Australian Guitar - - Contents -

Few bands have mas­tered the come­back as nobly as Underoath. With the aptly ti­tled EraseMe, the riff lords tin­ker their sig­na­ture chaos for a new gen­er­a­tion.

Few bands have mas­tered the come­back al­bum as nobly as Underoath. EraseMe – their first full of­fer­ing in eight years, fol­low­ing an ac­claimed come­back in 2015 (dur­ing which they swore off its pos­si­bil­ity) – kicks off with a swift left hook to the eardrums in “It Has To Start Some­where”, blar­ing howls and thun­der­ing gui­tars pelt­ing at our un­de­serv­ing faces the Underoath we knew and loved as teens. But it doesn’t take long for the ex-Chris­tian hard­core war­riors to show a new, more ex­per­i­men­tal side of their mu­si­cal cat­a­clysm.

Bright, lin­ger­ing gui­tars fill the sound­scape on “Wake Me”, paving way for Spencer Cham­ber­lain’s em­phatic clean vo­cals to shine like jewels. Crunchy synth-bass floods “Sink With You”, a neogothic ode to the mosh pit. It’s a jour­ney through hell and back told in 11 short, but tight and tem­pes­tu­ous chunks of sonic gold. And, un­like most heavy genre come­back al­bums, it’s en­tirely de­served. On the heel of its re­lease, we sat down with lead shred­der and beard god Tim McTague to learn a lit­tle more about 2018’s big­gest state­ment al­bum.

When the six of you re­formed in 2015, did you think you’d end up here with a new al­bum?

Not for a sec­ond. We went on the Re­birth tour in March of 2016 – the big­gest tour we’d ever done – and as soon as we an­nounced that, we started get­ting more tour of­fers. We got tour of­fer af­ter tour of­fer af­ter tour of­fer, and we kept say­ing, “Nope, we’re just back for five weeks.” And then at a cer­tain point on the tour, Spencer [Cham­ber­lain, vo­cals] said, “Yo, are we just go­ing to keep say­ing no to ev­ery­thing, or is there some­thing here?” So we all got lunch as a band and we all started to think about it, and we were like, “Okay, let’s not say no to ev­ery op­por­tu­nity.” It was re­ally just a tour­ing thing at first, but just for fun, we started noodling around with some weird lit­tle riffs. We were just chip­ping away at th­ese lit­tle ideas, and we re­alised, “If we’re go­ing to start tour­ing again, the next log­i­cal step is to at least think about a new record.” It was very much an or­ganic process. Cer­tain dudes were like, “I’m done! I sold my gear and I have a full-time job, I’m not join­ing this band again!” And we kind of had that dis­cus­sion of, “But what would it look like if you did?” That was a big cou­ple of months for us, and once we re­alised that ev­ery­one was not only avail­able to do it but wanted to do it, we were set.

Did you find it easy to gel to­gether in the stu­dio af­ter so long?

I think ev­ery­one went in think­ing, “Oh man, this is go­ing to be re­ally weird.” We all had dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences and dif­fer­ent mem­o­ries, like, “This guy was like this on the last record,” so there was def­i­nitely some trep­i­da­tion. I think there was a lit­tle bit of ten­sion go­ing into the un­known, but the sec­ond it all started un­fold­ing, we re­alised that we were all in the right headspace, we were with the right team – Matt Squire [pro­ducer] and Eric Taft [en­gi­neer] – and we were able to go, “Yo, this dude’s not crazy, he’s ac­tu­ally onto some­thing.” And then when we were be­ing crazy, we could go, “Hey man, I think you might be out of line.” The old ten­sions that we faced never re­ally came up in the stu­dio.

Was it eas­ier to try new things with the six of you not at each other’s throats?

This stu­dio ex­pe­ri­ence was by far the eas­i­est we’ve ever had, in the sense that there was a global vi­sion and we all looked at the songs in the same way. We fol­lowed a blueprint, not in the sense of a blueprint be­ing, “This is the for­mula for ev­ery song,” but it in­stead be­ing, “Let’s not be ego­tis­tic, or ir­ra­tional, or emo­tional – let’s just try ev­ery­thing, and if we hate it in the end, we’ll just delete it.” And I think that’s where things re­ally started com­ing to­gether, be­cause we re­alised, “Oh, if we try some­thing that ends up sound­ing ridicu­lous, no-one is go­ing to hear it! So let’s try ev­ery cool idea and ev­ery dumb idea, and if you think it’s cool and I think it’s stupid, where we used to fight about it, let’s just not. Let’s try it.” And we deleted a lot of stuff, but there was a free­dom and a gelling and a non-ten­sion that we’ve never re­ally had in the stu­dio be­fore.

How much mu­sic did you end up writ­ing in the stu­dio to­gether?

We wrote a tonne of songs! We brought in, like, 20 demos, and then we recorded 13 songs. The 11 that made it on the record are the ones where we said, “All of th­ese play a part and have a pur­pose, and they don’t of­fend any of us.” Cer­tain dudes like cer­tain songs more than oth­ers, of course, but at the end of the day, all of th­ese songs are an au­then­tic rep­re­sen­ta­tion of where Underoath is now.

From the art scheme to the bass drops, and,

of course, the first ever F-bombs you’ve dropped, it feels like EraseMe is in­dica­tive of a seis­mic shift in the way Underoath ex­ists. Would you say this is the first chap­ter in a quote-unquote “Underoath 2.0”?

I think this is the first chap­ter of the Underoath that’s try­ing to fig­ure out what Underoath re­ally is. We’ve al­ways taken ev­ery al­bum as a very light­hearted state­ment with­out any con­no­ta­tions of or an­chors to say, “This is set­ting the ground for the next thing.” I think we proved that with

They’ re Only Chas­ing Safety [2004] and De­fine The Great Line [2006] – Chas­ingSafety wasn’t us want­ing to make peo­ple go, “Oh wow, this ran­dom metal band have started off on a new melodic hard­core path,” that’s just what we de­cided to do that year. And then two years later, we de­cided to do some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent. We don’t re­ally look at things in five, ten-year or two-three record in­cre­ments; we tend to look at it as us go­ing, “Let’s make a state­ment that’s au­then­tic to where we are as a band now, but also has the qual­ity and the ca­pac­ity to out­last our feel­ings about what mu­sic should sound like right now.” And I think that was re­ally the goal with EraseMe – to push bound­aries, to a de­gree, and to be as dif­fer­ent as Underoath has ever been, but then to recog­nise that in two or three years, we’re all prob­a­bly go­ing to feel com­pletely dif­fer­ent about mu­sic.

The al­bum starts on a bit of a fa­mil­iar note with those clas­sic riffs and roars, but af­ter a few tracks, it starts to drift into a re­ally un­ex­pected stylis­tic ter­ri­tory. Was it im­por­tant for you as a band to al­most sort of guide the lis­tener into this new di­rec­tion you ex­plore?

Yeah, I think so. If we started the record out with a song like “Wake Me” or “ihateit”, I don’t think many long-term Underoath fans would go, “Oh man, I want to keep lis­ten­ing to this!” So I do think the track­list­ing is in­ten­tional – we kind of stag­gered the first five songs with a pat­tern of, “Here’s a clas­sic Underoath song, but now come with us on a jour­ney,” and then the rest of the record kicks off. I think gen­er­ally, peo­ple will give you a cou­ple of songs. Once you have their at­ten­tion, if they’re not at least in­ter­ested, they’ll stop lis­ten­ing. So for me as an Underoath fan, what I would want is some­thing to make me feel at home and make me go, “Oh, they haven’t changed so much,” and then get some­thing that makes me think. “But they have, and this is ex­cit­ing.” I want peo­ple to know that we’re not out here be­ing like, “That was the old us! We were stupid then and we’re cool now!” Like, we love our old al­bums, and if we felt like we could write an­other De­fine The Great Line, we to­tally would… But we

can’t. So we ba­si­cally said, “Okay, let’s let the old Underoath die in the­ory, only to the ex­tent where it re­stricts us from do­ing what we want to do right now.” The old DNA is still in the blood­work, but it’s evolved and it’s pro­gress­ing, and we want you along for the ride.

Did you find that the new style gave you an op­por­tu­nity to ex­per­i­ment more as a gui­tarist?

I don’t know, to be hon­est. I don’t re­ally think about gui­tar play­ing like, “This is my craft and it needs to be heard through­out the world!” I’m not re­ally a gui­tarist in that sense. I think with this record, the songs had so much guts to be­gin with. There were cer­tain tracks where the root of the song was al­ready kind of built be­fore the gui­tars even came in, so I was po­si­tioned with ask­ing my­self, did I want to go in and throw a whole bunch of wild shit on there so that ev­ery­one would go, “Woah, there’s Tim! There’s the sick gui­tar player that I thought he was!” Or, did I want to look at the song and go, “Man, what does this song need?” For the first time, we ap­proached the stu­dio with a min­i­mal­ist’s per­spec­tive. In the past, we’d be like, “How many gui­tar riffs and how many de­lay ped­als and screams and drum fills can we fit I three min­utes?” But this time, it was like, “Let’s just ask our­selves why be­fore we do any­thing. If we have a melody, a pro­gres­sion and some vibes, why do we need to add any­thing?” And if we didn’t have a rea­son­able an­swer to that, we’d leave the song alone.

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