Underoath’s Rebirth was glorious news. News, that until now, had to be enjoyed vicariously as they performed headline shows throughout North America.
The band will be returning to Australian shores for the first time in yonks. Performing, in full, the seminal records; 2004’s They’re Only Chasing Safety and 2006’s Define The Great Line. Two of the more formative and important albums for the sub-culture. The band would go on to release a handful of other albums, culminating in 2010’s Disambiguation and shortly after, the demise of the band.
It was Chasing Safety and Defining The Great Line that refused to go quietly into the good night. Hell, only recently in Sydney a local super-group performed a set of cover shows based on the albums – packing out the venue.
The Rebirth Tour saw the return of vocalist, drummer and founding member Aaron Gillespie to the fold. To coincide with the tour announcement we caught up with Aaron to talk about the tour but ended up talking about, well, everything…
The Neversphere: There’s been so much anticipation around Underoath bringing the Rebirth Tour to Australia. It must feel good to be coming back Down Under…
Aaron Gillespie: Underoath is the best it’s ever been, man. We are firing on all cylinders. I think that we’re better than we’ve ever been as friends and colleagues, and also as artists. We’re really, really, really in a good place as people…The tour we just did here in the States, we just had such a good fucking time. I keep saying post-30s Underoath is so much better than pre-30s Underoath.
The Neversphere: So with that said, what’s being done differently this time around?
Aaron: I think there’s no pressure. Underoath was one of those bands who just burned it down to the ground. We never, ever stopped. It was just constant touring, constant writing, constant this, constant that. ‘Should we say no? No we can’t say no, we have to say yes’. I think now that we’re back, we’re going to do whatever we want to do, at the rate we want to do it in.
We’re just not in a place in our lives where we’re going to burn each other out. Essentially, all the social stuff and everything that we went through…We just worked too much and too hard, and for too long a period of time. We all grew up and thought we had to be the exact same person and rapidly realised we didn’t have to be, that we could be 6 different men.
We’re just so excited about our band again, which is really rare so many years later.
The Neversphere: When you’re here you’ll be performing two hugely important albums to the genre and community; They’re Only Chasing Safety and Define The Great Line. Is it weird getting back into the mindset of Aaron from all those years ago?
Aaron: I don’t do that! From that period of scene music, if you will – such a stupid term – but from that period, we’re really lucky that fans still care about these albums, number one. And number two – it’s just a lot of fun. I’m not really going on a journey back to 2004. This is so weird but it feels new. It almost has a new life. We’re playing these songs exactly like they’re recorded, nothings changed, but we’re just doing it and we’re finally all really, actually friends, which sounds so weird to say but it’s true. After all these years, no more horse shit.
The Neversphere: What were you guys beforehand? More business associates than friends?
Aaron: We started as friends, like the best of friends. Then you lose your way. This business is really fun but it can also be evil. When you start making this music, you don’t really buy into the business side; you don’t even know it exists. When we started out we were high school kids, man. We didn’t even know that all of this shit existed.
The idea of making money from art is the most bizarre idea in the world to me. I almost feel guilty some days. I’m very lucky. I have a very comfortable life and it’s from making music. When you start trading art for money, that’s when shit gets weird.
The Neversphere: I think it gets weird when you start excluding people from your art based on their purchasing power…
Aaron: Isn’t that a weird thing? Think about that for a second…it’s such an odd piece of social strangeness to think, ‘I’m going to trade art for money’. I can truly say with confidence we never, ever, ever thought we’d make money doing this. Fucking never, dude. We just wanted to do something cool and fun, and true.
Once you add that money aspect, the politics start to just ruin you life and ruin your band. But this is our second shot at this. I don’t know if Australia will be the same, but here in the States we just did the biggest tour of our career, all these years later…after breaking up.
I think that now we’ve just made a decision – 6 grown men…there are 9 children being represented in Underoath now. 9 children. So we have different ideas and different ideals. I kind of don’t really give a shit about the politics any more…In the beginning, that’s what put the evil sickness in us, we were just so wrapped up in that.
The Neversphere: If it’s any indication of how the Australian tour will go, some guys here did a cover show in Sydney and packed out a club, now people want it interstate!
Aaron: That’s insane! We’re excited to get there. For us coming down to Australia means escaping the winter. We used to purposely tour so we would never have to experience a winter…for a decade. It was the best! We’re from Florida so you gotta thing about that…Florida is very much like Australia weather-wise. So, we’re basically Australians. I live out where It snows now and every year I’m like ‘Why the fuck did I do this…What am I doing out here?’
We are very much warm weather people, so for many years we escaped the whole thing. Australia’s actually the first non-American place we’ve done the Rebirth tour. It was the first place we wanted to go, obviously because it’s falling in February and we don’t want to be anywhere fucking near Europe in February.
The Neversphere: Yeah, February wouldn’t be the best mouth to tour through Sweden, or Russia…
Aaron: Russia was horrible. So, last time we were in Russia, there’s this train that goes from St. Petersburg to Moscow, a 14-hour train ride. The crew loads all the gear onto the train; they call it the Night Train…
We had this translator who literally couldn’t speak English. Chris [Dudley, Keyboard] was like, ‘I need the bathroom…’ and he couldn’t understand what he was saying, so Chris thought ‘Fuck it, I’m just going to pee in a bottle…’
So Tim [McTague, Guitar], Spencer [Chamberlin, Vocals], Chris and I, were having a drink in this tiny cabin. Then this massive Russian guy starts banging on the door at 4am like, ‘We want to fight American men! We heard you are American we want to fight you!’ I literally got on my phone that night and I text my manager like ‘I’m never fucking coming back here again.’
But here’s the thing, in Russia the kids can’t tell you their own name in English…but they know every word to every song in perfect English. When I was there in 2010, I walked outside the venue, there was a kid at the gate and he sang me an entire Almost song. With no accent! It was so weird! It’s a place you don’t want to go but you want to go because the fans are so beautiful, with a great soul…and I’ve been back once since the train.
I want to go back because the fans are so beautiful and so invested, but it’s rough. Like, you’re from Sydney, dude. Sydney is one of the greatest cities in the world. When I think Sydney, I think Bondi beach and Manly. I think, like the CBD, super clean. So, obviously, as an Australian, you got it nice.
The Neversphere: We have it pretty good, and we are aware of that.
Aaron: The first show I ever played in Australia was in Perth. I really like Fremantle. There’s a great break there. You know that Perth is the most isolated city in the world? So I feel like the people living there…Everyone’s hiding from someone…You know? When you’re in Perth it’s a 4-hour flight to anywhere.
The Neversphere: It’s our wild west. You murder someone in Sydney, hop in the car, drive to West Australia and open a Bed & Breakfast somewhere..
Aaron: That’s what I mean! I would go to these food shops where I was surfing, and be like…This person killed another person. They’re here making chicken burgers because they’re hiding from the government.
The Neversphere: If you go up the coast you hear some stories, to be fair not murder…But the odd getaway driver from a bank robbery in 1981 or whatever…
Aaron: That’s bonkers to me! I was doing some work with Hillsong traveling up and down W.A with a friend of mine and I met the weirdest fucking people, dude. It was so weird. I don’t have any stories like ‘I helped a dude rob a bank in 1981’ or whatever – But I’d meet people and ask why they lived there and they’d say, ‘We just needed to get away…’
The Neversphere; They’ve robbed a bank…
Aaron: …They’ve robbed a bank or killed someone. But it’s also really amazing over there. I love it over there.
The Neversphere: I have to have a fan moment – They’re Only Chasing Safety was an album I listened as a teenager because it was loud, angry and emotional, but I never realised at the time it would be something that I went back to so much as an adult for solace.
Aaron: I think we’re lucky man. There are so many bands from our genre and that time period that people don’t remember. That record, Spencer and I, we were going through things at the time and we were just kids. We just wrote down exactly what we felt and I think that’s why it helps people, even later in life because it’s just a completely honest piece of music. There’s no bullshit with that record.
It’s pretty fucking crazy. I grew up as a poor kid on government assistance in Florida and getting to talk to someone dude from Australia who says that…that’s the reason I got into this. I gotta be honest, when we made that record, Spencer and I lived on $US38 a week. We were starving ourselves making that record.
It’s funny, we’re lucky because we just did the Rebirth tour here in the States. Every night Spencer would ask, ‘How many of you people have seen Underoath before?’ and I’m not kidding you 80% of the crowd raised their hand and said they’d never seen Underoath before.
This was interesting to me because we toured so much. Non-stop. I would sit behind the drums and hear him ask and go, ‘This is impossible’. We were doing these VIP signings everyday and I started to ask questions. 80% of the crowd are young people…I thought going into this tour it’d be old, 30 year old dudes drinking beer.
I would ask these kids ‘why are you into this piece of music’? They’d say, ‘My brother was super into it in high school. When he went to college, he gave me this CD. I was 10 years old, so here I am, I’m 20 and super into this music’.
The Neversphere: Underoath were ahead of the curve though, now this type of music is so accessible, it’s natural the new generation are tracing steps back to the band.
Aaron: Maybe. I kinda don’t see it that way. We liked two genres of music. We really like heavy music but we also really like Jimmy Eat World and Saves The Day. As kids, we’d be like how do we do these two? How do we Siamese twin these two different things? Basically, we decided, the way that we did it was…we just did it.
We love these two different styles of music and we just married them together…
…And then They’re Only Chasing Safety happened.
Underoath ‘Rebirth’ Australian Tour Dates
Tickets available Monday, 17th October
Friday, February 10th
Eaton Hills, Brisbane – Lic/AA
Tickets: Destroy All Lines
Saturday, February 11th
Enmore Theatre, Sydney – Lic/AA
Tickets: Destroy All Lines
Sunday, February 12th
170 Russell, Melbourne – 18+
Tickets: Destroy All Lines
Wednesday, February 15th
Governor Hindmarsh, Adelaide – Lic/AA
Tickets: Destroy All Lines
Thursday, February 16
Metropolis, Perth – 18+
Tickets: Destroy All Lines