed with songs from other albums – so what and so forth – but this will be the only chance you’ll get to see Underoath do a record tour. Especially these two records in full, back to back. Our fans over here loved [the Rebirth tour] so much; that tour went so well that we decided it would be stupid not to let Australia, Europe and everywhere we can get to see it.
For those of us that saw Underoath at Soundwave 2012, can we expect that same sort of energy and that same style of show show, or is this an entirely new unit that we’re seeing onstage?
I think there’s even more energy, and more chemistry onstage now. It’s really something to see, because ever since this band started, there’s always been a problem or an issue, or someone didn’t want to be there anymore. We were always going through these growing pains – and it just happened to be in public, too – and I think now that we’ve burnt this building all the way to the ground, re-built it, re-modelled it and figured out how it’s going to work – now that we’ve learned how to work and communicate with each other like real human beings – there’s this chemistry onstage that… It’s not something you can fake, y’know? It’s felt by everyone on that stage, and I think the crowd can see that. They feel it too, and that’s why the Rebirth tour was so special, and will be special everywhere from hereon forth, seeing Underoath as a “second coming”.
And that’s such a crazy thing to me, because everyone has a totally different perspective on Underoath now. Once you lose something that you love so much, when you get it back, it’s like you have a whole new appreciation for it. I think that goes for every member of the band – even the guys that wanted to quit in the first place, or wanted the band to end. They have a whole new love for this band, and they really see things in a different light. That kind of fire and that kind of onstage chemistry is just… It’s something else, man!
“None of those bands will ever be like it was with Underoath, because we grew up together.”
When the reunion was first announced, there were interviews where Aaron explained that Underoath had to break up so the six of you could figure yourselves out. Over that three-and-a-half year break, what did you figure out?
I don’t really think it was a conscious thing. Everyone has a family, y’know, and our family is Underoath. We grew up together, and we all started to become men when we were on tour. When you’re becoming a man, you’re becoming an individual and you’re figuring yourself out; a lot of good or bad things happen to you and are gonna change you. I think we all went through a lot of changes as a band, but we went through a lot of changes individually as well, which made us almost strangers to each other. We didn’t know how to accept each other’s different lives or different choices and paths, and I think that when you start a band and you start touring at, like, 17-18 years old, you don’t get a real dose of reality.
Our band started to connect with people in 2004, early 2005, and when some sort of success is brought to the table, that changes you as well. I felt like we were getting to the point where we almost couldn’t stand each other anymore – we were burning it all the way down. And I was one of the guys that didn’t want the band to break up, so I felt hurt and I felt cheated by my friends, y’know? I felt like they had backed out when we were meant to take this thing all the way. Y’know, we decided not to go to college and not get real jobs so that we could do this “music” thing together, and so when those dudes backed out, I had a lot of ill feelings towards them – and the industry in general.
I think that once we got our friendships back on track, everything else kind of fell into place. I’d compare it to being married – fighting with your wife or having a couple of bad years, and then working it out. Or with siblings, when you have a huge falling out – you get into a huge fight or somebody really fucks the other person over – you don’t talk for a couple of years, but it always comes back around. It’s family: you’re gonna work it out. You’re gonna find a way to make it work, and normally, it falls into place pretty naturally over time because you can’t just go from loving someone as a best friend and spending every day with them, travelling across the world for over a decade, to being like, “Y’know what? Fuck that guy, I’m never talking to him again.” No matter what happens, it always gets to a point where it’s like, “Man, I miss that dude.”
Aaron is touring in other bands, and I am as well – I love touring with Sleepwave and I love riding with those guys, and I’m sure he does with his other stuff and Tim does with his other stuff – but none of those bands will ever be like it was with Underoath, because we grew up together. We went through all of this stuff as a first group together. You can’t really replace that, and once it’s gone, you start to remember why you were friends in the first place and why you decided to pick up a guitar, get into a room with these guys and write with them. I think it just takes time – time heals a lot of things. It took us three and a half years to figure things out, and I think that’s okay.
“I think that Underoath’s team at the time were just like, ‘Strike while the iron’s hot! Go, go, go, go!’ We never knew how long it was going to last, especially with us as the members…”
So now, in the state that Underoath is in, are you following much of a game plan or are you just taking it one stage-dive at a time?
I think the industry has caught up a lot with where we’re at. Not to sound cocky, but I think that when Underoath started, we knew in our heads that it would never be a big thing, because the industry didn’t even accept it. Being in a band that was heavy and had screaming meant, “You’re going to be on an indie label, you’re going to be touring in a van, and you’re going to be playing basement shows and shitty little venues.” Eventually we started to make our way up to doing things like the Warped Tour – we made waves with people when this sort of scene started – and I think that the industry has just caught up with that. There are bands like Bring Me The Horizon – look at how huge they are now, and they were a deathcore band! Y’know, whatever, their style is a little different now, but you know what I’m saying! This kind of music is a lot more accepted now than it was eight-plus years ago. You don’t need to have everything be so DIY now – we don’t have to be on a tiny little label and we don’t have to look at this band like, “Is this going to last? Is this style of music just a phase?”
The people that worked for our band, they didn’t know those things – all of those dudes were in their 40s when they started working for us, and we were 17-18 year old kids! That’s definitely changed now: people are seeing bands like Underoath that have sustained long careers. Look at Thrice; look at Bring Me The Horizon; look at The Used and Brand New – there are a lot of bands that came from that scene that are still around and still doing very well. I think that Underoath’s team at the time were just like, “Strike while the iron’s hot! Go, go, go, go!” We never knew how long it was going to last, especially with us as the members: we were all crazy. Every one of us has a different, really loud personality – obviously, they imploded in the end, but I think part of that implosion came from the fact that we were over-touring and working ourselves to death.
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Friday February 10th – Eatons Hill, Brisbane (AA)
Saturday February 11th – Enmore Theatre, Sydney (AA)
Sunday February 12th – 170 Russell, Melbourne (18+)
Wednesday February 15th – Governor Hindmarsh, Adelaide (AA)
Thursday February 16th – Metropolis, Perth (18+)