Underoath: Just playing games, not seeking fame -- by Dwain Lucktung, March 2007
There is a mass of shit on the floor, from clothes to teddy bears, given to the band by fans. Through the large windows of the $600,000 tour bus, all that can be seen is a line of fans, extending around the corners of Vancouver's PNE Forum.
"What the hell was that breakaway," shouts an Underoath band member. "That was ridiculous!" The group is playing some NHL game on a PS2. Show time is in an hour.
The boys are chilling out, "preparing" for an explosive 45-minute set of intense and mind-blowing songs taken from their latest album, Define the Great Line (released on June 10, 2006). Lead vocalist Spencer Chamberlain sits calm and collected, speaking in an almost monotone voice, but the 24-year-old expresses undeniable passion for what he does.
"I love writing music, I love writing lyrics…I love performing. Playing shows every night is the most fun ever. And there’s this camaraderie of friends hanging out all the time. It’s pretty amazing."
When Chamberlain is asked about his definition of "success" and highlights in his career thus far, he claims Underoath simply plays for the crowd cheers, as they segregate themselves from other bands who yearn for chart positions, album sales and hits on their MySpace webpages. Modest and honest, he seems to encapsulate the original and pure reasons for starting a band: Love for the band, respect for the fans.
Sounds simple. But according to Chamberlain, many bands seem to forget the point of creating music even before strumming the first chord. "The way music is now kind of sucks to me," he says without a stutter or the bat of an eyelid. "There’s a million bands on the radio that sound exactly the same because they’re writing music to get attention for a record label, and there’s too many people who are in bands just to be in bands." It is a mutual understanding that just doesn’t work.
He describes great artists as those with the passion and drive to create something as original as possible, but we both smirk at the reality that that is almost impossible these days.
Underoath is nevertheless trying, with their unique hardcore flavour and in-your-face sound that is so rarely associated with a Christian band. However, Chamberlain reiterates what he said on the band’s website, saying hopes that the group won’t be tagged as just a limited Christian band. Underoath wants its fans to appreciate that they go way beyond that.
"We just do what we do," he says so nonchalantly. It must be like the million dollar bore-of-a-question to repeatedly ask Underoath’s line-up: "Do you think that being a Christian band helps or hinders your fan base?" but Chamberlain makes it clear it’s barely an issue: "We just stand up for what we believe in and people respect that…but when we hear that cheer, I think its not because the crowd are necessarily believers, but simply because they’re enjoying the show."
So many say it and hardly any mean it, but Chamberlain sits back and reassures me that Underoath does not consist of fame-hungry spotlight-huggers; they’re merely savoring the moment. From sold-out shows in Australia to insane tours in the States, the heavy rockers are enforcing their intoxicating nature with a medley of intense foot-stomping, fist-pumping tunes of uproar to anyone willing to listen — and a flick of the finger to anyone not interested.
I leave the boys to finish their game with lasting thoughts of Chamberlain’s advice: "Write music you care and love about, collaborate with people who are on the same page with you, and it will happen for you." I step off the bus to see a couple thousand sulking fans in the distance that soon realize I am not one of the band’s members.
The majority of the flock have come to see the weekend’s main act Taking Back Sunday, but Underoath couldn’t care less about being the supporting band. "We’ve surpassed our dreams," says Chamberlain. "I mean, coming into a room where even 1,000 kids are singing your songs, that’s the dream. That’s it."
"And that’s a neutral feeling across the band," he adds. "I don’t think anyone did expect, and should expect, anymore than this."