A stark black screen is set off by white numbers counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds on their website till the release of the band's new album Define the Great Line. Though the counter has obviously been put there to drum up excitement from the hard rock band's fan base about the band's new release, it's been having the same effect on the group itself.
"I'll always run across it going to different websites, and I'll look at it and be like, man it's that close!?" keyboardist Chris Dudley tells me as he and bassist Grant Brandell chat with me in the lobby of their hotel on Thursday afternoon. The pair are still reeling from the Radiohead concert the night before, "it was the best show I've ever been to, ever." Dudley gushes though he says watching the seasoned performers made the band a bit apprehensive, "we all got out and we were just like 'and now we have to play tomorrow?'" he says referring to their show later than night at the Mod Club to promote their new record.
The record is the follow up to the band's 2004 release They're Only Chasing Safety and with 300,000 copies sold, it's the band's highest selling album to date. But while they were in the studio outselling themselves wasn't the first on their minds, "I think that there would have been a lot of pressure if we were doing the same thing we did on the last record," Dudley tells me, "but it's something completely different so no one's really expecting anything."
Dudley describes the new record as heavier, more personal and more musically complex than past Underoath releases, "we went into it wanting the music itself to be entertaining and not having to wait for the vocal melody in order for it to be a song."
The strength of the new album also had a lot to do with lessons learned from their last record. Underoath underwent several lineup changes from their first record The Changing of Times to They're Only Chasing Safety the most dramatic being the departure of lead singer Dallas Taylor during the 2003 Vans Warped Tour. "When we wrote the last record we had only been the line up that we are now for like 4 or 5 months. We were doing the best we could with the time we had". Dudley says, "But now we know what each other's all about and it's a lot more of a cohesive effort."
In spite of their more cohesive sound don't ask the current line up made up of Dudley, Brandell and their bandmates; frontman Spencer Chamberlain, drummer and vocalist Aaron Gillespie, and guitarists James Smith and Tim McTague to define their music. Described as post-hardcore, grindcore or even metal the band says they don't like labels with the exception of one, "We'll come straight out and say we're a Christian band," Dudley says.
In spite of the stereotypes often associated with bands that attach the word Christian to their name Underoath doesn't shy away from their faith, "we're a band because of our faith and because we're Christian and because we feel that that's what we were meant to do." But Brandell says he hopes that the tag won't steer people away from their band, "it's not like, don't come to our show if you're not Christian, it's not like that at all" he says, "this is what we are and if you want to talk about it cool, and if not, you know that's cool too, enjoy the music."
That's exactly what fans did later that night at Underoath's exclusive Toronto show. Despite a bit of apprehension the crowd made up of Underoath fans, who got tickets either through radio and other contests or by pre-ordering Define the Great Line at HMV locations across the city, were all anxious to see the band. A high energy and often spastic looking Underoath played a mix of favourites from past albums as well as a couple of new tunes including the band's first single "Writing on the Walls".
Aside from being a sneak peak at what fans can expect on Define the Great Line the concert was also a pre-party for the Vans Warped Tour that the band will be heading out to starting June 15. The traveling music festival features a myriad of bands traveling together for weeks on end. "It's hectic," Brandell says, "you can't escape the music." But the endless camaraderie of watching shows all day and hanging out afterwards, having barbecues in the parking lot is something they look forward to every year, "it's like summer camp," Brandell says, "but of all dudes in bands."
This year Underoath and all the other bands heading out for Warped tour this year will be making four Canadian stops in Vancouver, Calgary, Barrie and Montr»al. But if you miss them on the Warped tour the band will also be heading out on a Canadian tour during the last two weeks of September.
Check out www.underoath777.com for more information.
Writer: Michelle Garcia