Underoath frontman Spencer Chamberlain tells Rock Sound the story behind the band’s new album ‘Ø (Disambiguation)’.
Underoath's last few years have been tumultuous to say the least. Quiet life? Forget about it.
Well documented personal problems, public exits from important tours and, most recently, the departure of drummer and founding member Aaron Gillespie, have kept the rumours rolling in and the press releases rolling out.
But, with new album 'Ø (Disambiguation)' the band insist they are healthier than ever and in possession of songs that truly define what this band is, what it stands for and what it wants to sound like.
Bold claim, so we grabbed some time with vocalist Spencer Chamberlain to hear more...
Most people know this album as the record you made without Aaron Gillespie. Was it sad, a relief or a mixture of both when you finally parted ways with him? Was there a specific moment when everyone realised it wasn't working anymore?
"I think we were about to play in Czech Republic when Aaron started opening up. We had about a week left of the tour so we said we’d talk about it when we get home, but that night at a truck stop the five of us started talking and we knew what he said was right. When we sat down and finally split ways I think both sides were relieved. We’ve never been happier, we have six people who are willing to go to the same places and write the same kind of music and we aren’t fighting about every little thing, I also know Aaron is way happier now doing his own thing. I think it is obviously for the better. Some of the fans understand what happened but some of them don’t, when they hear the record they’ll hear that nothing is missing and we are just as capable without him, I also think you can tell that we’re happier just by hearing the new record."
Did you all hold on longer than maybe you should have, perhaps trying to let some time pass in Underoath without any personal drama for people to report on?
"No, I just think it’s a scary thing for someone to leave after almost eight years with the same members. Aaron leaving wasn’t really a thought for a long while, I definitely wished we all got on better musically because I knew it could have been way more fun that it was at times."
You recruited former Norma Jean drummer Daniel Davison as a replacement, how were his first few weeks in the band?
"So busy, Daniel came in and we started writing straight away, from there we went to the studio for about a month and a half, then three days later we went out on tour!"
What has this line-up managed to achieve on the new album that was not possible previously?
"There is a lot more melody on this record, me being the only person doing the vocals allowed us to be way more cohesive. When you have two guys singing along it's kinda jumbly and up and down, now it flows better. We have ditched the immediate pop side, it's still catchy but it’s a more mature record which was what we were going for. I just got back from seeing Alice In Chains last night, they are one of my favourite bands, I think there is more of that influence and less of the Warped Tour pop that we are sometimes associated with."
How do you pronounce the album title?
"I just say O Slash, I don’t really know how to pronounce it, it’s more of a symbol. I’ve always written really long album titles that always seemed wordy, I thought for a while that a one word album title would be really sweet but nothing really worked or was already taken by ten other bands. So we just looked up what that symbol meant and it solved it. It’s pretty cool, more of a statement about the band and less about the album, we are very comfortable with who we are now and we want to make it clear that we are still Underoath. We’ve been wanting to write this record for a very long time but we haven't been able to do it until now. This album is us putting our best foot forward, here’s who we are – take it or leave it."
Some of your fans will read that comment, listen to the record and be confused, disappointed and maybe even hurt, did anyone close to you display those kind of reactions to the new material?
"Everyone we’ve shown it too said the same thing, Mastodon, The Chariot, the Norma Jean guys and whoever else was around all said that it was their favourite Underoath record by far. The label, the management, every friend and every band we’ve played it to said the same thing, so hopefully that’s kind of the reaction we’ll get when fans get it."