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Underoath – Turning uncertainty and anger into ‘Voyeurist’

You know a band means business when they invent a word to do their bidding.

We have almost 200,000 words at our disposal within the English language – not to mention some odd 47,000 obsolete words – so when you need to branch out into an uncharted lexical landscape to phrase your message, chances are it’s an important message.

When life gave them lemons in the form of the pandemic, Underoath, without blinking, ate them whole and responded with the self-produced new album, Voyeurist, out Friday, 14th January. With this record and the greater conversation around it, Underoath parlayes the modern day paranoia of always being watched with the notion that we are the ones so eager to watch. It’s a word that transcends the album displaying it in the sense it’s not limited to a specific track listing; it’s an idea, a prompt for a much bigger discussion about the way we live our lives, and how we got here.

From the album name, to the internal and external pressures that shaped it, there’s a lot to unpack with Voyeurist, and Underoath’s lead vocalist Spencer Chamberlain was decent enough to guide BLUNT through it.

Let’s start at the beginning. What does Voyeurist actually mean?

It’s crazy because it’s the first Underoath album title that has nothing to do with the lyrical content. If you look up the word Voyeurist, it’s not even a real word.

It’s more of a blanket statement of where we are as a society; humans. Since before COVID, but especially since the pandemic, we’re all voyeurists in a way because everyone pulls out their phone multiple times a day and checks Instagram, TikTok. And you’re seeing what your friends are doing, or people that you don’t know, through a filter.

They’re not going to post an ugly angle. They’re going to get the best shot they can. They’re going to filter it. They’re going to clean up the image. PhotoShop. The Christmas party, it looks like everyone is having fun. You don’t see the bad shit. People are choosing to portray themselves in a certain way. It’s a lens that we all look through and everyone’s comparing it to, ‘Oh, does this guy get more likes than me and more comments. Does their family look happier than my family?’

And everyone’s doing it. We’re all guilty. You and I are guilty. We all do it.

You got a bunch of kids sitting behind fake usernames talking shit, writing their shit on the comment boards, or saying how much they hate everything. It’s like, well what if we kind of turned that around on itself and everyone’s watching everyone?

It feels as though it gets more and more aggressive throughout. Was that the intent; to make an “angry” album?

There was so much, I think, in us that we didn’t even know was underlying. It’s not like we were angry people. We’re walking around happy trying to make the best of this stuff, staying positive, keeping our heads up. But I think inside, deep inside, we were all unsure and angry. It was really unsettling to not know what your future is going to be.

So there was some anger, and I think it brought up other feelings. We made our record alone without a producer, so we’re hashing out old feelings and things that we’ve hurt each other and the past and all the stuff we had to brush up when we’re pushing each other, recording each other, telling each other, “Your stuff’s not good enough,” or, “Try again,” and, “That sounds like shit,” or, “Write a new this.”

When we were making the record, there was no talk of a tour. When something like that happens, you’re not in control.

So, now there’s this big uncertainty, and fuck, should I have gone to school? Should I have had a back up plan? What do I do now if live music never comes back? And then meanwhile, America is burning itself down. It’s so divided, all this stuff, and there’s no political songs on the record either. But we’re seeing it every day because everyone’s trapped in their houses, watching the news, or every time you check your phone, you’re seeing more police brutality, and left side versus the right side, and riots.

So we’re bringing up all this stuff from our past. Meanwhile, the world is in shambles and we don’t know what our future holds. So yeah, we’re pissed off and we’re trying to figure all this stuff out. So yeah. I think it was fueled by that uncertainty and anger.

There’s so much connective tissue between Voyeurist and They’re Only Chasing Safety. Have you been sitting on some of these thoughts and feelings for 20 years now, and they’re only now coming out?

It could be. I just think it was just a natural thing. We didn’t try to do anything. Underoath, at this point in our career, and I don’t want to sound like a dick, but we don’t need to make another record. We could go on tour and people are going to come and hear. A lot of bands that have made it as long as we have can do that. Most of our peers can.

So there’s no point to release anything unless it’s the best shit we’ve ever done, so we got into a room, the four of us, the four writers, myself, Tim, Aaron, and Chris, and we didn’t leave until we thought it was the best music we’ve ever made as a band. That was the only goal really. So I do think we’ve all learned a lot over the last 17 years or however many years we’ve been doing this.

We’ve all done stuff separately, and we bring those skill sets together, and we push each other really hard. I think there was some liberty and anxiety in doing your own record. There’s extra pressure, yet it’s also extra freeing because there’s no guy that we’re paying a shit load of money to to be there. It’s like we have the liberty to keep working until we’re happy. That’s just what we did.

It was wild.