We sat down with the label. Fall Out Boy had exploded that year or two before, and we had that opportunity. They said, “Dude, if you write another one of these “Reinventing Your Exit” songs, with the money and the time and the push that we’re going to have with this next record, you could be the next this or that. You’re at a pivotal point.” They even submitted a few radio edits for songs from Chasing Safety on that cycle, and they were just like, “Dudes, we don’t know how, but we’re eventually taking this to radio.” And we shot everything down. It’s kind of weird to think of now, but we looked that in the face, said no, and that was it. We met with a couple major labels and we released the record we wanted to release on the label we were on when it all started and that’s where we’re dying—and It’s been awesome.
At that point, I was super-bummed on everyone. Realizing now, as a mature 29-year-old, Underoath isn’t my career. It never has been. I’ve been able to act, as far as my one-sixth vote, heedless and answer to no one and do whatever I want from my perspective, as well as everyone else in the band. We didn’t need anyone, we didn’t want anyone, and whatever we got, we accepted and were gracious for, but had no allegiance to retain them once they came onboard—and that included fans. Everyone was like, “Well, what about the fans?” It’s like, if they’re fans of that record, that’s fine, and if they’re not fans of the new one, that’s fine, too.
Nobody was holding a gun to us saying, “You have to make a record that everyone who bought the last one wants to buy.” That was awesome, but we were presented with a lot of those options, but we wanted to start a revolution and thought that everyone shared our sentiments. I was so perplexed why people didn’t share my hardline sentiments on the music industry, or the fact that there’s even an industry around music, [like] you’d go to a producer who rewrites your songs and helps you get on this or that. It was just so stupid to me, and realizing now, talking to you [about Sigur Rós in AP], if you just do whatever you want, then there’s going to be one guy that buys your magazine every month—and that’s you. You have an audience and you have to figure out how to connect with them first and foremost to build a base and affect them subliminally with the five-page Sigur Rós thing in the back, hoping that someone sees it and looks it up—and that didn’t register to me.
I was 21. I had no bills. I had nothing. I was just out and wanted to set fire to everything. We did it, and it was great. But that’s not a business model. I could never consult to a record label or a band. I would never be like, “Here’s the business plan. I did this once and it worked. Do this.” It’s not a business plan and that’s the point: It never was. It was a movement. People connected with the honesty. To not stop crossing that stream from having a movement based on vibe, heart, passion and connection and utter intentional refute for everything around us [and instead think], “We can play Christian festivals and get paid 10 grand. We can do a week on Warped Tour and keep our profile enough to get the next festival, and then we can go back to Soundwave for four years.” Yeah, it’s a 10-year plan and you make X amount of hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next 10 years doing nothing. You just coast. You exist. And that’s where I shut down. Underoath deserves more than that. Underoath isn’t a person. It’s this existential movement that started and—by the grace of God—affected a lot of people, and it deserves much more than to die or whither away a slow, insignificant death picking up festival money and old offers based off our old records’ backs. I know there’s more money to be made. I know there are more records. There’s probably even more ground to be broken, but not the way we did; not with the same headspace and not with the same violence. And that’s not Underoath.
Everything’s changed, from the personalities, needs and desires of six different people, as well as the individual climates of music climate and business. You said Underoath is not your career. What are you doing after that last gig in Tampa? Are you hanging up your guitar? More behind-the-scenes stuff?
I own a merch company that I started with my friend Jay [Vilardi, guitarist for the Almost] and my friend Ryan from Tampa that went strong for about three years. Then a year-and-a-half ago, we merged that company, Audible Diversion Group, with a merchandising company from Tampa called Merchline. I work fulltime at Merchline now as a client rep.
I’m in a band with my brother-in-law, Nate Young, who is also the drummer of Anberlin. Our wives are sisters. We’ve been collaborating on some things with our friend Reed Murray, who is from Tampa, as well. That band is called Carrollhood. Our entire goal is to, not flip everyone off, but to intentionally do stuff that we [couldn’t] do in a band like Underoath. Underoath got to the point where you couldn’t just have four instrumental songs. There’s so much stuff that Chris [Dudley] and I would geek out to and be like, “Dude, we should do just a bunch of EPs that are instrumental, like movie-score stuff.” But Underoath got too big. It got too time-consuming. By the time we were done doing the yearly cycle and routine of stuff we were expected to do, no one wants to go to a studio, lock themselves in a room and try to do this weird avant-garde type thing for no reason—and no label wants to fund that, knowing the whole thing is just us exploring. I’m stoked to do that again. Not to say Underoath ever deviated, but it’s just freedom. I have a job. My bills are paid, so now when I turn to music, I have no tethering to anything business related. [Carrollhood] is just creating and doing whatever we want, with two dudes that believe the same and have the freedom at this point in their lives to do it. I will never be in a band that doesn’t do that. That’s the band I’ve been in for 12 years, and that’s the band I stop playing in at the end of January, knowing that we did everything that we wanted to do and did it our way, with the exception of a few small regrets.
Our victories far outweigh our regrets, as far as how we ethically and artistically wanted to run our [business]. There aren’t many things I’d do differently. I would love to do what we can and do a farewell something for the people stateside, especially the Southeast, who supported us and helped us with everything we’ve built. But after time, people taking off work and who can pull what vacation hours when [the tour] ended up being 11 dates. There are a lot of people who are mad and think we shorted them and whatnot. It’s not that. It’s just that, for all intents and purposes, we’ve all moved on. This isn’t necessarily one last tour, it’s like the eulogy as well as the celebration of what we’ve done with our closest friends in our favorite markets—and that’s all we can afford to do as people. To do anything else again would just be like, “We can sell out some place in L.A. Let’s just fly out there real quick. We’ll just do it real quick because there’s opportunity there, there’s money there and there’s kids there.” No. If you want to see Underoath for the last time, come to these shows because they’re going to be full-on everything you’ve ever expected from us and that’s it. If we can’t do it 100 percent, we’re not doing it.
At the end of the day, what are you the most proud of, with regards to Underoath?
The email that we got when we sold, 96 or 97,000 records the first week Define The Great Line [was released]. I thought that was the biggest achievement we’ve been able to do as a band that knew what they wanted to do. That was a victory for artists, and I thought that was a victory for the stewing rebellion against the music industry overall—the system, so to speak. Just to sit and look at the small crew at Tooth & Nail, and look at the other five dudes and be like, “Man, there’s not one concession on this entire record.” On top of that, [it was] the biggest first week the label’s ever had, that we’ve ever had, that potentially any non-CCM Christian band has ever had. This was just a victory on many, many levels. I remember calling my dad and being like, “We’re No. 2 on Billboard,” and he was like, “What billboard?” [Laughter.] And I was like, “The actual Billboard. Like, there’s not a bigger record in the country, except for one. That’s it.” It was this effort of a bunch of small things coming together, that obviously, we can’t take credit for—people we don’t even know probably played a massive part. It was just this thing that came out and I just kind of smiled for the fallen great bands, for the Froduses and the At The Drive-Ins, or Refused—who are obviously back and destroying everyone in their path.
But at the time, all those bands that almost got there but didn’t. [Underoath] will never be dropped in the same conversations. No one from Refused will ever care about our band. I’m sure Justin Beck from Glassjaw hates our band—and that doesn’t matter. We know we’ll never connect with or inspire [the members of those bands]. They inspired us. Our music career is in honor of what they started. Alt
Underoath’s final tour begins January 16, 2013 in Philadelphia and ends January 26 in Tampa. Head to their official website for dates and ticket information.