By: Lucy Sky –
Underoath broke a lot of hearts when they broke up in 2013, and none of them thought they’d ever get back on stage together again, until now. Since their reunion announcement last summer, they’ve announced the full-fledged “Rebirth Tour”, which will see the Florida sextet touring across North America playing two fan favourite albums (They’re Only Chasing Safety, and Define The Great Line) in full, with the tour’s first show being at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg, Florida, the venue where they had their curtain call.
In our new interview with frontman Spencer Chamberlain, we discuss the Underoath reunion, the band’s future, and why these shows are ones you don’t want to miss.
You said you didn’t think anyone other than you would be up for the idea of playing together again. What was it like for you as it was all working out?
It’s still a little mind boggling I think. It was a long process, gradual, so it didn’t seem weird until we were like “woah, we’re putting a tour together and we’re going to make this work, that’s crazy.” I think the couple years apart were important for the band. It’s hard to see what’s right in front of you when you’re in it all the time. We needed to take a step back I think and just re-evaluate and learn how to forgive each other and become friends again. I don’t know, the band was definitely in a weird spot and I think being on tour for a decade, that band never took any time off. That’s a lot of pressure to keep a relationship alive. I mean, you think about being in a relationship with one other person, dating someone or being married, but you’re talking about keeping six people together. It’s really hard.
Underoath was always about the music and our friendship and I think we had just grown so far apart it was hard to accept each other and get along. I think now that we took a few steps back and remembered why we did this in the first place and why we love each other, it’s okay that we’re all not the same little group of kids. We’re all adults now and we have our own lives now and that’s okay. That has really done wonders for the band.
It’s kind of like moving in with friends, it puts a pretty big stress on you. You start to dislike some of the things you loved about them once it’s in your face that much.
For real, I know a lot of people that don’t want to have a roommate, or they get a roommate and they can’t stand them or something like that. It’s like dude; I’ve been on tour since I was a kid. I like being around people. There are some guys in my other band, Sleepwave, that don’t like being around people. I’m like “dude, how are you going to ever be able to enjoy being on tour. Being on tour is being around people 24/7 and learning how to interact and co-exist. It is tough, obviously Underoath fell apart. It’s a hard thing to balance and on top of it some of the guys have wives and children. That’s a whole other set of relationships that you have to keep in tact and I think the plate becomes too full at a certain point.
Was that the reason you guys went on hiatus? To settle the friendship and not lose the friendship in the mix of all of it?
No, I think we thought we were never going to play again and some of the guys couldn’t stand being together anymore and wanted nothing to do with it. There was never a thought of playing together again. There were some of us that wanted to keep going, me being one of those people, but I never thought we’d play again as Underoath, I just never thought that would happen.
You said on stage that neither Chris [Dudley] or you were ready for it to end and that it sucked, but sometimes you have to put a good thing to rest. Now that time has passed, do you still think that was the best thing to do?
At the time I wasn’t ready to let it go and I was definitely pretty upset about it. If you’ve seen the DVD you probably know. But I think now, in hindsight, I think Underoath is the kind of band that we have a following, we have a fan base, we have die-hard people that aren’t going anywhere. That’s been proven to this day. We put that tour on sale seven months in advance and most of it sold out in like a day. People love that band and that’s something I’m really grateful for. I don’t think we even realized how important we were to people until after the fact. I think what’s really cool about it is, there was no way to get around breaking up I don’t think at that time. It was something that had to happen, because of how we ran our business and the way we were led to believe when you start off in a band as a hardcore band that you’re developing.
That music was not popular when we were touring. Even until the very end, you wouldn’t hear Bring Me the Horizon on the radio like you do now, that would’ve never happened. When we were touring, we weren’t allowed to play late night TV because we were too heavy. Then a few years later it’s kind of normal. We were always isolated for being the genre that we were and in that genre, you were always taught that the only way to survive was to be on the road and I believe that that’s true to a certain extent, but I think that Underoath has a following now to where there’s a such thing as over touring and that’s what we were doing.
We were touring too much and our schedule was just so full all the time. I think Underoath can exist as a band like for example, not comparing the two, but a schedule that a band the size of Incubus would do. Not saying we’re anywhere close to that, but they show up and they’ll do one tour a year and they’ll write a record and maybe show up at a festival. It doesn’t have to be like you live on the road and I think that just happened to work great for Underoath that that was possible, because everyone in the band has something going on. It’s kind of great that Underoath has the kind of following and the dedicated fans to where we can play when it makes sense.
Like you said, you guys did kind of brand that genre, before Bring Me the Horizon, etc, came forth and was actually able to play on the radio. Who were your musical influences with it not having really been around before?
When I was little, the scene was really small. Like you said, that music wasn’t really popular and it had like a movement to it. The bands stuck together. You would see a lot of the scene bands touring together a lot. Everyone helped each other out, because they were trying to build something I think. It was kind of like a rebellion. It was like an anti-mainstream. There was a lot of passion in it, not saying that’s been lost, but it was definitely different and I think by the time we were old enough to tour, there was more bands.
We were looking up to bands like Glassjaw, Poision the Well and Hopesfall and bands like that. We started touring super young and a lot of bands looked out for each other, it was a lot more of a partnership then rather than every band fighting for themselves. Then it just becomes to grow out of your hands and you’re not really sure what’s going on anymore, it’s just happening and all of the sudden you have a manager and a label and a record that’s actually in stores, not just being sold at the merch table. Then your videos that you shot are on TV. It was crazy to watch it grow and to where it is now. It’s not very abnormal that you hear screaming on a song. It’s crazy what it grew from to where it’s at now.
It really is, looking back. Like Alexisonfire plays on the radio now and that’s not something you would’ve heard ten years ago.
Yeah, it’s crazy. It’s awesome though. I think the Internet, as much as it hurts things in our industry and obviously killed a lot of the way to make a living doing it. But it’s also made it to where I think people being able to access songs, it’s opening doors for bands to come to cities where they wouldn’t have been able to play a couple years ago because it’s just normal, it’s just music.
You mentioned Bring Me the Horizon and bands that came up after that, are there any bands that you’ve wanted to tour with but never gotten the chance to?
I don’t know much about the new bands that are out really. I don’t really pay attention to a lot of the heavy music now. I mention Bring Me The Horizon because they’re big, Sleepwave has done some stuff with them and I’ve known those guys for a little bit of time. There’s tons of bands I wish we would’ve been able to tour with, but newer bands, I have no idea. I don’t know who’s considered big and cool in that genre anymore. (laughs) I went to Warped Tour and scratched my head and I didn’t even know who any of the bands were for the most part.
You and Aaron [Gillespie] said in an interview back in 2007 at Warped Tour that your favourite song to play live is “Returning Empty Handed”, which is off Defining the Great Line. How do you think it will feel to get back up there and play that again with him?
I’ve been at rehearsals for like 10+ days, something like that and we’re having a blast. It’s great to be able to play these songs with the people that you worked so hard on them with. It not only shaped your life, but a lot of other people and from what we’ve been told, a genre. We didn’t really know what we were doing; we just knew we liked what we were doing. I think now that we can look back on it, we’re like “man, this record is very important” and it’s really personal to me. It’s a very personal record. Being able to play it with the people who I worked really hard on it with is something that I’m not going to take for granted. I’m so stoked to be able to do that, it’s great.
The “Rebirth Tour” starts in St. Petersburg at Jannus Live where you played your last show as a band back in 2013. Was that intentional?
Yeah. I really wanted to. I lived in St. Pete for the entirety of Underoath. I think that us walking off that stage and I’ve been on tour ever since and I’ve played St. Pete and for some reason no tour I’ve been on so far with Sleepwave has played Jannus. I’m sure it will at some point, but the fact that the last time I was on that stage playing was with them, thinking I would never play with them again, being the first show is going to be so awesome. That’s going to be real special.
The “Rebirth Tour” pre-sale packages are relatively extensive. What’s it like putting the bands two biggest albums into one vinyl and releasing a limited edition machine numbered vinyl?
I just know that I’m a vinyl collector and most of my friends are. I know that the Define the Great Line vinyl is impossible to find. I’ll meet kids on the road with Sleepwave and they’ll come up and tell me how they spent 250 or 350 bucks on eBay for that vinyl. I’m like “dude, that’s insane.” It was kind of a no brainer, why don’t we re-press these on vinyl for the tour. Kids clearly want those records.
I think it’ll be a cool collectors item. Although they say that the physical copy of music is dead, it’s all about having it on your phone, which I agree it’s a lot easier, but there’s something to be said about having a vinyl collection. It’s like a hardcover book. People will always download books and movies, but there’s something to be said about having that nice hardcover book and I think that’s what vinyl is for music. It’s a rad collectors piece that the artwork’s huge and special. You can pull it out and look at it and the way vinyl sounds when you play it is amazing. I don’t think that’ll ever die. It’s been around since the beginning of music. It’s taken off a lot in the last couple years, which I think is great. I think it’s great for the people to have the option where if they want a physical piece of artwork that they can play on a record player.
It is really hard to find so many different albums. It’s just crazy that people pay that much and so unfortunate that they have to.
Yeah, I think the demand is there, [but] not necessarily the production has caught up with the demand. It’s hard, I understand, as a record label how do you know. You’re going to press a bunch of vinyls and they might not sell and you lose a bunch of money, so it’s hard. Not all vinyls are going to be a collectors piece or something that has that much of a demand. I do find it’s cool because being able to do Sleepwave, I’ve gotten to be at the merch table and talk to kids a lot more. It’s been really great the last couple years, because I know a little bit more about our fans and what they do like. I watch it even at our own table that our number one seller is vinyl. We sell more vinyls than t-shirts. I never would’ve thought. You never know until you’re out there seeing it happen.
It’s cool to think about too, how that shows that people care more about the music than they do about the statement about it, because you’ll buy a t-shirt and you can wear it, but you can’t put it on and listen to it.
Yeah, exactly. Especially now a days, where you can obviously pick up any MP3’s off of any pirate site and music’s considered to be free. We spend so much time and money making it; it’s great to see that return when kids go out of the way to spend money on a vinyl. It’s pretty rad.
You said you’re not sure what you guys are, other than being friends again at this point. Do you see a future for Underoath beyond this?
I think it would be dumb not to. I think we’re having fun, we’re getting along, we’re touring. I just know it can’t be 11 months a year anymore and I’m fine with [that], I’ve got another band to do that with, that’s fine. I think the potential of more shows in other countries is very obvious that we’re going to do that and then see where it goes as far as writing and potentially making more music in the future. That’s all up in the air, it’s a little too soon to tell. That’s a lot of pressure to put on, almost like a new foundation. I compare it to dating; don’t move in together no matter how good you’re getting along. Don’t move in together on the second date. I think that’s where I’m leaning, let’s not put all this pressure on the record when we haven’t even played the first show yet. I would say halfway through the tour, I could answer that question a lot better of what the future is going to look like. Once you’ve got a week or two of shows that have gone off without a problem, you’re like “okay, there’s no kinks we’re working out,” it’s kind of smooth sailing. The only thing you have to worry about is not getting sick and getting enough sleep. Once we’ve gotten a little bit more stuff going it’ll be safer to talk about. (laughs)
You said on top of playing your two fan favourite albums in full, there would be a few surprises. Can fans dream of maybe a new song or two?
I doubt it. If you’ve ever seen Underoath play live, there’s a lot of stuff going on. We don’t just play the songs and get off the stage. There’s a lot more that goes into it. We take the set really seriously. We write music to link the music together. The live show is going to be more stuff than we’ve ever tried to pull off, production wise. I think it’s going to be really interesting. It’s going to be the best thing we’ve ever done.