“It’s just about doing it smart this time”—Underoath frontman talks their return, Sleepwave’s future
When Underoath began their reunion tour earlier this year, they weren’t entirely sure how things would play out. It had been over three years since they last took to the stage together, and seven since they did so with original drummer/vocalist Aaron Gillespie.
To put things mildly, the tour was a complete success. So much so that Underoath have already announced three festival appearances taking place later this year. We caught up with frontman Spencer Chamberlain roughly a month after the tour ended to look back on what they had accomplished, as well as what the future holds.
It’s been roughly a month since Underoath’s reunion tour ended—a band you never thought you’d get to play in again. How does it feel looking back?
Honestly, it’s the best thing that’s ever happened. I’ve spent more time with those dudes than anyone else in my entire life; I grew up with them on the road. We had a huge falling out; we burnt it down on both ends to the point where we said, “Fuck you, fuck you, I never want to talk to you again,” and walked away from everything thinking it would never happen again. But if you know anything about family, that’s never gonna be the case. You’re going to have a falling-out with your mom, or your dad or your brother at some point in your life, [but] it’ll come back around and heal. Time finds its way into your heart for accepting forgiveness and forgiving others. I think [the breakup] was something that had to happen. And looking back on it now, that’s a strange thing to say because in the [farewell] documentary [Tired Violence], I was kinda the last man standing and was really upset. Everyone else was done with it; I was like, “No, I wanna keep going. Why are we walking away?” But now that we did, and no matter how hurt I was, I think after time passed we healed our relationships.
I wouldn’t change it for the world, because now we’re closer than we’ve ever been. We love each other again like we did when we were kids. All the bullshit is gone, and we learned how to except each other as the men we are today. I don’t think that could’ve happened without a huge breakup. Everything happens for a reason, and now that I can be onstage with those dudes and play songs that I’ve poured my heart and soul into, I actually want to be there again. I look off the stage when [we’re] playing and I see these people so excited that we’re back; then I look across the stage and see [that] my five best friends have the same feeling as the people in the crowd and myself—there’s no price tag on that. Now that all the people who are on that stage want to be there again, it makes the band even better than it was in the first place. It’s kinda wild that we’re stronger and better than we used to be. We’re happy, we love each other and we respect each other. Now, with [that] headspace, it’s not one of those things where it’s just gonna fade out again. We’ve looked at running this band a different way, and that’s just doing things when they make sense—when we feel like they make sense. As opposed to, “Every two years we gotta release a record; we have to tour 10 months out of the year,” cause that’s what you’re supposed to do.
Now, being home for a month, it’s really exciting. We have three festivals this summer, and we’re talking about some stuff overseas. It’s just about doing it smart this time around.
So, what does Sleepwave look like for the rest of the year? Around December, it was said that there will be a new album at some point.
Yes, there definitely [will be]. When I made that first Sleepwave record, I didn’t really know where I was yet. I knew I wanted to make a point with [the] music, but I don’t think I knew how to do what I wanted to do and still keep a foot in the door [with the heavy music scene].
Because whether I like it or not, people look at me as the guy from Underoath.
So, when Sleepwave’s [first album] was about to come out, it was like, “Oh, the guy who used to be in that band Underoath is putting out a record.” People wanted to hear what they’ve fallen in love with about me, which is normally heavier songs, and I don’t want to do that with Sleepwave. I still kinda had to keep my foot in that door, because I didn’t know how to make a full leap without feeling like I was gonna bum a bunch of people out.
I was halfway through writing this next Sleepwave record when we started rehearsing for Underoath. Then I was like, “Okay, if Underoath is back, people aren’t going to be offended if I just do what I want with this other band.” So there’s no more, “The guy from Underoath isn’t doing [heavy] music anymore, he’s doing this.”
I think what’s exciting for Sleepwave’s second record, which I’m working on all summer long, is that I get to do exactly what I want to do, because Underoath is a band.
No one can give me shit if I make a really chill rock record that’s not some in-your-face thing, because I still have another band like that.
There’s that part of me that’s a huge fan of Radiohead, Coldplay, Sigur Ros—all that kind of stuff. And then the Strokes, Foo Fighters, Nirvana—all the stuff that I’ve written in the past that has a little bit more of that side of rock that I’ve never felt okay releasing because it is so different from the way I write with Underoath. Now, I feel like those restrictions have been lifted. I can do all my heavy stuff with one band and I can experiment and go crazy with the other.
That’s really been exciting for me to finally feel free, because when Underoath had broken up—even though Sleepwave was a different band—I didn’t feel free.
I felt there were parts that I needed to keep in.
Part of you felt obligated to make something heavy.
Yeah, and that Sleepwave record isn’t very heavy, and the way it was mixed and all that stuff, I wasn’t very happy with [it]—you know how first records go—but I was still holding on to something. And now I feel like I can just have fun with it. I think it’s going in a more lighter, artsy-rock direction and Underoath will continue to be heavy.
I really wanted to get [Sleepwave’s new] record out this year, but I was talking with management and friends of management, and we were like, “You know what? Fuck a timeline.” I’m gonna write until I’m really happy with this record and it’ll come out when it comes out. It’ll be either late 2016 or early 2017, I’m sure, but I’m just over [timelines]. And I’m not being lazy—I’m writing more songs for this Sleepwave record than I ever have, and I’m diving deeper because I feel so free. I wanna meet the right producer; I’m gonna release it under a different label—I wanna do it right this time.
[Regarding] some of the songs I wrote before the [Underoath’ tour: I don’t know if they’ll make it on the record because I have such a different headspace now. That Underoath tour was more than just, “Oh, yay, I’m with my friends again.” My mind is just really clear; I can just be in the music now.
Underoath getting back together ultimately helped Sleepwave.
Absolutely. I’m really excited to do more Underoath tours and make more Underoath music, as well, just like I will with Sleepwave. I’ve always been very clear: Underoath will always gonna be what got me where I am, so I’m never gonna neglect that. I’m always gonna be here for that and any time there’s a tour that makes sense—we’re gonna do it. But in the spare time, I’m going to work on Sleepwave stuff and just have fun playing music.
You mentioned you’re going to put out the next Sleepwave record under a new label, not Epitaph?
Yeah, I just did a one-off with Epitaph. Y’know, we just didn’t see things on the same page. It was just kinda like a trial thing for me. There was a lot of miscommunication—I think they’re a great label and they’re great people—but it just is what it is. I don’t know if there is the “right” label out there for anyone, but if you have an opportunity to try something else out, you might as well try it. alt.