’68 with Grenadiers, Pagan + Crusch Northcote Social Club, Melbourne 21 July, 2017 It just …
It was only in 2013 that metalcore masters Underoath walked away from the stage, under a less than amicable break-up and an all-too brief farewell tour. However, rumours of a possible reunion began surfacing almost immediately, and when the sextet began teasing that ‘Rebirth is coming’ in July last year, a second-coming seemed imminent. After making it official and playing to sold-out crowds across the U.S., the Floridian group are now bringing Rebirth Tour 2017 Down Under for dedicated Aussie fans to witness their redemption first hand. Hysteria recently had frontman and vocalist Spencer Chamberlain on the phone to discuss Underoath’s return, their dedicated fan base, playing anniversary sets and the importance of wearing sunscreen.
With Underoath being from Florida, we hope you’re not caught up in that Hurricane Matthew business right now?
SC: No, I’m at home. I live in New York, and it’s nice and sunny up here. All the hurricane stuff is happening on the Florida side of things, and even the Underoath guys that still live in Florida are fine. They’re mostly on the other [west] coast of Florida, but it definitely did hit the east coast pretty hard though.
We’ve seen the news reports over the last week or so, and it looks very rough, but we’re glad you guys are home safe and sound. Let’s talk about the upcoming Rebirth 2017 tour announcement, which will see Underoath perform Down Under for the first time since your reformation last year, and will also feature sets with your They’re Only Chasing Safety  and Define The Great Line  albums played in full—which is huge. Now, the band has played DTGL in full already this year, particularly at the Self Help festival in California. Where did the decision to do these anniversary sets come from, and how did the conversations come up within the band?
SC: Basically, the reason we’re doing it is because we’ve just come off a full tour like that here in America. We did both records back-to-back, and it started because during our break-up we all eventually started chatting again and talking. Everyone had kind of moved on with their lives, and we could see things a lot clearer after the band had broken up. And there was a conversation about DTGL turning ten, and how we should play a show. Our fans you know, online, have never stopped talking about Underoath. They’re always begging us to play and this, that and the other. So eventually, it started as a chat and then became like, ‘Well, if we’re going to do one show, we should do a whole tour, because our farewell tour was so short.’ We only played like 12 cities on our farewell tour, and that was kind of messed up. So we should at least do a full tour if we’re going to play this record, and then someone brought up ‘Hey, DTGL will be ten and TOCS will be 12, and we didn’t do a ten-year show for that, so let’s play both records back-to-back.’ We felt like we owed it to our fans, especially when that farewell tour was so short.
So we decided to do that, and we didn’t know if the band was going to get back together for good or not, or if I’d just be for that tour, but within two or three practices, we were like ‘Yeah, we’re retarded and we should definitely get the band back together.’ [Laughs.] It was just too great. Time was able to heal a lot of things, and we all learnt to forgive and forget and move forward, being adults about everything instead of holding grudges like little kids, you know?
Time was able to heal a lot of things, and we all learnt to forgive and forget and move forward, being adults about everything instead of holding grudges like little kids.
Absolutely dude, and that totally makes sense. You mentioned in an interview with Alternative Press in June that when the band finally split, you guys had kind of “burnt it down on both ends,” and “walked away from everything thinking it would never happen again.” And you mentioned previously that time was obviously a factor in healing a lot of those old wounds, but how do you begin to mend and rebuild those sorts of relationships years down the road?
SC: I can only compare it to people who have brothers or sisters, or parents that they’re close with. I consider Underoath to be my family, and I’ve spent more time with those dudes than I have my own family. So, if you can imagine getting in a fight with a brother or a sister if you have one, and maybe having like a bad year-or-two patch, or having parents that you don’t talk to for a while, it always comes back down to them being your family. I feel very strongly about that. You might rebel against your family for a while, but you always come back to them. For me it’s that way, and these dudes are my family.
I mean we all grew apart, and we all became individuals. We didn’t know how to handle that, and we were kids when the band started and then suddenly you blink an eye, and ten years have passed and you’re all different people that are in to different things, and it causes a lot of tension. And I think in a normal life, that’s fine and it’s OK. But when you’re stuck in a cylinder—a bus or airplane or whatever you’re touring in—and you start out as a bunch of people all in to the same things, it doesn’t allow a lot of time for normal life to happen, and you feel like ‘Oh it’s OK if we’re not all exactly the same.’
So we had those growing pains that definitely caught up with us, because we weren’t ever allowed that to happen on the road. Now we realise, ‘Yeah we did burn it all down because we were all different, but that’s OK.’ We’ve learnt how to accept each other for who we are as individuals, with each other’s differences, and I think it all comes down to love and respect. And you’ll 100% see it on stage. If you’ve ever seen Underoath before, it is nothing like it is now; it’s so much better and so much stronger. There’s a passion and chemistry that you can’t buy or teach; it’s just a vibe that you either have or you don’t. We have it for each other, for this music again and you can’t fake that. It’s a beautiful thing and it’s been unreal and wonderful so far.
We’ve learnt how to accept each other for who we are as individuals, with each other’s differences, and I think it all comes down to love and respect. And you’ll 100% see it on stage. If you’ve ever seen Underoath before, it is nothing like it is now.
How do you feel the response has been to this previous Rebirth Tour for Underoath? How have those sets gone down with fans, in particular songs off DTGL? Does it feel like the attitude or reception has changed in the decade since the album’s release?
SC: I think people are just very excited to have us back. We have a very good fan base; our fans are die-hard, and they’ve stuck with us through thick and thin. The energy in the room on the recent tour was insane, and I’m guessing that it’s going to be the same way in Australia. Every night is very special, you know what I mean?
We have no doubt that the shows will be absolutely wild. Talking about the TOCS and DTGL albums specifically, in terms of Underoath’s catalogue, what is it about those records that make them such iconic albums for the band and something you can now return to over a decade later? Do you feel that there’s an element of nostalgia for fans, or is there a deeper connection at work, with the music and lyrical themes of the records?
SC: Man, I think every band has the record where people got into the band. Like your first, successful record is normally when people find out about your band and decide if they like it or not. For most people, I think TOCS and DTGL are both at the same time. I don’t like the word nostalgia; I mean… I don’t know. If you go to see Metallica, they’re going to play songs that are like 30 years old, and I think that that’s just part of being in a band, and having a career. And you know, thank God that we have a career! We can play songs off any of our records and kids are gonna love it. But we could have ten more records from now, and they could be bigger than the ones before, and still people will want to hear those old songs. Not because they necessarily like your old stuff better, it’s because they hear things that they maybe first fell in love with you for.
Metallica will always play stuff off the Black album, or Ride The Lightning, or all those classic records. And Foo Fighters will always play stuff off The Colour and the Shape, and Coldplay will always play stuff off Parachutes—you know, all the records! And that’s what I think is hard for this scene to understand, where everyone thinks ‘nostalgia this’ or ‘nostalgia that,’ but honestly: it’s just being a band. Your fans are there, and you’ve got 16-year-olds to 30-year-olds in the crowd, and you want to play as many songs as you can. For us, DTGL turning ten is a big deal, and we’re still—in my opinion—a pretty young band, if you look at the grand scheme of things and the music that’s still around since we were kids. A lot of bands have a lot longer careers than just ten years, so hopefully this means we’ll be playing those songs for another ten years, and ten years from now, it’ll still be cool to play the DTGL songs.
It’s interesting that you brought up Metallica in that way. I was interviewing Jeremy McKinnon from A Day To Remember a few months ago, and he mentioned Metallica as the band ADTR have in mind when they’re trying to write a “list of songs that you absolutely cannot take off the set list.” For Underoath, both TOCS and DTGL have plenty of successful singles and fan favourite tracks that the band would absolutely have to play, but in doing this Rebirth Tour, you now get to play these records in full and play all the tracks off those records. Do you personally have any particular tracks that you’re excited to play live in that sense, where you might not have been eager to previously?
SC: We played every song off DTGL, and every song off TOCS except I’m Content With Losing and Down, Set, Go, because we didn’t like those songs when we were done with them, and that’s the only reason we never played them. And honestly, I enjoy playing Down, Set, Go now, because live it’s got a cooler feel to it and it sounds a little heavier. I think live, we never sounded like TOCS does on record. We were always more violent, grungy and aggressive, and I think that’s why we started to move our sound that way.
But I actually have fun playing Down, Set, Go live, which I never thought would be the case, because when that record came out we hated that song, and we hated I’m Content With Losing. I still hate I’m Content With Losing [laughs], but that’s just personal and it’s the only song that I don’t enjoy playing on the whole two hour set. I’m still so happy to be there and I know kids want to hear that song.
I think live, we never sounded like TOCS does on record. We were always more violent, grungy and aggressive, and I think that’s why we started to move our sound that way.
You mentioned the band’s progression in sound there, from TOCS to DTGL. Would you say that transition to a heavier, more aggressive sound was a conscious decision for you guys at that time, or was it more of an organic thing that came about?
SC: I think we were kids when we recorded TOCS, and we were playing to like 25-50 kids a night when that record came out. We were a small band that was just trying to tour. But that record took off, and I think we realised when we were recording those songs that it didn’t feel 100% right. We were kids, and we had a producer you know, so it was a lot slicker and more polished than we probably actually were. You’re young and not really in control. Because back in that day, you went and saw a band—especially in America—you’d see them live before you heard them on record. It was really before YouTube and all that sort of stuff.
Now it’s the opposite, and you’ll hear a band first before you go to see them live. You’d see a band live, and the scene was super underground: there weren’t any Bring Me The Horizon’s or bands of that size at the time, or the size that Underoath is now. So you heard the band live, and then you’d get a CD which was usually pretty shittily recorded. Your goal is to get as close to how the band came off live, and hopefully it sounds OK. And I think [with TOCS], we did a record that sounded really good, and people would come up to us and say ‘Oh the songs are great, but they didn’t really sound like that live.’ If you saw us live before TOCS, and before we learnt to play to a click track, then it would sound like… if The Dillinger Escape Plan were to play TOCS [laughs]. It was violent, and nasty, and people were diving off shit; people going nuts everywhere. So if you put that record on in your car, it probably didn’t feel that way.
So I think naturally with DTGL, we already knew what we didn’t want to do, so let’s just make it feel closer to how we are live and we kind of just built off that feeling. We’d just got off a full cycle of touring for a record that went successfully, and I think you grow up a lot once you hit a real touring stride. And we definitely hit that stride, and we learnt a lot about ourselves, about our band and about our songs; where our strong suits were. I think that played towards a little bit more of an ‘artsy,’ riffier approach; a bit more intelligent than TOCS, which was a bit more ‘basic.’
I agree with the contrast you mentioned just now, between seeing a band versus hearing a band for the time. I think by virtue of our location here in Australia, our take on it has always been the opposite, as we usually always hear a band—particularly ones from the States—on record first, and then we have to wait for the tour to come our way.
SC: Yeah for sure.
I can definitely remember hearing Underoath on record first, and being excited for a very long time to actually see you guys play those songs live.
SC: Man, it was years before we went to Australia for the first time. I don’t think we’d made it to Australia until the DTGL had already come out.
I’m pretty sure it was the Taste of Chaos tour in 2006, and was probably just after DTGL was released. [Editor’s note: October of that year, to be exact.]
SC: Yeah, that was our first time. Or maybe it was about to come out? I can’t quite remember… It was a long time ago [laughs]. I know we were definitely playing songs off that record as early as 2005, and I know DTGL came out halfway through 2006.
I was in the crowd for those shows though, and I recall being blown away by how much heavier and aggressive those songs off DTGL were.
SC: By that time, we were a lot more aware of who we were as a band, and if you’d seen us a year or two before, we were still trying to figure that out.
Absolutely. Given the lead up to the Rebirth Tour, do you have a favourite tour story or memory from your previous times over here in Australia?
SC: Oh man, I love the food and I love the weather. My favourite thing about Australia, is that in comparison to America, where the beaches are a lot of the time, just beach towns; the bigger cities are always kind of far away, and the metropolitan areas aren’t normally on the beaches for the most part. So I really dig that about Australia, where you can be in the big cities and then just have the beach like right there. I really love that.
I also remember Aaron [Gillespie, drums/clean vocals] and I renting surfboards and surfing at Bondi beach. Tim [McTague, lead guitar/backing vocals] didn’t put on sunscreen, and I remember Grant [Brandell, bass] went and slapped him on the back, and Tim had this sun-tan line of Grant’s hand on his back for like a year [laughs].
That’s classic [laughs].
SC: Straight up, you could see it on his back for almost a year. I mean I’ve got a lot of great memories from Australia. The shows are always great and the people are so nice. And a lot of the time, you go to other countries and that’s not really the case. I have this fond memory of being at this little café at Bondi beach, up on this hill, with like the sides of the restaurant being all open. The doors were open, the breeze was coming through, and you could walk out front barefoot, grab a surfboard and jump in the water. I was like ‘This is awesome. This is so rad.’
So I’m really looking forward to coming back. Especially now, with the band the way it is. I mean we were so over-toured, and that’s one of the reasons why we broke up. We were touring like an opening band, when we were a headlining band. You can take it a little slower when you’ve got a following, and you’re not trying to jump on every single tour. You can take in your surroundings a little better.
Because it takes the pressure off a little bit.
SC: Exactly. So I’m really excited about this whole second-coming of the band. I like to try and take everything in, and enjoy my surroundings and go for walks; really see the cities. I’m the kind of person where I moved around my whole life. I owned a house for a while and then sold it, because I didn’t want to be ‘glued’ down. I live in New York now, and I’ll probably end up moving somewhere else in a couple of years, because I like to learn about a new area and experience it.
And that’s one of the best aspects of touring. I mean the shows are always the best part, but being able to explore a city, eat some local food, and meet some local people and maybe go to bar around the corner and see how other people live their lives, that’s really interesting to me.
Underoath – Rebirth Tour 2017 // playing their They’re Only Chasing Safety and Define The Great Line albums in full.
FRIDAY 10TH FEBRUARY – EATON’S HILL, BRISBANE (LIC/AA)
SATURDAY 11TH FEBRUARY – ENMORE THEATRE, SYDNEY (LIC/AA)
SUNDAY 12TH FEBRUARY – 170 RUSSELL, MELBOURNE (18+)
WEDNESDAY 15TH FEBRUARY – GOVERNOR HINDMARSH, ADELAIDE (LIC/AA)
THURSDAY 16TH FEBRUARY – METROPOLIS, PERTH (18+)
Tickets on sale Monday 17th October, 9AM local time – tickets.destroyalllines.com