#AlternativeFacts Podcast: Looking Past Religion Fuels Underoath's Fiery First LP in 8 Years
Underoath's gritty reinvention goes far beyond the Florida rock band's newfound proclivity for the word "fuck." The onetime Christian-identifying post-hardcore sextet got that out of the way in the first 40 seconds of their blistering comeback single; the fact they're still a band at all is owed to a hard-fought resistance to demons once at their core.
“All of us, with the exception of [vocalist] Spencer [Chamberlain], grew up in super conservative Christian homes," drummer-vocalist Aaron Gillespie says on the latest #AlternativeFacts episode. "It fucked a lot of us up."
But from the outside, this was all easy to overlook. They were one of the Warped Tour scene's most prominent heavy rock bands during the mid-2000s, releasing a pair of albums -- 2004's They're Only Chasing Safety and 2006's Define the Great Line -- which earned Gold certifications from the RIAA. Their Christian faith wasn't overt lyrically (“It wasn’t like we were a praise and worship band,” Gillespie clarifies) but the burden eventually caused the band to splinter. "In our early 20s we started to ask questions.’" the drummer says, noting their evolving attitudes towards what constituted a good Christian. "But we wouldn’t talk about it, and that was ultimately the demise of Underoath.”
Gillespie departed in 2010. The band broke up three years later, ending a 15-year run.
"Religious bullying" is the term Chamberlain uses. "We were trying to find ways to cope because we couldn’t communicate with the people we loved," he says. “I was a drug addict for 12 years... It started so small and became something so big that we had to break up. Thank god none of us died in the process.”
In 2015, Underoath returned, with Gillespie back in tow, ready to trade lead vocals with Chamberlain from behind the drumkit on a series of reunion dates. In a new official video, the band explained its decision to drop the Christian label. “It was like a fraternal situation where everyone had to think the same,” Gillespie tells Billboard. “The worst thing we can do as humans is exclude other humans... I’m not saying don’t be Christian, but you can’t rely on what people say. You have to find it for yourself.”
Soon after, Underoath emerged with a new album. Erase Me -- released last month on Fearless Records -- is a sleek, yet scorching listen, pummeling hardcore punctuated by swirling synthesizers and commanding vocal hooks. Their single "Rapture" currently sits just outside the top 20 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart. “This is the first time our band worked together, didn't fight through a recording process, under the gun, with no time to record,” Chamberlain says. It shows.
Above, hear Chamberlain and Gillespie's very open and frank discussion with Billboard's Chris Payne. The longstanding creative duo guides us through addictions and recovery, writing a comeback album free of familiar nostalgia, and clear-eyed reflections on the Christian punk and hardcore scene that birthed them.
#AlternativeFacts is a weekly Billboard podcast devoted to all things alternative music. Click here to subscribe to the #AlternativeFacts Podcast on iTunes. Let us know what you think on Twitter (@cpayneonaplane) and by rating the podcast on iTunes.