When progressive-metalcore outfit UNDEROATH announced their dissolution and the details of their final U.S. tour on Oct. 2, the shockwaves were sizable. You didn’t need to subscribe to the band’s chosen belief system to understand how far they raised the bar for aggressive heavy music. And like their music, the decision process they went through to end their band was just as uncompromising. Jason Pettigrew discussed the decision with vocalist SPENCER CHAMBERLAIN who was forthcoming about everything from the decision, the mitigating factors surrounding it and whether looms large in the singer’s post-Underoath future. Guitarist Tim McTague discusses life after Underoath with Jason Pettigrew later this week on altpress.com
INTERVIEW: Jason Pettigrew
Nine dates in North America to say “so long.” How did the band come up with the cities?
SPENCER CHAMBERLAIN: The thing is, when we got home [from our last tour], some of the guys decided they couldn’t tour full time any more due to families and kids. It’s tough to afford all that. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. People have houses and bills. We talked about instead of being a band that doesn’t really do very much, let’s just close the chapter and bring a good thing to an end. [As far as those dates go] really, that’s about as much time as the guys who got real jobs could get off, so it wasn’t like, “Hey, let’s only tour these places.” Half the band was like, “Let’s tour everywhere,” and the other half of the band was like, “We can’t tour at all.” The guys who did have other obligations [chose to] take their entire year’s vacation to do those 10 days. That’s kind of where it’s at. We looked at it as, “How far can we get in 10 days?” That’s about as far as we can get.
I don’t have to tell you Underoath have been trough a bunch of well-documented travails in their career. So this decision to end it now was about economic realities and the life-changing situations with each individual member of the band?
I think so. A lot of it has to do with family. I think it’s time. I don’t know if that sounds weird or not. Underoath were a part of something important that happened, as far as heavy music goes and the underground scene goes. I think we did our part and now it’s out of our hands: It has been out of our hands for a while. I feel like that scene still exists, but we don’t know anything about it anymore, you know? We’ve grown up a lot, and it was just time for all of us. I’ve been in the band for a decade. Chris [Dudley, synth op] and Tim [McTague, guitarist] for close to 15 years. It’s been a long time in people’s lives.
You recorded two new tracks, right?
We went a couple months ago, and honestly, I think they’re the best Underoath tracks we’ve ever recorded. It was kind of funny: Because we had decided we weren’t going to play anymore before we got there, and then we were in the studio like, “Well, this sucks. This is the best we’ve ever gotten along in the studio. Songs are great,” but [the decision to break up] was already done. It was kind of a bittersweet experience for me. Those are the last two songs we wrote, and I’m very proud people are going to hear them and go, “Wow, I wish they would have made another record because those songs are awesome.”
Some of the band members were like, “We can record another record, but we can’t tour off of it.” And I think the people who were willing to tour felt it wasn’t fair to put out a record, pour your heart and soul into it and never play it anywhere.
Plus you have download culture that’s prevalent, so a band simply has to tour…
Absolutely. This summer, before we decided to stop, two or three of the members were like, “I can’t tour full time. We’ll do some fly-outs here and there, then we’ll talk about maybe a tour here and there, but I can’t really do that right now.” About halfway through the summer of flying out for one show here and there, I remember sitting at the bar at an airport. God, what airport was that? I wish I could remember. We sat down at the bar, me Tim and Grant [Brandell, bassist], and Tim was like, “It’s over.” I used to lose sleep over that idea, but I looked at him, and I was like, “I know. We can’t do this anymore. We can’t be that band that just shows up without a new record, still playing songs from that long ago. We can’t do this.” We just decided it would be good to be remembered for all of the good things we did, as opposed to the band that just kind of fades away. Even if you show up for that weekend on Warped Tour, everyone’s excited because Underoath haven’t been there in a couple years, but you’re playing the songs from when you were there the last time.
What do you think the climate of the tour is going to be? Is it going to be weird afterward when you’re not going to be next to your buds that you’ve been with for so many years? Or is it going to be like, “This is the last tour, let’s throw this down as loud, mighty and insane as we can?”
It’ll be another bittersweet experience for me. Before we had made the farewell tour, there was a fear of one of these festivals being the last one. There were a couple songs I could barely get through, I kind of teared up a little bit. There’s actually been a time where I had to stop singing because I was looking [at the crowd thinking], “This is kind of really sad. It’s been a huge part of my life.” We decided to do a for-real farewell tour—not just pick one of these festivals and that’s going to be the last show. We talked about how we owe it to everyone. We owe it to all of our fans. We honestly wish we could play everywhere in the world, but obviously that’s not going to happen. But once we decided there is going to be a tour, we’re like, “We’re going down like a party.” We’re pulling together everything right now. Our favorite crew members over the years have already reached out to us. We’re putting together the sickest light show we can possibly put together in whatever size rooms we’re in. We’re coming up with all sorts of cool ideas to make it an experience.
It’s going to be your last tour, but you’re seriously raising the bar on the way out.
Absolutely. That’s been the idea since the get-go. We’re not throwing in the towel. We’re going out very proud and on top. We’re not a band that’s like, “Oh, we’re defeated. We’re not as big as we used to be,” or “No one likes us anymore.” We’re not having a pity party. Honestly, people’s lives change, and I can’t argue with someone who needs to be there for their family because I don’t have a wife or children—I can’t relate. All I can do is say, “I don’t understand, but I can’t argue with you because I don’t have that in my life to be like. I can kind of get that, man. Go raise your son. Go raise your daughter. Be with your wife. It’s been long enough. We’ve been out here for so long.” I think it’s more of closing the chapter of what Underoath was and let’s make it as big and badass as possible.
I remember interviewing the band for an AP Podcast a long time ago and it seemed the band were wary of the culture and the scene back then. Before Define The Great Line came out, the band were already pondering what they could further do within the framework of metalcore. Let’s face it; if Underoath made a record with lots of ambient loops, your fans would be like, “This isn’t Underoath. I hate you.” Did you feel there was any type of constraint aesthetically?
Absolutely. I think that’s very true. If you go down the catalog of Underoath records since I’ve been in the band, you can see the identity crisis happening. It made for some cool songs and records, but at a certain point, it did alienate who Underoath were and what people wanted from Underoath. [Those fans] didn’t want us to change and I felt like we couldn’t sit still and not change. Our fans are great. We hear all the time that “Underoath are better than ever.” Then there are the kids that are like, “What happened to Warped Tour, poppy, hardcore rock?”
Like on They’re Only Chasing Safety.
Yeah. It’s tough because we wanted to keep going and changing, but we couldn’t. I’d be tracking a song and be like “Man, I have to scream because I have to because that’s what Underoath ‘is’.” I would just want to sing the whole song, because I think it would be better and then we’d end up going back and forth and coming off somewhere in between. There was another step to be made with Underoath, but I don’t think the fans would have been happy. That’s always a weird feeling to know you’re getting better, but Underoath have to be a heavy band—you have to be that. That’s what side projects are for; because you have to be that and that was maybe a part of some of the guys not wanting to tour so much—because they can’t do that anymore. You can only play hardcore or heavy metal for so long.