Sleepwave: Wake Up Dead Man
Spencer Chamberlain had to lose everything – again – in order to find himself. On the eve of the release of his debut album with Sleepwave, he spoke with BLUNT on where life has taken him and where it may well go from here.
After struggling with addiction and spending time as a homeless person, Spencer Chamberlain claims that music saved his life when he turned to performing at the tender age of 20. Now 31, he has found himself in need of redemption, a second chance and a way to start over. This has been found, once again, by turning to music – but not in the way that he became best known for it.
“Depending on who you ask, some people will say that we barely scratched the surface,” he begins. “Other people may have seen us as the biggest band in the world. Whatever the case, Underoath was a relatively successful, big touring machine. I never thought of it being completely over until it actually happened. When it did, I lost pretty much everything that there is to lose.”
You may well suspect this as dramatic flair, an exaggeration of struggle that most likely would have been missed if one merely blinked. Chamberlain himself, however, is quick to point out that there is no angle here, no gimmicks and certainly no lies.
“I was homeless for awhile, I had no money, I was taken advantage of by some people who stole from me, I lost my house because I couldn’t afford to live there anymore, I lost my car… it felt like everything was taken away when Underoath ended,” says Chamberlain. “I just kept my head down, swallowed my pride and kept working my arse off until I had something that I wanted to share with the world. I wasn’t going to give up and go do something else. That’s not the kind of person that I am.”
Following Underoath’s split, Chamberlain shifted his focus to Sleepwave, a new post-hardcore project alongside musician Stephen Bowman. Although the two had been jamming together for quite some time in and around Chamberlain’s time with Underoath, only last year did it truly begin taking form as a new musical being entirely.
“I was coming home from Underoath shows and recording sessions – for months, sometimes; or even a day – and I just wanted to do something different,” he explains. “I never thought in a million years it would be for anything important. I used to go over to my friend’s house with my guitar and my keyboard and we’d just hang out, playing music. After a while, especially after Underoath wrapped up, it became clear to me that this was something that I could take a little more seriously. It all started, though, as just something I was doing for fun. The best part about it was that I was writing music because I enjoyed it – not because I had to.”
The band’s debut LP, Broken Compass, was written and recorded by Chamberlain and Bowman throughout 2013 and into the start of this year. Those seeking open-book honesty about Chamberlain’s ordeal will be rewarded tenfold by the lyrics being sung back to them.
“I feel like Sleepwave was a part of my brain before Underoath even stopped – it felt like another way to express myself,” says Chamberlain. “There’s some songs on the album about the band breaking up and about being homeless. It’s just an honest record – there’s every sort of emotion, there’s the overcoming and the joy, the anger I was feeling at the time, the depression. The emotions are real on this record – I was writing them down when I was feeling them. It’s all there, man.”
Broken Compass delves into electronic undertones, shimmering guitars and booming drums. It may be hard for some older Underoath fans to believe that it’s the very same man who screamed his way through game-changers like Define The Great Line or They’re Only Chasing Safety that is performing these songs. Those that know him on a deeper level, however, will not be surprised at all – or so says Chamberlain himself.
“Growing up, I was really into stuff like Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Deftones, Nine Inch Nails… I still love stuff like that,” he says. “I love stuff like Sigur Rós and even Coldplay, who I know are a very typical band for people to love – they’re one of my favourite bands! I was never one of those scene kids back in the day who only liked stuff like As I Lay Dying – I feel like I was always a little more curious than that as a music fan.” When questioned as to whether Sleepwave’s music could be seen as a conscious effort to move on from what was established with Underoath, Chamberlain agrees. “I always knew if I was performing songs that sounded like Underoath on stage and I didn’t see Tim [McTague] and Chris [Dudley] either side of me, I couldn’t live with myself. I’d like to think they feel the same way.”
So, here stands Spencer Chamberlain – not with “ex-Underoath” in brackets following him around, but a man of his own volition. How does redemption feel?
“I really believe that everything happens for a reason,” he affirms. “The universe works in a crazy way like that. I feel like this is something that I needed to go through – even now, I’m still thinking in the back of my mind about where my next meal is coming from, or how I’m going to get to the next show. I’m okay with it now – I feel as though if I’d gone straight from sold-out tours with Underoath to sold-out tours with Sleepwave, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today. What I’ve gone through has put me in a place where I can focus on what’s important – and that’s being happy on the inside first, and being okay with who you are. I think it’s made me a stronger leader, and someone who has a clear idea of who I am and what I’m doing.”