UNDEROATH talk 'Chasing Safety' 20th anniversary tour and "special" new album | Revolver

UNDEROATH talk 'Chasing Safety' 20th anniversary tour and "special" new album

Spencer Chamberlain looks back and ahead
underoath spencer chamberlain 2023 GETTY, Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images
photograph by Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images

Spencer Chamberlain is just stepping out of a Blue Ridge, Georgia, vocal booth when Revolver catches up with him to talk Underoath. He and the rest of the Floridian quintet are 10 days out from wrapping up their next album, and the singer is stoked to say the least. And while he's also kind of tight-lipped about the specifics, Chamberlain suggests its gonna be a wrecker.

"I was tracking vocals to a song that's heavy as shit, so that's all I can say," he says with a laugh, adding that the overall M.O. has been slamming things a touch harder than 2023 singles "Let Go" and "Lifeline."

Paradoxically, while Chamberlain notes that while the sessions may reflect various personal challenges going on behind the scenes ("We all went through some pretty tough shit, and I think it's on this record"), he also boasts that the latest phase of Underoath has been a ton of fun for he and his bandmates. Maybe more so than usual.

"I've been proud of everything we've done, truthfully," he says. "Even some of the older stuff that I don't really connect with anymore, I can look back at it and be proud of where we were at that specific time. But I don't [think] I've felt like this about new Underoath in a very long time. I think the last time I felt like this was when we made [2006's] Define the Great Line, coming off [2004's] They're Only Chasing Safety — that [artistic] shift [of] not knowing what we were doing but knowing [it was] something special. That's how I feel right now."

That early era is also relevant right now because Underoath just announced they'll be spending this summer and fall toasting fan favorite They're Only Chasing Safety in full on a global tour. (Revolver's presale for the North American leg is live now, using the code: RevolverUO.)

The band's fourth album was a landmark release that brought Chamberlain, guitarist James Smith and bassist Grant Brandell into the fold alongside guitarist Timothy Tague, keyboardist Chris Dudley and clean-singing drummer Aaron Gillespie.

The remodeled Underoath pulled out now-formative '00s screamo classics like "A Boy Brushed Red Living in Black and White" and "Reinventing Your Exit," where chugging guitar dynamics and whiplashing melodic breakdowns rumbled beneath Gillespie and Chamberlain's dynamic back-and-forth of sung-and-screamed moments. Many of these songs remain in rotation, even outside of anniversary tours.

Yet, while Spencer knows it's going to be sick to spotlight their Safety this year, he and the rest of Underoath are also keeping a keen eye on what's actually next from their longtime project.

"It'll be fun to go celebrate what started this journey for us all, but I'm dying to get to the next chapter," he says. "I know I need to celebrate this with the people that have stuck by our side, and we appreciate them… but man… we've come such a long way since then."

Can we can take it back to 2004? Pardon the pun, but Underoath were a young and aspiring band as They're Only Chasing Safety came out. How do you look back on these songs now, with 20 years of songwriting, band, and just general life experience behind you?
We were kids! This was before the drugs, before the hard times. We were just kids trying to make something that sounded cool.

I don't know how to even relate to Chasing Safety anymore. It feels like it was yesterday, but I also feel like it was a completely different lifetime for me. It was before everything I went through… before even becoming a man. I feel like I was just a little boy with my friends trying to make music that we thought sounded cool. There's not a whole lot there for me to grasp onto —that's not a dis to anyone that loves that record.

For me… [it's] been more about celebrating a certain time in our lives, and seeing the way that some of those fans' faces light up when we play that stuff. This is a record that totally changed my life. No fucking doubt about it.  

Looking back, it was obviously a game-changer that opened a lot of doors for us, but I don't think we even knew what we wanted [to do artistically] until we started writing Define the Great Line.

Chasing Safety was Underoath's fourth album overall, but your first with the band. How do you remember joining up with them?
Well… it was the first album for over half the band! Underoath was a local band in high school that had older guys in it that kind of left one-by-one, over time. Coming into it, I remember I was in a signed band [This Runs Through] playing shows, and we played shows together. Me and Chris [Dudley] were homies, and it came up that they wanted me to sing in the band. I said no a couple times because I didn't like the demos and the direction of the band. It was not like I had room to speak — we were all in terrible bands back then — but the music that they were working on at the time was a step in the wrong direction from where The Changing of Times could have gone.

I didn't want to leave [This Runs Through] to play for Underoath, [but] my older brother decided that he didn't want to do it anymore. He was going back to North Carolina, which is where we were from, and he suggested that I play with the Underoath, [who were] guys my age. I came in to fill in for a show or two, [and] in the first practice we started writing, we all clicked. When we got into a room together, it was really explosive. Writing the record was very seamless, and it didn't feel like [I was] the new guy.

If you weren't enjoying the demos that you were hearing right before you joined, what was it that made these songs better?
Obviously I'm going to bring a different energy, and they're also giving me a different energy than the band that I was in. Me and Aaron clicked immediately. I think that [brought] a new element into it. They were kind of burnt out with [earlier Underoath vocalist] Dallas [Taylor] and they were ready to part ways with him as they were writing some of that stuff.

Any new element you throw in the room is going to change the way it feels, in my opinion. And we were just having fun. That's really what that record resembles to me — as a time in my life when there was no expectation. There was no fear of the outcome. It was just like, "We're in our late teens and we want to play shows, so we need music to play shows."

After this record comes out, were there any particular shows where the band realized Underoath was catching on?
CHAMBERLAIN I recall playing a club called the Auto Bar in Baltimore — it's about 300 capacity. It was on an off day [from the Warped tour], after the record had dropped. We hadn't played [an] inside [venue] since it had come out.

I remember very clearly, because to me, the idea of success was growing up [seeing] bands like Poison the Well, Every Time I Die, Dillinger Escape Plan, Thursday and Code Seven — a local band in my area — and watching the people in the crowd singing the words back at [them].

Our intro was "The Blue Note," basically a sample on Chasing Safety, and it counts down with a "3, 2, 1" into "It's Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door." That's how we would open back then. I started that opening line and I couldn't hear myself over the crowd singing it back at me. I remember turning back at Aaron and going, "Oh my God… we did it!"

Getting back to this upcoming tour, are the sets going to be faithfully era-specific — starting with the "Blue Note" intro, for instance — or will this be the album, front-to-back?
What we've talked about so far is a front-to-back performance of the record, and then a six-or-seven song encore, which is voted on every night by the fans. Anyone that buys a ticket can vote. Every night we're going to have to adjust to whatever [the picks are], and to me that's super exciting and also fucking crazy.

underoath 2024 PROMO NO CROP
Underoath, 2024

There's also a They're Only Chasing Safety comic book coming out through Sumerian Comics. Will that weave through a story based on this album and its lyrics?
We kind of left it to them to [Sumerian] to do their job, because none of us are comic book writers, but it's parallel. It's not lyric-based. It's a comic book inspired by the music. It's exciting because I liked comic books growing up.

Did they turn you into a comic character for this?
I wish! None of us are in the comics. One of my bucket list things, though, is I want to have a fully-animated music video, be it for Underoath or my slo/tide project. I want to be a cartoon character running around fucking people up. I'm a huge nerd, so I want to be a cartoon at some point. It didn't turn out to be the case for the Underoath comic book, unfortunately, but what they're doing is really cool.

Are there any existing animated characters you relate to?
When I was growing up, I liked all the Wolverine and X-Men stuff, [and] the Final Fantasy characters were pretty special to me — like Cloud and Sephiroth. I'm just a huge fan of that.

Are there any Final Fantasy Easter eggs in the Underoath catalog?
No, but there's a Lord of the Rings [reference] in "It's Dangerous Business…" [The song title] is an alteration of a quote from the movies.

Since you mentioned it: You're currently wrapping up this Underoath record, but where are you at with your slo/tide project?
CHAMBERLAIN I'm just going to keep dropping songs until it catches on.

I've been asked to write on lots of different people's albums. I started doing that back before Underoath got back together, and then that stopped for a while. Then I dove back into working on other people's music during COVID, and decided that I wanted to have a project [like slo/tide]… very much like alternative indie-pop. Kind of surfy, jammy, psychedelic music. It's the kind of stuff that I listen to when I'm not listening to heavy music.

When I create heavy music, I want it to be with my best friends. I don't need two heavy outlets.

What is it about connecting with Underoath that makes you want to get loud and aggressive?
Well… that's our shit! That's our bread and butter. None of us would have any of the opportunities we have without Underoath. I save that part of my personality, and that part of my brain, for when I'm with the guys I grew up with.

But people that know me really well, they know that's not all I am. I'm not just this guy that has all this darkness in their brain that only listens to heavy music. I've never been a "metal guy," or a "hardcore guy." I just love music.

This interview has been edited and condensed for flow and clarity.