Underoath is once again pushing the boundaries of what it means to be an indie band, elevating their DIY ethos into a new business model that has the potential to help acts find a way forward during the COVID-19 crisis.
Tonight (July 24) the Tampa, Florida six-man outfit is performing the second livestream show in its three-part Observatory series, playing their 2006 album Define The Great Line in its entirety. The online event was engineered by guitarist Tim McTague, the band’s manager Randy Nichols with Force Media Management, and Underoath’s creative director Joel Cook. The livestream was presented in partnership with Bandsintown.
The band also brought in a number of local promoters from across the country to help boost the show, creating an affiliate system to help sell tickets to fans in their own regional networks.
“It’s definitely an interesting experience and promoters have the connection to the local fans,” said Stephen Chilton, who owns and books the Rebel Lounge in Phoenix.
“We don’t have a lot of music to promote right now and this is one way we stay engaged — we can’t just keep posting news stories about Save Our Stages,” Chilton says of the campaign to use public funding to help support arts organizations.
Working with Rebel Lounge’s production company Pysko Steve Presents and promoters like Third String Productions in Dallas, Underoath generated more than $500,000 from the July 17 show through merch presales, limited edition vinyl and livestream ticket sales.
“We’re not cocky people, but we’re kind of all just like, ‘Holy shit, we did the most amazing thing ever with this” and we’re all really proud of our work,” says Nichols.
Describing the six-man outfit’s heavy sound is a bit of a scramble of genres and suffixes; the terms metalcore and post-hardcore seem to have the resonance, although a contingency of fans preferring screamo. However you end up describing their frenzied and intense style, Underoath has always had a deep connection with their global fanbase and hasn’t been afraid to push the boundaries of the music business. Over eight studio albums Underoath has racked up three Grammy nominations, headlined their own 2018 hometown arena show at an NHL arena and pressured Ticketmaster to reverse course on a controversial fan club ticketing rule change.
The livestream idea was born of a long-standing plan to perform their most popular albums in a series of three-night underplay shows in major markets. When COVID-19 hit, “we simply pivoted our tour idea to a streaming show idea.”
The July 17 performance of 2008’s Lost in the Sound of Separation was shot in the rehearsal space of the sound equipment company the band uses for its touring gear, set in a circle in honor of their signature O-shaped logo with cameras shooting from above and inside the performance to create a unique viewpoint as if the viewer was embedded with the band.
“We didn’t want it to be a band onstage in an empty room — we wanted to recreate an experience rather than replicate an experience,” Nichols said. “And that was kind of where the circular idea came from, where the band would feed off of each other’s energy.”
Nichols said the band plans to experiment with VR for future shows and wants to duplicate their success for other groups looking for an alternative to touring during the pandemic.
“We believe there’s a system here to roll out to support artists and promoters with this proof of concept that’s proven it can work,” Nichols said. “We’re all in a position right now where we need to help each other. And the right bit of advice can make a life changing difference for someone.”
To learn more and to buy tickets for the livestream, visit underoathobservatory.com.